Free Weights, Thor, and why I train

My training used to be entirely about lifting weights. But the point of going to the gym is not to become bigger, but to restore or maintain normal, baseline physiological function. After all, greater mobility gives you a foundation on which to build better strength and superior athleticism. I’d forgotten why I starting going to the gym in the first place: to refine skills and develop strength so that it could be expressed somewhere other than the gym. Lifting weights had become the only training I did because I understood it, and was comfortable doing it. Then I had an awakening and realised that bulking up in the weights room wasn’t helping me achieve anything, and I quit the gym and gave up weights cold turkey. From only weights training, to none at all.

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Its been a long time but I’m lifting again

I was reading about Chris Hemsworths training for the movie “Thor: Ragnarok”. When originally cast as Thor, Chris was told he needed to add 9kg of muscle to fit into the Thor suit, which he did by eating a lot of meat and lifting lots of weights. For “Thor: Ragnarok” Chris tried a healthier approach and tried to get as much protein as possible from beans and vegetables and less from meat, and bulked up using a lot more calisthenics and bodyweight movements, though he still lifted weights to make sure he got the “Thor look”.

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The Thor training regime is certainly working for this guy

Its that last part that struck me. The need to lift weights to get the “Thor look”. So why do I train? For sure I’m trying to stay as fit and mobile as I can for as long as I can, but I’d be lying if I said aesthetics meant nothing to me, what “look” do I want. This is why I’ve re-introduced weights into my training, roughly one session every 10 days. The idea is to use free weights as a supplement to, but not as, my main training. A healthy body doesn’t always signify a healthy mind, and more and more men are dissatisfied with their physical appearance. So why not use weights to help with aesthetics? I’m going to try it for a while and see how I get on. Stay happy, stay healthy, and find that one perfect mirror where the lighting comes together in just the right way to make you look great, then take a selfie to preserve for eternity.

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Feeling happy because I found the perfect mirror with the perfect lighting

Glimpse into my training

I’m often asked what exercises I do. I take it as a compliment. For someone in their 30’s with a 9 to 5 desk job I’m in reasonably good shape. But the answer is never straight forward, I do lots of things, and when my answer gets more complicated than, “this is leg day, this is chest day”, I think people stop listening. So I decided to capture a typical two weeks of my training in the below 3 mins and 30 second video. I try to keep my workouts varied and interesting. Across the 2 weeks I did 18 separate workouts, and missed 4. When planning the week ahead I always plan a perfect week. A prefect week is very rare, life gets in the way. During the two week period that I captured in the video below my wife went away for a few days, my son got sick, and I had important lunch time meetings. Some workouts had to be dropped, and others had to swap places. Don’t stress over missed workouts, and keep the timetable flexible. The perfect week is there to be aspired to, making it a reality is less important. 18 workouts might seem like a lot, but some are only 20mins long. Not every session has to be an hour long with full intensity. A good workout is more about the quality of the movement than its length or intensity. I’m not telling you how you should workout, I’m just showing you what I do and hopefully you’ll find it useful for creating your own goals.

Training is more than free weights

Lifting weights can be the exercise equivalent of those foods in the supermarket that are branded healthy but are far from healthy. Its unfortunate that food companies deliberately mislead consumers, when consumers are trying to do the right thing.

I often think the same thing about weights training. When getting a gym tour (especially as a man) before becoming a member, gyms tend to show off all the free weights they have. And if you sign up for a programme to get in shape, no doubt there will be weights training involved.

There is a mis-match here – “I wanted to get in shape, and they prescribed me some weights training”. But a manufactured body using free weights is essentially an unnatural one, with muscles that bulge in the middle – a product of linear up and down movements that creates a swollen aesthetic. A functional body has long, toned muscles that are as thick where they meet your joints as they are in the middle.

I think its comes down to uneducated or poorly informed personal trainers, who don’t know anything beyond weights training. Or maybe its just telling people what they want to hear because people prefer the benchpress to build pecs, rather than crawling and push-ups. Its not that I have anything against weights training. If you’re trying to attain a certain aesthetic, weights are the way to go. I just fear that people go to the gym to get fit, are prescribed weights training, and instead of getting fit, they get the look of someone who is fit.

Forget about the weights and forget about legs day, chest day, arms day. Instead work on controlled integrated balance movements, integrated explosive power movements, and endurance workouts. You’ll get a well-rounded, proportional body. It will keep you fitter, leaner, and stronger, for longer.

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Free weights as far as the eye can see

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