Weightlifting, bodybuilding, and weightlifting have come a long way since they first became popular in the 1970s. Gyms were tough, almost exclusively with weights, dumbbells, and benches. The workouts lasted 3-4 hours and everyone tried different techniques, different exercises, different tempos, and different rep ranges. And in the off-season, most were on a ‘See Food’ diet – if they saw food, they ate it!
“No Pain, No Gain” was their battle cry, and they were no strangers to pain. The pain from overloaded and stretched muscles was joined by pain from failed exercise variations, nutritional errors, lack of sleep, lack of sufficient rest and recovery, but they learned to overcome it if they were motivated enough. Every gym-goer of yesteryear has comic horror stories about the aches and pains they suffered and the toll those days took on their health. And, now in their 60s, 70s and 80s, many regret what those workouts did to their knees, hips, back, shoulders, and spine. But they will also tell you that if you had a chance to do it all over again, you sure would.
But while No Pain, No Gain was an appropriate catchphrase for the 1970s, the current reality is “No Brain, No Gain.” There has been a lot of research done in the last 40 years on all aspects of weightlifting and exercise, and now there is anecdotal empirical evidence from those who stuck with it throughout the various evolutions of the sport. Great strides have been made in the fields of biology and kinesiology, nutrition (and especially sports nutrition), progressive endurance, hypertrophy, and even the exercise equipment itself.
Step into the typical commercial gym today, and once you get past recumbent bikes, stair machines, treadmills, ellipticals, and other cardio devices, you’ll likely see double the gym floor space dedicated to exercise machines. than the venerated ancient free pesos. And while the male gym rats will always scoff at machines, it’s possible to put together a full-body workout for new members using just those machines, to provide the initial results they seek in a safer, controlled, and graduated environment.
We now know that gains in the gym can come down to your goals: increased strength for weightlifters, bigger muscles for bodybuilders, improved cardiovascular capabilities for runners and endurance athletes, and programs to aid in fat loss or gain. lean weight, as you prefer. There’s nothing to do the workouts for you yet, but an incredible array of aids to make sure you’re on the right track for YOU.
Professional athletes, weekend warriors, and regular gym goers have also learned much more about nutrition and healthy eating. The traditional dinner of meat, corn and potatoes is now likely to be replaced by chicken or fish accompanied by sweet potatoes and broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Breakfast can be oatmeal and egg whites instead of sugary cereal straight out of the box. And while your nutrition may be based on eating plans, paleo, IIFYM (If it suits your macros), or vegan options, they all share one main goal: to make sure your ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats is in balance with your goals. and that your total caloric intake level matches your plan to lose fat or gain muscle.
Yes, today’s workouts have changed, definitely for the better. Knowledge of progressive resistance and training periodization has allowed us to eliminate most of the unnecessary pain of being regularly active in the gym, and advances in kinesiology have taught us better ways to move the plank to avoid repetitive stress injuries. and better protect soft tissues. and joints that keep our bodies working properly. Far from ending with muscles, most of today’s weightlifters have a better range of motion without pain in their joints than the general public will ever have.
And for advanced intermediate lifters and seasoned old pros, there are breakthroughs too, but if you’re reasonably new to the art of weightlifting, ditch bands, chains, excess reach, and supercompensation for a few more years to come. . Don’t compare yourself to those who have been doing this for years. There’s a reason it took them years to get there. Instead, take “before” photos when you’re ready to start and compare them to new images every 3 to 6 months. The truest tests are how your clothes fit, how you feel when you wake up each day, how much energy you have, and how deeply you sleep each night.
The best news? Most of the new knowledge you need to reach your goals is in your local library and even at home, thanks to the Internet. These days, it’s easy to be able to enter a gym for the first time knowing enough to get started, safely. If you can afford a good personal trainer and have access to one, that can get you off to an even better start, but be careful. Don’t blindly hire the biggest lifter in the gym, or you may end up with someone whose drug use masks poor knowledge, experience, or technique. Ask around your gym and see who others there recommend.
And above all, never stop learning. New research on weightlifting emerges every day, and while there is too much to be aware of, pick a few experts and follow them on their blogs and on social media; You will learn a lot more that way than by buying many magazines full of articles tailored to the sale of add-ons. A strong and healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint, and carry the motto “No Brain, No Gain” with you with pride!