Dan John: 4 reasons to take up weightlifting

It’s January here in Utah, I’m standing in the garage door, the exit is snowed in again. When I finish training, I have to change clothes, grab a shovel and go shovel the driveway again.

I’ve been training with iron since Nixon was first elected. When I started, weightlifting was the Queen of strength sports, and those who did anything else with iron were considered “weirdos”.

Then came the age of machines (fitness equipment), and these expensive and very profitable behemoths gradually replaced barbells and dumbbells from gyms – in basements and garages. And the gyms themselves are now ‘spas’, ‘fitness centres’ and ‘wellness clubs’. That’s why my neighbours look through the frozen windows as steam swirls around me, shake their heads and go back to watching the life-changing television programme.

What are the benefits of weightlifting? Why are the chest-lift and bench press, variations of the snatch, chest-lift and jerk not only a complete workout in their own right, but can complement any other programme? Let’s look at four reasons:

1. Improved cardio function

The most unexpected argument in favour of weightlifting is the improvement of heart function. Several years ago, Dr. Michael Stone did research on how weightlifting training affects the cardiovascular system. He was amazed at the magnitude of the positive changes. But why such an effect? Very simply, from the amplitude of the movement, the distance the barbell travels.

When you do wrist bends, the barbell can move 10 cm. But in the exercise “chest-lift and push” the barbell is lifted from the floor to a height of more than 2 metres! Every muscle is engaged in the movement, all stabilising systems!

After a good set of kicks your lungs explode, your heart starts pounding and you’re drenched in sweat. No need to get on a treadmill for that!

Exercise ‘push-up’.

2. Body working in unison

The human body is designed to work as a unit. When you lift the bar up from the floor on straight arms the whole body works. As you begin to gradually increase the weight on the barbell in a weightlifting exercise, your whole body adapts to the load, getting stronger and bigger.

The ligaments of the powerful muscles from the glutes and back extensors to the trapezius are the first to respond in novice weightlifters. The shirts become tight when the pulling motion causes the upper back muscles to give out.

What muscles does weightlifting build? All of them.

3. weightlifting teaches you to choose the weight on your shoulder
It is extremely difficult to overtrain or take too much weight in weightlifting. Of course it’s possible, but because of the way the barbell is lifted in weightlifting, it’s very difficult to do forced or extra heavy partial reps, to “clean” in any way. There is no bench, no racks, no safety net. There’s no partner to grab the bar and help you squeeze an extra rep.

Weightlifting teaches you to choose the weight that suits your capabilities. But all the hard work you put in pays off. The feeling you get when you first lift a barbell of your own weight on your outstretched arms above your head remains one of your precious memories for years to come.

4 Weightlifting saves time
A great workout in a 5-4-3-2-1 or 20 ‘singles’ pattern is packed into half an hour. Weightlifting, which works the whole body and the cardiovascular system, is an energy-intensive exercise. It is difficult to imagine 10 sets of 10 reps with your weight on the bar. It is difficult to imagine one such attempt.


Chest-lift and bench press exercise.

If time is short, do a warm-up and 10 repetitions of the ‘chest-lift and press’ exercise. Add weight and do 5 repetitions. Add more and do three. Then, adding smaller weights, do as many singles as you get. That’s it, the workout is over.

When your garage is heated by the steam coming out of your nose, you realise the benefits of short, intense workouts.

When you’ve lifted your weight in all three exercises, look in the mirror. You will realise how good weightlifting is.

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