How times have changed.
Spotted in the Guardian, an interesting article on weightlifting and the Starting Strength method as authored by Mark Rippetoe.
The article makes the point that lifting heavy things (not necessarily above your head) is good for you, may help prevent some diseases and may even help keep you young. I agree with that – just look at me! 🙂 What surprised me is that it’s the Starting Strength approach that the article recommends as a method.
Mark Rippetoe has been around for a long time now and published the first edition of Starting Strength in 2005. Its been updated a couple of time since then and there is a Kindle edition too now.
Of course lifting weights is becoming more popular, as evidenced by the large and increasing number of free weights in my gym, and the popularity of Crossfit but, in my experience, the Starting Strength approach has never featured very strongly in the favoured methods of strength training. Maybe that’s because Mark Rippetoe can be quite abrasive (he has fallen out with a few people over the years) but when you get over that, he’s quite funny. Here’s what he said when asked whether squats were bad for the knees (you may see there’s a BTL comment to that effect in the Guardian article!):
“Anyone who says that full squats are “bad for the knees” has, with that statement, demonstrated conclusively that they are not entitled to an opinion about the matter. People who know nothing about a topic, especially a very technical one that requires specific training, knowledge, and experience, are not due an opinion about that topic and are better served by being quiet when it is asked about or discussed. For example, when brain surgery, or string theory, or the NFL draft, or women’s dress sizes, or white wine is being discussed, I remain quiet, odd though that may seem. But seldom is this the case when orthopedic surgeons, athletic trainers, physical therapists, or nurses are asked about full squats.”
Starting Strength is based around four exercises: squat; press; deadlift; and bench press; and two lifts – the power clean and the power snatch. The book is hugely detailed on theory and technique and, if you are interested in that kind of thing, it is a good book to read. If you are interested in becoming a competitive power lifter, as he was, then there would be no better coach than Mr. Rippetoe. However, not too many people are wanting to be a competitive power lifter and as a general exercise methodology for getting fit and strong and doing interesting things with your body, its got one major drawback. It’s boring.
When you think about the variety of exercise equipment that is available, why would you want to restrict yourself to a bar and some weight plates? What about kettlebells, medicine balls, dumbbells, TRX, all the different types of body weight exercises you can do? There are bags and battle ropes and tractor tyres and, although Mark Rippetoe hates them, there are all the different kinds of resistance machines too. He says resistance machines don’t work, I say they do. You can use them and make up your own mind.
Having said all that, there is much that I agree with:
- using your muscles to move heavy things is good for you;
- resistance training is a vital part of any exercise regime;
- resistance training has been shown to help prevent or slow several diseases of ageing;
- lifting weights above your head is fun, life affirming and empowering;
- its never too late to start.
If you would like some proof that its never to late to start, check out this video on Mark’s website (and get a tissue ready)