October 10, 2017

Hate Strength Training?

By Crabby McSlacker

Strength training, alas, is still considered a crucial ingredient in the ever-changing recipe for a fit and healthy life.  Omitting this key ingredient is like trying to make meringue with no egg whites--the results may be disappointingly gloppier than you were intending.

But it's not just about looking more buffed or losing weight more easily. There are plenty of important health benefits from strength training that I'm too lazy to list. But trust me, strength training is good for you in ways that cardio is not! You need both.

Of course I realize that many people love weights and hate cardio. To me this is hilarious, like someone saying "no, I'll have to skip that cupcake-tasting party this evening, I've been really looking forward to cleaning up all the accumulated dog shit in our neighborhood."

There's no accounting for taste.

Me, I loathe strength training. Yet I've been doing it pretty damn regularly for over 25 years.

From this you may conclude:

(1) I've figured out a couple of tricks to make it less horrible. And,

(2) I obviously need a few more tricks, or "loathe" wouldn't be the first word to come to mind when I think about lifting weights.

So I'll share of a few of my sneaky motivational tips and maybe some of you have some better ideas?

Bad-ass Aspirations

I need a "fun" goal to shoot for, something that is at least theoretically doable that I would LOVE to be capable of some day. Sometimes I achieve these, more often I do not, but it's more about having something to motivate my ass to the gym.

My current goal is actually and old goal, one that I reached at one point, yay me! And then lost it again, damn it. What can I say? Life got busy and I let things slide.

Anyway, it's this: I want to be able to master unassisted chin-ups and/or pull-ups again.

For some reason, in my twisted brain, this is a powerful symbolic achievement, saying "I've arrived" at a superior level of fitness. (Weird aside: the first analogy that came to mind: the ability to do these are like being handed "the keys to the executive washroom."  I never worked anywhere where there was an executive washroom. Do they really exist? Any other old farts have that archaic image lurking in the recesses of their brains? And where the hell did it come from, some old movie or something? )

I want my chin ups and pull ups back SO bad! But I suspect it's gonna be a while. I'll keep you posted.

Variety, Duh

Part of my motivational problem is that I tend to settle into a routine too easily, defaulting to my usual "favorites." (And by "favorite" I mean the exercises least likely to make myself want to leap off a tall building rather than force myself to complete them.)

But there are many different ways to target the same muscles. Sometimes when you just can't stand the idea of say, lunges or cable rows or lat pull-downs or whatever you usually do, doing the same thing a different way can seem a less hideous alternative. Plus, if you do something you don't ordinarily do you have  no benchmark, and no pressure to meet any particular expectation about performance.

Where to find ideas?

Well, the google, obviously.  One helpful resource you might come across is the Ace Exercise Library but there are others, and YouTube is your friend in getting all sorts of ideas from all kinds of different folks.

Or, obviously, you could hire a trainer or take a class, which is an awesome solution for most people. For me, not so much. I have control issues, what can I say?

Another similar approach?

Become a Creeper and Stalk Personal Trainers, Instructors, etc And Steal Their Ideas

You don't have to be totally obvious about it, but if you run across a boot camp at a park, or notice some interesting moves the personal trainers at the gym are teaching, or peek into a class or whatever, you may find some novel "functional" moves designed to torture your body in different ways than you are accustomed to. Give 'em a try!

Toys and Gadgets!
There are tons of these, from stretchy bands to expensive home gyms. Some of my faves: doorway pull-up bars, TRX-type gizmos, and of course, who can forget the not-so-world famous Crabitron?

Oh, and hurling and slamming medicine balls? Very, very cathartic in these troubled times. 

Playgrounds and Other Outdoor Locations!
Take a few portable toys like a TRX or some stretchy bands and maybe a kettlebell if you're not going far, and combine these with a body weight routine... then take the show on the road! You may find other "exercise equipment" to take advantage of in the form of benches, stairs, playground equipment, dunes, large rocks, logs, branches, etc...with a little imagination you can look like a complete ass just like Crabby does when attempting a playground workout.

If You Really Like The Big Machines, Fuck It, Go Ahead and Use Them

I know all the cool kids flock to the old school "iron" section of the gym, where the barbells and dumbells live, and there is a lot of huffing and grunting and sweating. I'm all for this in theory, and I usually do a couple of things there, but, well, my goals are not about being able to move a grand piano or win American Ninja Warrior. I want to generally be a little stronger, and look a little more athletic, and not injure myself too frequently. And I find the big machines that work one muscle group at a time in artificial isolation to be a lot more comfortable. 

I have never been able to stand the feeling of a weighted barbell digging into my shoulders. So, screw it, I use the machines along with the other uncool kids, the seniors and the newbies, because otherwise I would probably not be doing any strength training at all.

Ditch Multiple Sets 

The idea of doing something I'm already not crazy about 8-15 times, then sitting there doing absolutely nothing for at least 30 seconds, then repeating the whole thing over again and again?

Acck! Shoot me now!

But I do understand that you get better results if you keep taxing your tired muscles until they are SO exhausted and pissed off they simply won't obey you any more.

However, there are some alternatives to all that drudgery. You can do your extra sets using a whole different exercise targeting the same muscle groups. Why not mix it up?

Or, even sneakier: you can do one set and still maximize the results.

Two ways I like to do this, and I often combine them.

1. If I've calibrated the amount of weight properly, my muscles give out at the end of a set and I can't do anymore. But instead of taking a long rest period, I pause at the end of the set for say 5-10 seconds and, voila, I can do another rep! And then another. I keep with the brief pauses until I really really can't do anymore. This way I'm getting several sets worth of the hardest reps, the ones I suspect are the most productive, without having to spend all day futzing around with easier reps and rest time.

2. If I'm on a machine with a pin I can easily reach, I start with a weight that's way too heavy, do a couple of reps, then go down to the next heaviest, and keep easing up until I can get through a whole set.  Again, this maximizes the Ugly Reps that are actually breaking down muscle fiber, and keeps me from feeling too guilty as I scurry off after just one set.

Yet it Still Sucks

So yeah, all this stuff keeps me from quitting entirely, but it doesn't keep me from hating my "weights" days. So any ideas anyone is willing to share are most welcome!

Do you guys do strength training? Love it or hate it? Got any ideas for me?


  1. See, I'm with you re using the machines. I'm much more likely to, you know, actually USE THEM, than I am to do anything with a barbell or dumbbell. It's just my personality, and I figure, better doing something than nothing - because I'm pretty much set in my ways of not doing stuff I hate. Just.Not.Gonna.Do.It. I'm intrigued by your idea of using the heaviest weight first (when you can reach the pin) and working it lighter...may have to give that a try.

    My way of making strength training more palatable is to do it with a friend - I'm still, and probably will forever be, all about the workout buddy system.

    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who shuns the barbells for the Machines Shelly! And I think your workout partner idea is a really good one! Ok, maybe not for an antisocial control freak like me, but for everyone else!

  2. Funny you should mention that - unassisted pull ups are my goal right now too! I blame it on watching too much American Ninja Warrior with my kids... :)

    I actually like strength training, but I've been such a cardio freak for so long that it never feels like it's a "good enough" workout. Of course my muscles definitely disagree the next day. As someone who only has access to a home gym (or the rural outdoors), I went and signed up for Beachbody On Demand at the beginning of the year (no, I'm not a coach, no I don't drink the stupid expensive shakes, no I won't try to convince you to join me). I admit I LOVE IT. So much variety, so many different trainers to pick from...I'm doing a program right now with a guy who totally reminds me of Hans and Frans from SNL back in the day. So if nothing else, my abs get a workout as I laugh through it. Now I just need to sell the old bowflex type machine that's been taking up space in my workout room and invest in a bench and some adjustable weights.

    1. You have me tempted with your tales of BeachBody Badassery Bdaiss! Though we live on the second floor and I tend to shy away from home workouts that involve any jumping up and down, but it's cool to know that's such a great program!

  3. My body and brain both believe that exercise is torture, and my only trick is to find a way to do as much as possible in as little time as possible to get it over with.

    1. Sorry messymimi,I'm lucky in a least liking cardio. But I know how active you are in daily life, so busy helping people, that's gotta count for something!

  4. I had hope, when you first achieved it, of reaching an unassisted pull-up, but that was before my Shoulder began really Acting Up. Now, I doubt I will ever be able to climb a tree again.

    You know I love weights, as well as cardio that is walking, and love yoga, but am totally not goal focused. I just like doing it, so I do. I'm so frustrated that I haven't been to the gym in about a year. I'm still waiting for the planets to align so that neither my shoulder nor my foot are being painful on a day off that isn't completely packed with urgent stuff.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    1. Aren't injuries frustrating? Sorry Mary Anne, hope those stars DO eventually align so that everything is healed and functional a the same time. Fingers crossed!

  5. I really like lifting weights on the machines. It is so much less technical that the multiple muscle exercises like lunges. I always have something of position with them. I just like to do my sets while listening to music and get a little thrill when my numbers improve.
    I do confess that I have a built in ego trip as I am freakishly strong on leg machines. It's immature but I like to wait for a muscle man to get on one of my machines so I can put all the weights and show off.
    That came back to bite me one day when an old guy with a cane used the machine beside me and totally blew me away with his leg strength. I guess strong can still be tippy and need a cane.

    1. LOVE the leg strength thing Cindy, and if I were that awesome I'd be showing off too! But yeah getting "geezed" is a little humbling. :)

  6. I love it...but I stopped. Since going vegan though I have been having a lot of thoughts about starting again. It’s going to be very soon. It’s going to be Saturday. That’s the day I start again. Big goal for me. Do “real” pushups.

    As always, thanks for the timeliness of your post. It is not for naught that we crossed paths!!!

    Good luck getting back to pull-ups!!!

    1. Yay for Saturday, Kimberley! And no, not for naught at all (And gosh, "naught" is a word I totally love but don't tend to remember to use, thanks for that! You'se a classy broad.)

    2. Update. Lifted weights and loved it! I decided while I was at the gym I might as well do some cardio too! Hello elliptical!!! BAM!!!

    3. AWESOMENESS!!!! And thanks for the update!

    4. I looove the elliptical! My knees and ankles and hips are very happy with it.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

  7. I got nothing for this, but I am right with you on only doing one set of things. My things are stretches and I have added resistance flexibility stretches. I only do one each of one kind a day, but I do different kinds of them. It's my way of mixing things up.

    1. Resistance flexibility stretches? Sounds like strength training to me Leah, that's excellent!

  8. I hate lifting, but leaf raking and snow shoveling season is coming up, so I had better get back on the horse pronto. It might make spring gardening more bearable, too. Flowers FTW!

    1. Scone, what a brilliant idea... actually channel the health benefits of strengthening into something USEFUL! Funny how I never think of this. Flowers FTW indeed!

  9. "I use the machines along with the other uncool kids, the seniors and the newbies, because otherwise I would probably not be doing any strength training at all."


    1. Thanks Sigi, and I should clarify that no offense was intendedto either group, as I used to be the latter and am rapidly becoming the former!

  10. I am one of those opposite people who prefers strength training. I prefer circuit style though, so you are not sitting around waiting in between. Chalean Extreme, Les Mills Pump, Jackie Warner has some good stuff.

    I hurt my knee again last week though, so now I'm afraid to do anything.

  11. Oh no, so sorry about your knee JavaChick, that's so frustrating! But glad you don't find strength training as miserable as I do.

  12. I absolutely hate exercise but have to do it, if I wanna fit in my favorite dress. That is why I do yoga. https://goo.gl/5qfk14

  13. Everything you do is always up to you! Just don't do foolish descisions. They say 70% diet and 30% all you need to achieve the physique you like. I believe that. ABS are made in the kitchen so that's why I tried this 2 week diet and it actually works. Try it and you'll be amazed! https://tinyurl.com/y7r9m9tx


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