What do you think of?
If I say weightlifting, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably a few brawny wrestlers from the WWE or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although they lifted weights and you could argue
Arnold begun a huge successful career from the use of the dumbbell, weightlifting is far more.
Let’s rewind for a second…
Before the 80’s and Arnold’s entry into Hollywood along with Sylvester Stallone and others, lifting weights was kind of low-key. In fact in the 1970’s cardiologists (heart specialists) were preaching
against weight training and that it will do harm to your most important muscle, the heart! Needless to say things took off once muscles were introduced to cinema and the fitness industry as we know it today was born.
Lifting weights for testing strength and building oneself actually goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. When talking about weights we need to break down the sports that actually exist as well as the common uses. Below is a brief breakdown:
Weightlifting – A sport usually referred to as Olympic weightlifting which dates way back to 1896 (when the sport made its made its first Olympic appearance). This sport now consists of the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk.
Powerlifting – Arguably the most trending lifting sport right now, Powerlifting involves the squat, the bench press and the deadlift. Powerlifting has a vast appeal because it’s about getting as strong as possible and posting the highest total for yourself with as low bodyweight as possible (true pound for pound strength).
Strongman – Have you ever seen world’s strongest man? This is a sport that breeds real mountain like human beings. Immense, powerful athletes who can actually move and have amazing fitness. The appeal here is functional strength (strength which can be applied to real life).
Then there’s the usual gym goers, the vast majority of people who don’t lift weights for sports but lift to improve their body composition (lose some fat or build muscle). You could argue this is superficial and doesn’t have real life crossover – my advice is to get the best of all worlds. Sikhs have been doing Kushti, Gatka and bodyweight exercises for centuries, with a philosophy to get stronger and fitter to fight injustice and not necessarily have a 6-pack. Be in it to improve your long-term health and get stronger, not only physically but as a person. If you happen to get some lumps and abs along the way, look at it as a bonus!
It’s important to note that resistance training without the use of weights, such as using our own bodyweight – the preferred method of our ancestors, still qualifies as weight/resistance training. This would be a typical Dand (push-ups) and Bethaka (squats) approach. You can still get all of the benefits and enhance your health and physique by using bodyweight only. Look at calisthenics athletes!
Really we should be calling it weight/resistance training.
Benefits of weight/resistance training
Over the last 30-40 years so much research has gone into exercise, especially with weights. Here are a few benefits:
• Muscle fights fat – put simply studies have shown the more muscle we carry on our frames the higher our metabolism, meaning the more fat we burn at rest.
• Say goodbye to lower back pain – with so many people now working 9-5 desk jobs or sitting for large portions of the day, back pain is on the increase. Weight training will strengthen the core and help reduce the pain.
• Weight training lowers the risk of diabetes by controlling blood glucose levels.
• It will make you look better (this one is an easy sell) – the way to that tight and toned look you’re after is through strength training.
• Weights are heart friendly – regular weight training lowers blood pressure. Cardio isn’t the only heart friendly exercise.
• Protects joints and bones by strengthening them. This is important because as we get older muscle and bones break down. Strength training can help significantly delay this process.
• You’ll add years to your life. A 2014 study showed as we get older, those with more muscle mass had lower risks of premature death. You’ll not only add years, but also a happier life to those years. Weight training has been linked to reduced depression and anxiety symptoms making it a mental powerhouse too.
What to take away from this
10 years ago when I got interested and into the gym, there were no role models for myself in the Sikh and wider Punjabi or Indian community. It seemed only to be with the introduction of social
media and Singh’s getting involved in MMA that really woke us up as a community and got more people into the gyms. Either that or the realisation that the football barrier won’t be broken any time soon. Now we even have social media pages dedicated to shouting out (exposing) Sikh athletes around the world – how inspiring!
You can be sure that all of your sporting heroes are lifting weights. Whether it’s wrestlers, footballers, tennis Grand Slam winners, swimmers, kabaddi players and of course strength based athletes. That’s not to say it’s exclusive to athletes, my point is that it has a wide range of benefits that can help anyone from your Chacha and Chachi to premier league footballers. Exercise with weights or resistance has been shown to help with energy, confidence, productivity, strength and more relevantly to Punjabis – cholesterol and diabetes, the list goes on and on. Whether you’re looking to improve your body composition and fit nicely into a suit, or you have an elderly family member who needs some energy and strengthening to slow down the aging process – weights and resistance methods seem to be the answer and are VERY beneficial. Even if you start with a kettlebell or a resistance band, get started soon and experience the power this summer.