What I learned from lifting weights

As some of you may have read in my previous post titled “I’ve been tagged…8 Random Facts“, I used to lift weights and compete as a powerlifter while in high school.

Being a competitive powerlifter (or any competitive athlete) takes a lot of hard work and ‘practice’ although powerlifting doesn’t really require practice like football or baseball, but does require a considerable amount of time in the gym to increase your strength.

When I started lifting weights I didn’t know what I was doing and did what everyone else did. I did a lot of different exercises for different body parts but there wasn’t any focus on an outcome (e.g., get stronger, more agility, etc) …sounds familiar to most organizations these days doesn’t it?

I continued with these unfocused workouts for about a year and never really gained much strength or size and didn’t seem to get any quicker or faster either. I though about it a bit and decided to start studying the science of building muscle and see what it took to build strength and increase speed and/or quickness.

After considerable study, I realized strength didn’t come from overworking all your muscles..it came from a very focused approach to exercise each muscle. I started reading and talking to people and soon realized that spending hours in the gym going from one exercise to the next wasn’t doing what I needed it to do, which was build strength.

After a few months of studying, talking with people and experimenting, I came up with a routine that worked very very well for me. I drastically cut the number of exercises down to just the basics for each type of powerlifting movement (bench press, squat, deadlift) and came up with the following ‘workout rules’ to help guide me in developing my workout plans:

  1. Keep it simple.
  2. Keep it focused.
  3. Constantly Change.
  4. Keep learning.
  5. Keep it short.

After changing my routines to follow these rules, I started seeing a significant increase in my strength and muscle mass. I also went from spending hours in the gym to spending less than an hour working out.

What were the results?

I went from being one of the smallest kids in my class to being a 220 pound ball of muscle. I won two national championships when I was sixteen years old by bench pressing 350 pounds, squatting 575 pounds and deadlifting 500 pounds. In addition, all of this was done without steroids or any other performance enhancing drugs.

Why am I sharing this story?
I’ve used these same ‘rules’ throughout my life with similar success. I’ve adopted these rules to my life and my career to help guide me in the jobs and engagements I’ve been in. They have helped me to keep clients happy and helped me change when I needed to. The rules and reasons to consider using them are:

  1. Keep it simple
    There’s a well known principle in engineering called the KISS (stands for Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. This principle, which states that you should always do the simplest thing possible and avoid complex solutions, has proven invaluable to me during many consulting engagements.
  2. Keep it focused
    Focus is a significant factor in success for a person and organizations. Focus on the customer. Focus on the team. Focus on the project. Focus on the results. When you focus, you bring more energy to the issue at hand.
  3. Constantly Change
    Change is good. While lifting weights, if you continue to do the same exercise over and over, your muscles start to get used to the movement and stop responding to it. You must change to keep your muscles growing. The same is true in all aspects of life. Like most people change does scare me sometimes but I’ve learned that it is a good thing. Change keeps you uncomfortable, which helps you grow.
  4. Keep learning
    I love to learn. When lifting weights, I constantly read everything about weightlifting and working out that I could get my hands on. I read scientific material as well as magazines such as Muscle & Fitness. I love to learn new exercises and new techniques. The same holds true today in my career. I devour books and am usually reading 3 or 4 at a time plus I’m always talking to other people to learn from their experiences. Of course, nothing is as good as experiencing something first hand (e.g., reading about how to fly an aircraft vs. actually flying one) but learning keeps your mind sharp and allows for continuous growth.
  5. Keep it short
    Unlike this blog post (and many others I’ve written lately), I tend to like to keep most things short and to the point. I’ve found that short and sweet is much easier for people to read and comprehend and there is less room for misinterpretation.

I’ve used the above rules to my advantage throughout my career…I like to think they have helped me become the person I am today. I’d be interested in hearing other’s ideas on how these rules (or any others) have helped you in your career.

[tags] powerlifting, focus, learning, simplicity, KISS [/tags]