For some reason in the past year or so, it has become incredibly popular to compare lifting weights to war, Armageddon, the Holocaust, going to battle, and a bunch of other violent metaphors, most of which center around comparing your training and competing to participating in a brutal conflict, death, and violence.

People go #beastmode in the gym. They feel #nopainnogain. They walk in ready to #kill, #destroy, and #takenoprisoners, and they're #fitnessaddicts. And #aboutthatlifebro. They #deathpress, do #skwatz, do #deadlifts, and are #hardcore. Did I mention that I'm #nattylikejesus?

Time for a reality check. You are lifting weights!

You are lifting metal poles with circular pieces of metal attached to them while lifting other pieces of metal with handles. This doesn't automatically make you a modern day Spartan warrior among men. It makes you someone who lifts weights.

Stop pretending to be faux angry. You're getting into your air-conditioned car to drive to your air-conditioned gym while blasting your rage mode playlist in hundred dollar headphones and walking into the gym with your fake anger and fake fury to attack circular hunks of metal with numbers painted on them. Add in the hundreds dollars a month you likely spend on food and supplements (mostly supplements), and I really don’t get what you are so pissed off about.

You aren't fighting for your life, you aren't in a warzone, and you aren't morally superior to anyone else who doesn’t lift the same weights that you do. This is also incredibly disrespectful toward anyone in the military who has served in that capacity as well, so stop the comparison.
Meal prepping on Sunday and Wednesday will never make you hardcore.

#badass alexander cortes comparison to war 071314

Beast mode—where do I even start? How about this? Fly to Africa and run up to a lion on the Serengeti and try to punch it in the face. See what the fuck happens. You in "beast mode" now? I get legitimately pissed off about this, and it isn't just because of the arrogance. It's because this fake badassery overshadows all the positive aspects that come with lifting.

Part of me thinks that this is why “meatheads” have a popular media depiction of being shallow and vain dumbasses. Aside from being hypercritical toward each other (which is a whole other subject), fitness as a whole presents a vapid image of people who don’t care about anything other than lifting, the gym, and all the food they need to eat. And the really unfortunate thing about this is that it overshadows all the positive aspects that accompany lifting.

While I might have the most fun with specialized movement athletes, by and large, I've worked with regular people and I'm proud of the fact. Most human beings want confidence. They want capability. They want to feel strong and empowered.

I consider a truly healthy “training mentality” to be one in which strength is a devotion to the process. I'm not trying to impress upon anyone that lifting weights makes them a badass because it doesn’t. But it can give them the physical and mental fortitude to be stronger and more confident in their life outside the gym, and for 99 percent of people, that’s what keeps them coming back. Lifting weights doesn’t make you anything if that’s the only thing you care about. It's what you do for you outside the gym that makes you something.

How are you showing up in your life everywhere else? I'm more inclined to admire the man who trains and is an example to his kids as someone who works hard and provides than a solo lifter whose existence begins and ends in the squat rack. If you're a shitty father, shitty friend, lazy employee, and all around selfish prick, you think your lifting numbers really make up for all that? What's badass about that exactly?

Your dedication to lifting weights shouldn’t come at the expense of everything else in your life outside the gym. And it sure as hell doesn’t make up for what you lack in those areas. Are you helping other people get better? Are you training people? Are you teaching? Are you making someone more awesome? Are you being a dad or a mom to your kids? Are you being a reliable friend?

harry selkow alexander wisdom 071314

In the words of Harry Selkow, “Strong people make other people stronger. They don’t put them down.” But that isn't what I see on a daily basis. I see the opposite. I see people using lifting weights as a tool to insult people and make up for all the other things they lack in life. If you truly have no life outside of a barbell, I honestly feel sorry for you. I've said this before and I’ll say it again—no one cares how strong you are if nobody knows that you're strong.

I've made enough selfish mistakes to know that the greatest use of any “strength” I've built is to apply it to helping other people. Being told I have muscular arms is a great ego boost, but I'm not making anyone’s life better for it and it sure as hell isn’t making me more badass. Whatever lifting you do—and I don’t care what kind—it should hopefully be a reflection of your dedication to get stronger. It should reflect your values and efforts. It should represent a work ethic. It should be something that you can tie into other areas outside your life and say that it does something positive for you.

Lift because it makes you a better person, not so that you can say you're badass. I've known far too many tough people in my life who don’t squat, bench, or deadlift to say that doing those things makes you anyone special. Your experiences, your reactions to adversity, the care that you show to others, your cool under fire and ability to act—those are the things that make someone a tough person. To simplify them down to numbers on a bar and only that diminishes both yourself and everything that the iron could stand for.

Make the iron stand for something. Make it represent more than just bars and numbers. Make it something to be proud of. And use it in the service of others more than anything else.