Any guy who became interested in working out in the 80s had one of a few sources of motivation to start lifting weights. In all likelihood the role models were most likely popular idols such as Stallone, Schwarzenegger, or almost anyone in the (then) WWF (yes, I was a Hulkamaniac, but was also a big Ultimate Warrior fan).
Do you remember the first time you saw Rambo, First Blood Part II (1985), Rocky III (1982), The Terminator (1984), Commando (1985) or Predator (1987)? Or how about the time you saved up to get your first Wrestlemania pay-per-view? To tie everything together and to throw out some cool trivia, do you remember who the Hulkster teamed up with in Wrestlemania I? None other than Clubber Lang himself Mr. T. Don’t lie, if you’re a male Gen-Xer you know that one of these bigger-than-life characters played a major influence on your decision to pick up your first weight. In the 80s gyms like Gold’s, World or Powerhouse were packed with guys trying their hardest to pack on the beef and look like their favorite movie star or pro wrestler.
If you were a guy growing up in the 80s, who wouldn’t want that action hero movie star look? They were buffed, kicked serious ass and ALWAYS got the girl. One of the primary reasons why I started lifting weights at 13 (1985) was because I wanted to build muscles and look like Arnold. Arnold-the education of a bodybuilder was the first workout book I bought and all of my early workouts were variations from Arnold’s programs in the book. In all honesty, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that one reason why I was excited about moving to SoCal in 2008 was the chance to live in the Governator’s state.
I may have originally started working to attempt to look like a movie star or wrestler but eventually realized that exercise isn’t necessarily about appearance, it’s more about how you feel about yourself and maintaining good health.
Once I started my career as a personal trainer in the late 1990s I started learning about a new concept called “functional training” which has become a hackneyed term. But it did teach me how to exercise for improving skill and function and not just for pushing heavy weight or growing muscles. As a result my exercise programs have become more about improving movement skill, coordination and balance and less about trying to look a certain way.
As we get older we need to appreciate the fact that the right exercise routine can not only help stay healthy but also reduce the aches that accompany the aging process. Lifting heavy weights can place a lot of stress on the body and doing the same movements over and over for years can create repetitive stress that harms the joints and connective tissue.
Now that I’m in my 40s I really don’t care about how much I lift. I avoid exercises like the bench or leg press which can place a tremendous amount of stress on your shoulders or low-back, respectively. I’m more interested in loaded movement training which focuses on moving in all directions and at all speeds which uses all of your muscles together increasing the caloric burn and efficiency of your workout.
Most of my friends my age have taken the same approach; we have all learned that it’s better to exercise for movement efficiency which in turns improves how you feel. Once upon a time I lived for the heavy bench press or squat workout. My favorite workouts now involve multi-directional movements with a ViPR or using a TRX suspension trainer to create the overload with my own bodyweight.
When I first heard about the movie The Expendables and all of the big 80s action stars who were going to be teamed together in one epic thriller I was looking forward to it. I am so glad that I waited for it to come on Netflix instead of blowing my money to see it in the theater. The Expendables was nothing more than a bunch of washed up old guys who refused to age with dignity. Rather than a kick-ass action flick it’s more of a metaphor for learning how to let go of certain things in life.
As we get older we shouldn’t exercise simply for the way we look, we have to let go of that mindset and learn how to enjoy the process of exercise and do workouts that will keep us moving well and feeling young. This doesn’t mean that we can’t lift heavy, lifting heavy does provide many benefits but we should first focus on moving efficiently before working on moving a ton.