Authoritative Voices vs. Doing it Your Way

The fitness industry has plenty of science to back up its recommendations, but there are still “to infinity and beyond” ways to get results. That’s one thing that makes weightlifting great fun, but it also means there are a lot of voices – some very authoritative – that you should lift weights this way or that.

I’ve even heard a few internet gurus say you should not spend a lot of time lifting weights. Instead, you should spend your time doing things that are fulfilling, like throwing the Frisbee with your kids (or whatever).

I love spending time with my daughter, but these voices are annoying. I love spending my time lifting weights. Lifting is my nirvana, and I don’t need anyone telling me it’s not fulfilling enough to spend time on.

People give advice based on their own past demons and abuses from which they have learned, and we need to differentiate theirs from our own. Often, their advice is conveyed as though it’s fact. But we need to listen to our own needs, and that will depend on your goals and what your own nirvana is all about.

This goes for lifting techniques and workouts as well. For example, many people will tell you to do only compound (multi-joint) exercises. However, there is a place for isolation movements too, say for finishing off a muscle or targeting a weak area. There are no “all or nothing” maxims in weight lifting, unless it’s to go all out or go home.

Train “This Way”

With all the choices out there, I’m also not sure why certain ways of training are pushed as the best or smartest. One example is “keeping your training simple.” Sure, there is value in keeping your workout simple: You spend less time (if that is a concern for you) and a simple routine may not be as intimidating as, say, one that entails a lot of different exercises or techniques.

But more complex training plans can also be fun and rewarding. They can help beat boredom and increase your knowledge. To quote an article from, ‎“Weight lifting is a technical and intellectual sport.” If you want to do more than deadlifts, squats, and bench presses, then you have a vast array of choices. There’s nothing wrong with that and you will still meet your goals, providing you follow basic weightlifting practices, such as repetition and set ranges.

The bottom line is that if you’re time crunched, don’t enjoy lifting weights, or if you believe that it’s a better training philosophy, then go right ahead and focus on only five basic exercises to your heart’s content. Otherwise, do it your way (as long as you know what you’re doing, haha).

“Do This or You’re Not a Badass”

A lot of people are caught up in online “challenges.” A website, blogger, or brand/company, or anybody says you need to lengthen the amount of time you can hold a plank or that you need to be able to do 100 pushups or burpees within a certain time period. If you can’t, well, you’re not a badass like everyone else who can!

Personally, this type of thing bores me and if someone tells me I should do something, I usually push back. But the main reason I have never participated is because these types of repetitive movements can cause injury and burnout. If you’re doing 300 crunches a day, not only are you overtraining your abdominal muscles and risking low-back pain, but you’re risking mental fatigue that could eventually cause you to stop exercising altogether. And your elbows or shoulders might not be too happy about doing 100 pushups, either.

It can be dangerous to follow one-size-fits-all workouts. For example, a 23-year-old with no previous injuries may do great with an extremely high-volume program, but if someone else tries it they could end up injured.

I’m all for pushing yourself to achieve higher goals, but instead of doing ridiculous challenges or other rigid plans, I’m for well-balanced, individualized programming. Tribes are good, herds are bad – you know?

This article originally appeared on


25 thoughts on “Authoritative Voices vs. Doing it Your Way

  1. Brava,Suzanne–

    I love this post—and it is very clear how much deep knowledge you have of your topic.

    Saying there’s only one right way to train is a lot like saying there’s only one way to sing or to create art or to build a house.

    Yes, there are principles to keep us safe from injury—but there is so much room for creative expression.

    That’s one of the reasons strength training is so dear to me. It is infinitely adaptable to the trainee’s needs and wants, whether she is an overweight person trying to get in shape, an older person in rehab, a young adult finding her own power, a world-class athlete striving for physical perfection, or anyone in between.


  2. ah yes…. as I’ve said before, the best workout is the one I’ll do… I tend towards sissy-ness, so anything that tricks me into going a smidge harder than I would on my own is dandy. Weights are WONDERFUL! so many shapes, sizes, times, exercises, reps, and ways to mix it up in terms of endurance or intensity or or or…
    But in the end, we have to trust our own body – listening – and trusting that all knowing voice and listening to the signals.
    Hmmm – are we our own experts?


  3. I’ve never been crazy about weights, I’m a runner and I’d rather well…. run. But what you are saying makes a lot of sense. If spending a whole bunch of time in the gym isn’t my thing, then why not figure out a few strength training exercises that I can live with and just do those consistently. It’s kind of like eating the same thing for breakfast every day. It’s easy, I don’t have to think about it and I get the protien and carbs I need for my run.

    Great ideas!


    • I’m always trying to encourage runners to lift. I’ve heard there’s quite a few myths surrounding how weights impact running, but I know that running also just plain comes first. I hope you get around to lifting even a little, and like you said, you can tailor it to however much time you have.


  4. You’ve touched on several important topics in this post, and I look forward to seeing how the conversation progresses.

    How many of the “breakthrough fitness devices/programs” are sold to the masses via fitness models who’ve never spent ANY time on the device except to sell it. Our impressionable consumer minds find it so easy to confuse correlation with causation .

    It seems to me that everyone’s opinion is a biased opinion, since we all interpret the world and filter it through our experiences and individual context. That’s one of the reasons why I really love social networking in the fitness arena, because we can watch each other as we’re transforming. There’s tremendous social proof in that experience, and though I agree individual experiences with methods may vary, at least we’re able to witness the cause and effect relationship in action.

    I LOVE the quote that “Weight lifting is a technical and intellectual sport.” To me it’s testament to the fact that you never really stop learning, especially in the gym. There are always new methods out there that you gobble up and digest by incorporating them into your own fitness journey and making them your own.

    I agree with Krazy Kris that it’s always important to listen to your own body, as you can become your own expert. However, your body will lie to you, especially in the early stages of your journey. It takes commitment and practice to hear what your body’s really saying.


    • Matt I love hearing your perspective. And true, the social media world has opened up so many doors that were previously not even visible, much less closed. I have to credit social media for motivating me to get certified as a personal trainer, and all the incredible people I’ve met and learned from. And I agree that you never stop learning in the gym. That’s why I get turned off by people who seem to think they have the definitive answer. There are many answers… and an open mind is a growing mind.


  5. There are so many different programs, workouts, techniques, etc., so it’s easy to get overwhelmed and never start. I think that’s why people like programs like P90X – because there’s no thinking involved. You just follow Tony in the video and if you stick with it, you’ll see results…

    But damn, that gets boring quickly, doesn’t it? The secret is to find a routine that you like – then change it up before your body gets too used to it.


    • Nicely put. Yes, just follow the program and the results will follow… somehow. In the meantime people continue to overeat or don’t work out consistently and wonder why they’re not seeing results.
      Changing it up has become my specialty- confuse that body into oblivion!


  6. Great post Suzanne, one size does not fit all – each person is different and if throwing frisbees in the park builds muscle mass for some people, then good luck to them. It won’t work for everyone.

    Krazy Kris speaks a lot of sense, I hope people listen.


  7. Interesting post Suzanne.
    Weights per se have never been my thing at all, even when I was an athlete in my younger days. I have always prided myself on my strength and flexibility which I maintain through ‘movement’ in general, and when I’ve been a gym member I’ve never really got on with the machines that involve weights.

    However, I have been known to amuse friends and family and probably increased my strength by exercising with a can of beans or some such in each hand, if that counts :-).

    My son on the other hand works out with weights every day and has a very defined and superb physique. As Sarah says, each to his own…

    I suppose my question would be – what if you have to give up for reasons of injury or health? How quickly do the very well-developed muscles disappear into flab and how can you avoid this? I saw that you have overcome neck injury and your body in your photos certainly shows how successful your programme is – would love to know more about that, please.


    • Hi Christine- Yes, to each his/her own and not everyone is into weight lifting. Being able to lift a can of beans is amusing indeed! 😉 A person starts losing muscle about six weeks after discontinuing weights. However, MANY people have injuries or illness or other circumstances that prevent them from lifting and they still maintain muscle. That’s because they continue to eat right and do body weight exercises or light weights. As far as myself, after my neck injury I continued lifting but was still in pain and didn’t make much progress. I focused more on light weights and cardio. Then when I had my daughter I quit working out all together for about three years. That’s when all muscle definition went away and a bit of flab developed. The worst part was I felt weak, like I couldn’t trust my body to do basic functional tasks without injuring myself. After I made the decision to get back into the weight room, my neck actually improved. It was getting more flexibility range of motion that really helped my neck. It’s been a wonderful lesson in not giving up.


  8. I think people should choose what they LIKE and what they will stick with. For me it was swimming. I still love it. I’ve added other activities to my routine to keep it fresh and challenge myself. I grew to love weight lifting too. It’s so important in the balance of fitness!


    • Balance is important even if it means balance within a particular sport. Such as not overdoing it with too many repetitions of the same exercise, or training too often on the bike. Mixing up your physical activity can ONLY do your body good, and that is something to really chew on.


  9. I think as you pointed out, everyone needs to do what they enjoy doing to stay in shape, it’s the only way for a long term success. I personally don’t enjoy lifting weights, and 100 push-ups is more of my thing, but I’ve met people who love weights, it’s just a matter of preference. I definitely don’t like the 300 crunches idea, or any kind of crunches, but I would do hanging leg lifts, not 300 but 3o or so.


    • True, people should do what they’re passionate about. My main point being that doing the same exercise 50 times a day for 50 days cannot have the benefits of more varied exercise, and in fact can cause injury. Strength training can entail much more than weight lifting, as you obviously know already 🙂


  10. There was a time when I felt so out of place and uncool because so many people I know run, and continue to do so. I’ve known people for so long now, that they started with only a few minutes of running, but are now doing half marathons. But me? Eh, I just can’t get into, so I stopped aiming for that hard core running stuff. I do what I love now. I do what works for ME. I do what keeps me un-bored (because I get bored VERY fast) and I do it on the timetable I decide – not because someone says I should be doing it this or that way (including the Insanity calendar – I don’t follow that thing to the T – it’s too grueling). I aim to keep fitness fun, free-ing and out of the box. Otherwise? I’d have quit long ago. As for fitness challenges, they help to keep me accountable. I find that I push harder and stay more consistent with a challenge in place.


    • I like how you do what works for YOU… and look at the success you’ve had (Glamour mag?!). I feel like your attitude sort of encapsulates the non-neurotic side of working out (or is that assuming a lot? Lol). Plus you listen to your body so extreme challenges don’t have an adverse effect on you. They keep you motivated? Then they’re serving a purpose 🙂


  11. This certainly makes me feel better. It’s very hard to NOT feel inferior (and not bad ass-like) when you are not at a level to do the insane number of reps or the super hard workouts. We’re all where we are at.. Thanks for this! quoted Buzz Lightyear which is just too damn cool for words. 🙂


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