The Importance of Pumping Iron – Part I

Have you ever heard the term “prison workout”? It’s used to describe a routine that mimics the kind prisoners are (perhaps stereotypically) known to do. These burly chaps are proof that it doesn’t take fancy equipment to create fit physiques. A pair of dumbbells, a pull-up bar, and some space to do push-ups and sit-ups is all that’s required for them to build strong, defined muscles.

Did you know that in 1996 an amendment to an appropriations bill expressly banned the federal Bureau of Prisons from purchasing “training equipment for boxing, wrestling, judo, karate, or other martial arts, or any bodybuilding or weightlifting equipment of any sort”?[1] This was precipitated by a rising fear that well-muscled ex-cons would be even more dangerous after their release.

Nowadays, the weights one might find in U.S. prisons are decades old, and chained to the walls to prevent them from being stolen or used as weapons.

The late Supreme Court Justice Scalia noticed that inmates were still packing on “intimidating muscles” despite their lack of traditional gym equipment. [2] Without dumbbells, resourceful prisoners check out heavy books from the library and use them as resistance tools. Others do pull-ups from the rails of their bunk beds, which are sometimes stacked three or four high in crowed penitentiaries. As the saying goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Two things strike me about this interesting bit of trivia, one of which I’ll talk about today, and that’s the fact that while inmates crave the use of barbells so they can strengthen their bodies (for their own self-defense, I would guess), so many of us free folk will do almost anything to avoid weightlifting. We fear becoming “bulky,” or getting injured, or we say that we don’t know how to lift weights and then make up a multitude of excuses for why we can’t learn. Some of us, if we’re honest, simply dislike the discomfort that accompanies a lifting session and the soreness that follows it.

the importance of pumping iron

We are blessed to live in a time when there’s a surplus of fitness programs, books, DVDs, courses, and facilities available to suit almost anyone. We know more than we ever did about the importance of exercise, and of resistance training in particular. Take a look at just a few benefits of weightlifting that go far beyond strength and brawn:

  • Weightlifting lowers blood pressure, making it a heart-healthy habit. The American Heart Association recommends adults aim for at least two strength-training sessions a week.[3]
  • It helps you do cardiovascular activities faster. This is due to the fact that weightlifting cultivates stronger, more powerful muscles that you can then utilize in functional fitness activities, such as swimming, biking, or running. ,
  • Strength training can help prevent injuries in other athletic endeavors and sports. This is achieved because weightlifting helps correct muscle imbalances that negatively affect your form in activities as mundane as sitting at your desk.[4]
  • Lifting weights lifts your mood. Like many forms of physical activity, pushing and pulling and squatting some weight can work wonders for your mental health. Strength training has been linked to reduced depression and stress symptoms, as well as improved self-esteem. [5]

Again, that’s just a sampling of the myriad advantages one reaps from hitting the weights. Other well-known effects are stronger bones, improved balance, and better sleep. Bottom line: if you have the ability, weightlifting is an excellent investment of your time, one that could give you more time on this earth.

As I mentioned earlier, we are so blessed to have an abundance of weightlifting options available to us. If you can’t afford a gym membership, invest in a few pieces of home-gym equipment. Can’t afford that? Do bodyweight exercises such as incline push-ups on the back of your sofa, sit-ups, lunges, squats and plank holds on the floor, and a number of other excellent movements. Once you’ve saved up some money, you can purchase a pair of dumbbells, then maybe a kettlebell or barbell, and pretty soon, you’ll have all you need to keep fit for a lifetime.

I encourage you not to let excuses or a lack of discipline prevent you from enjoying the emotional, mental, and physical benefits of weightlifting. If you stick with a consistent routine for a few weeks, I guarantee weightlifting will become one of the highlights of your day, and you’ll wonder why you went so long without it.

Keep Shining, (1)

Recommended resources:


[1] (accessed September 11, 2016)

[2] Ibid.

[3] (accessed September 11, 2016)

[4] (accessed September 11, 2016)

[5] (accessed September 11, 2016)