Why every man should deadlift – Macgregor McNair
I loved Jane’s article last week on why ‘every woman should deadlift’. Like Jane I am completely consumed by lifting heavy and after we had a number of conversations in the gym about our mutual obsession I was inspired to write a similar piece from my own perspective.
The most rewarding thing I’ve ever done with my life
Strength training is the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-revealing reflection of your own true character and mental resolve. There is no more pure an expression of strength training than the deadlift, and I believe absolutely that every man should push his limits and learn to love deadlifting heavy. The iron is a beautifully vile, two headed monster which can elevate you to the highest heights of your inner potential, bringing restoration from a lifetime of self inflicted damage and insecurity; or it can break you down to a shadow of the person who walked into the gym on any given day.
Like a lot of people, I have led a very colourful life, and have not always taken the highest degree of care for my body. When I reached my “snap point” – the decision to turn things around and start looking after myself – what I found was that strength training gave me a pathway to something I had not fully experienced before – a healthy sense of respect for myself. While it may be said that strength training saved my life both figuratively and literally, my belief is that the sense of self respect has been the true gift in all of this.
My inner negative talk would often get the better of me, and after many years of being way too hard on myself, it was not an easy transition into a place of healing and personal growth. Strength training gave me an expression for all of this, and when I began to feel the power within me developing, it started a chain reaction of positive responses throughout my life.
I found that pushing my body to its limits dragged me out of the familiar comfort of mediocrity, and on a much deeper level I learned to respect and appreciate my body both for what it can do, and what it can’t yet do. This respect drives my desire to keep pushing towards the things I thought were impossible, to take much better care of my body, and in the process my entire self.
It has become necessary for me in developing emotionally, mentally, dare I say spiritually.
The most revealing thing I’ve ever done in my life
When you find yourself in pursuit of physical strength, you inevitably learn a whole lot about yourself on several levels. Obviously, you learn pretty quickly what your physical capabilities are.
You also learn some life lessons pretty quickly: how much you actually want to achieve the things you set out to do, what your tendencies are when things start to really hurt, and best of all how to control your responses to pain and OVERCOME IT. Mark my words… the going will get tough, and if you aren’t willing to harden the fuck up you may as well find something else to do with your spare time. True strength requires a whole lot more hard work and discipline than most people realise.
Your physical strength breeds mental strength
As a very wise friend of mine (Jane, that’s you) said, ‘your physical strength breeds mental strength’. Never is this more true than when you actively decide to turn your weaknesses into your strengths. Let me give you an example of this. The squat has always been the shittiest, weakest, most painful and hated thing I could possibly choose to do with my time. This year, I found the resilience to flip that shit upside down. I invested a whole lot of effort, money and time into the coaching (thanks Adam & Damon Hayhow) and practice needed to bring my squat up to where it is no longer my weakest and most hated lift. Now, by no means has my squat overtaken my deadlift as my strongest and most beloved lift, but it is now respectfully strong in relation to my deadlift and I really enjoy squatting super-heavy these days. This was one of the most revealing and rewarding investments I could have ever made in myself.
I can’t even begin to describe that feeling of pride when I hit a respectable, new personal best in the lift that has always terrified me. The conquering of that fear, and turning it into pride every time I squat – that is the essence of what strength training can do for you. The ability to do this translates to other areas of your life – you become stronger in absolutely every way.
Get your ass to the gym and stop complaining
The pursuit of strength is the single most physically validating thing a man can do, and as Jane beautifully wrote, is the most empowering thing a female can do. A man who has never pushed his body to its limits (or grown a full beard) has never truly explored his masculinity, and a woman who has never out-deadlifted a man has never experienced that overwhelming power.
When I say “push your body to it’s limits”, what I mean is saying FUCK YOU to the path of least resistance, and putting some fucking weight on the bar. Don’t be toying around with high rep-ranges and light weights, train like your life depends on it! Challenge yourself constantly. I promise if you keep on piling weight on the bar, and you want it badly enough, if dig deep enough inside yourself you will find some self respect and eventually you will lift that weight.
I challenge every man who reads this to take a 12 month period and really dedicate yourself to training to be as physically strong as possible. Find a respectable personal trainer or strength coach who practices what they preach, find out what your 1RM’s (1 repetition maximum) are in the deadlift, the back squat and the bench press, then set yourself an achievable target in kg or lb for each lift. Work your way relentlessly towards the goals, and when you beat them, set yourself another goal for each.
If you keep repeating this cycle over the space of a year, I guarantee you will amaze yourself at what you can actually accomplish, and what you can unlock within yourself through this new-found strength. Remember, your physical strength breeds mental strength, and every area of your life will improve as a direct result of your mental strength.