posted on October 8, 2018
Think back to when you were doing your normal warm-up routine. While you were going through the motions, something in your shoulder just didn’t feel quite right. Maybe it was a slight pinch from your last workout or maybe you slept wrong. Regardless, the program says to hit something heavy today. What’s your next move? Take the gamble and push through or take a step back? Be honest now.
In my experience, I think you can categorize the majority of lifters into two groups: Performance Lifters and Therapy Lifters. If you answered that you would push through chances are you’re a Therapy Lifter. Performance Lifters tend to stop and reassess when things don’t feel right. Still unsure of which category you fit into, then ask yourself this question: Why do I lift weights?
Personally, I lift weights to be a human god amongst my friends. I love to create excitement through physical challenges. Perhaps you lift so you can deal with stress at work. Everyone has their own reason for lifting. But these individual reasons put us into certain categories. Therapy Lifters have lifting for an outlet when life brings too much to the table. They use lifting to help them deal with other, non-gym related, matters of life. Performance Lifters approach lifting to overcome the physical challenges that it brings. Of course lifters are not exactly one or the other but they do tend to lean more towards one side.
Performance Lifters are impressive. They are calculated, with each number in mind for the next two months or more. They are zoned into every tweak that they have in their body. Without hesitation Performance Lifters take care of any aches because they know that if they push through the pain, it might put them out for a month or longer. I don’t mean to say that the performance approach just means backing down at any little pain but each ache is weighed out more cautiously. Taking that extra moment to analyze the pain seems to prolong their longevity in the sport.
Therapy Lifting is hard to describe. I would argue that this approach is not heathy but I do believe that it is widely popular. Now here is something that I believe most of us can relate to, even if you are a Performance Lifter. You are wrapping your wrists or tighten that belt while placing the perfect amount of chalk on your hands, a cocktail of adrenaline is pumping through your veins. All of a sudden that pinch that you have been feeling in your shoulder doesn’t matter. What matters is getting that high after you get the weight up. You get that feeling of stress dispersing as the lift is accomplished. But this approach isn’t really therapy. Therapy is defined as “treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder” or a condition. Training is really none of those things. True- training isn’t a treatment, it is a momentary bliss to mask the issues that one is dealing with. If you are truly training with intensity than it can be just as harmful as other damaging outlets to handle emotional stress.
Again, I believe there is a mixture. I think it is rare that a person is truly all Therapy Lifter or 100% Performance Lifter. But the person that leans towards therapy lifting too much can be dangerous. Therapy Lifters need to take a moment to realize that choosing to address issues through lifting only prolongs the stressors of life returning while actually hindering your lifting. Worst case scenario it takes lifting away from you completely. On the other hand, the argument could be made that a Performance Lifter could benefit from allowing some emotions in their training. In reality, a good Performance Lifter has the drive or intensity built in already. After a while they know when something is just an everyday annoyance vs. an injury about to happen. The more you understand why you choose to lift weights the better you can improve as a lifter. Realizing that you are more of a therapy lifter early on will only improve you quality of lifting and the longevity of your lifting.
So maybe you find yourself leaning towards the “therapy” side of lifting. No matter what your goals are, taking a page out of the “performance” lifters’ book can be beneficial. Pushing yourself day in and day out and walking away from the gym feeling good, WHILE avoiding injury is the name of the game for both sets of lifters. The next time your shoulder flares up or your hamstring is feeling a little tight, be calculated in your training approach that day.