“If weight training is natural, why do all the bodybuilders look unnatural to me?”

You may wonder—rightfully.
Before we discuss what weight training is, I’d like to quickly point out what weight training isn’t.

Weight training is not bodybuilding. Weight training is a training method to develop muscles using resistance, which is usually generated by gravity. Bodybuilding is a competition sport in which size and look of muscles are scored by certain criteria. It is the same way weightlifting differs from weight training. Weightlifting is a competition sport in which you win by lifting heavy, under a certain set of rules. When someone starts lifting weights, we don’t usually consider him doing weightlifting.
Bodybuilders train with weights because it is the most effective way for muscle gain. But if swimming is better to do so, local swimming pools would be filled with bodybuilders.

Then what makes weight training so effective?

In other sports or physical activities, you have an ‘external’ goal. For example, in sports your goal is to win by the rules. When you play tennis, you would try to send the ball where his opponent cannot reach. Or in Judo, you would try to throw your opponent onto the mat. While you are striving for the goal, the body naturally gets trained—in other words, the change of the body is rather a by-product.

On the other hand, weight training has no other purpose than to change the body. There is no immediate feedback, such as a ball returned from your opponent. It’s all about checking your body, testing what it can do and where it fails.

For this purpose, weight training has a few features that distinguish it from other physical activities.

First, it is designed to reach failure points as fast as you can.
You can change your body with any type of body movement, as long as you do it long enough. But for other activities, you don’t do it until your body fails. You rarely swing a tennis racket until you can’t swing one more time. Neither do you play soccer until you can’t kick one more. You don’t climb mountains until you can’t go any further. It takes too long and more importantly, it is not safe.

Weight training is designed to reach the failure point usually within 10 to 15 minutes—3~5 sets—for each body part. The movements that at first seem meaningless is actually the least amount of movements to make your body reach its limit. No repetition is actually wasted, because it’s either a warm-up or a work set.

Second, it is designed to reach failure points constantly.
Any sport or exercise causes your body to change in the beginning. But once the body adapts to the movements, it rarely changes further, unless you train for longer hours.
Take swimming for an example. First week, one-hour swimming makes your body sore. But a few weeks later, your body gets adapted and now it feels quite comfortable. In this way, what is good muscle training in the beginning ends up as a cardio exercise.
This is because in other sports, the workload or resistance is rather fixed. A tennis racket doesn’t get heavier as you get more strength in your arms, neither does basketball get heavier as you get better.

On the other hand, you can change load in weight training. Therefore, you can still force your body to adapt to a new stress. As a result, your body continues to change.
And it saves our time in a way similar to score-handicapping in golf or bowling. The handicap makes a more experienced player disadvantaged so that the chances of winning is equalized. Just as players of different skill levels play on an even footing with the handicap, weight training allows you to keep getting a good workout without increasing your training time. Actually, weight training is one of the few exercises in which the effective training time of most-experienced and beginners are not very different.

Third, weight training trains the whole body.
Most sports or physical activities focus only on one side of the body. In tennis, if you are right-handed, your left arm doesn’t get strengthened as much. In soccer, your legs get good training but the upper half is largely ignored. It’d be the same with running and hiking.

Most sports or physical activities focus only on one side of the body. In tennis, if you are right-handed, your left arm doesn’t get strengthened as much. In soccer, your legs get good training but the upper half is largely ignored. It’d be the same with running and hiking.

In weight training, unless you consciously choose otherwise, the development of muscles is balanced and few body parts are left out. People balance the amount of training for the pull muscles and the push muscles. So is the same with the upper body and the lower body; left and right.
You don’t pick up a heavier dumbbell for your right arm just because it’s stronger than the left. The difference would not be completely removed, but at least the gap doesn’t grow.

As a result, there is a certain body condition that can be only achieved by lifting weights. That is why many professional athletes train with weights. Many people mistakenly believe an athlete in a certain sport has ended up with the body shape training only in that sport. But in reality, most serious athletes, such as Judo Olympians, professional golfers and soccer players and prize fighters, train with weights.

Fourth, weight training is safe.

In sports, you get fast feedback for choices you make from other players. It keeps you occupied. But at the same time, it exposes you to injury. The movements of your partner are random and you have no control over them.
Weight training is a solo exercise and the movements are designed according to the natural movement of our joints. The load is intended to be placed on muscles, not the joints. It is because the whole point of weight training is to strengthen your body, not endanger it. While some bodybuilders might want to look dangerous, but the way they have earned the physique is the least dangerous way.

When weight training gained popularity in the 1970s in America, people considered it as a fad such as bowling or pocket ball. But it has kept growing and more athletes and celebrities have adopted weight training for a better performance or looks. I believe it is because there isn’t really a faster, safer and better way.

Peter Drucker once said, efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. You will find weight training fits both criteria quite well.