A few years ago, I wrote a Performance Menu article about the difference between two types of people: those who lift weights, and those who are weightlifters. You might not have read it because it’s pretty old and I didn’t include it in Bones of Iron. I wasn’t happy with the way it turned out, aside from the main idea which I thought was pretty good. So I’ll hit that idea again here. Maybe the whole thing will taste better if I just keep dumping more frosting on it.

Some people lift weights, and some people are weightlifters. Believe me, brothers and sisters, there’s a big damn difference between these two groups. One of them is something you do, and the other one is something you are. People who lift weights don’t understand the difference as much as weightlifters do. People who lift weights often think of themselves as weightlifters, but they’re not. And weightlifters know this. Weightlifters know other weightlifters instinctively. They can tell if you’re a real member of the tribe just by looking at a few things you do and listening to a few things you say. These things usually don’t even occur to people who lift weights. Trying to explain them is like trying to explain why cool breezes feel good.

Once you’re a weightlifter, you’re a weightlifter for the rest of your life even if you stop training seriously. It never leaves you once you’ve had it in your cytoplasm. People who lift weights can make the transition and become weightlifters, at some point. It requires some big changes, but it’s possible. Once they’ve crossed over, they can look back and understand things they were never able to see before.

If you’re really a weightlifter, you probably understood everything I’ve said so far. If you’re a person who lifts weights, you might not know what the hell I’m talking about. It’s a good thing for you that I’m considerate and I care about your feelings, because I’m going to give you fifteen little tips that will make this as clear as an unmuddied lake.

1- People who lift weights rely on their discipline and commitment to summon up the strength to go to the gym and work out. Weightlifters get separation anxiety and feel like crap if they don’t go to the gym and work out.

2- People who lift weights watch mainstream sports events like the NBA Finals and say, “LeBron James is amazing. He’s a basketball god.” Weightlifters watch the NBA Finals and say, “I bet LeBron James can’t clean and jerk to save his ass.”

3- People who lift weights say things like, “Will you watch my form on these lat pulls?” and they don’t think there’s anything weird about it. Weightlifters say things like, “You’ve got a great looking snatch” and they don’t think there’s anything weird about it.

4- People who lift weights will walk right in front of you while you’re lifting. Weightlifters understand that you’re asking to get kicked in the face if you walk in front of somebody while they’re lifting.

5- People who lift weights think commercial gyms like LA Fitness are training palaces. Weightlifters think commercial gyms like LA Fitness are one small step above a leper colony.

6- People who lift weights have snazzy, colorful gym clothes that fit perfectly and accentuate their muscles. Weightlifters have neoprene knee sleeves that make the rest of their laundry smell like a dead rhino’s carcass when they wash everything together.

7- People who lift weights think biceps and calves are sexy. Weightlifters think quads and traps are sexy.

8- People who lift weights get to watch the Olympics at dinnertime. Weightlifters have to watch the Olympics at one o’clock in the morning.

9- People who lift weights wear black fingerless gloves when they work out. Weightlifters wear calluses and chalk when they work out.

10- People who lift weights think of running as a great supplement to their training. Weightlifters think of In-N-Out Burger as a great supplement to their training.

11- People who lift weights save their money for big flat-screen TVs. Weightlifters save their money for Eleiko bars.

12- People who lift weights try to look on the bright side when they have bad workouts. Weightlifters make up new combinations of cuss words when they have bad workouts.

13- People who lift weights can easily buy new jeans when they need them. Weightlifters…can’t.

14- People who lift weights think every gym should be equipped with a squat rack. Weightlifters refuse to acknowledge anything as a “gym” if it doesn’t have multiple squat racks.

15- People who lift weights watch travel shows where they fall in love with exotic locations like Fiji and Thailand. Weightlifters think it would be cool to take a trip to Bulgaria.

Maybe we all know a little more about each other now. Maybe not. You can make up your own mind where you fit in. It might seem like there’s an underlying thread in this post implying that weightlifters are superior to people who lift weights, but that’s not really what I was thinking. I’ve got a little more of a transcendentalist/hippie view of this whole thing. We’ve all got the same iron spirit running through us. It’s just that the spirit takes some people in one direction, and it takes others in a different direction. Some people become fanatics, while others just dabble. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with dabbling. Anytime somebody is using the barbell to get any kind of positive results, it’s a good thing. Weightlifters sometimes get carried away and treat people like pond scum if they don’t commit their entire lives to the sport. That’s not how I roll. Life’s too short, you know what I mean? People have freedom of choice and they can make up their own minds how deeply they want to dive into this thing of ours. They just have to settle up with the fact that part-time commitment delivers part-time results.

I’m a weightlifter. I knew that when I was fifteen years old.

What are you?

What do you want to be?

by, Matt Foreman | July 30 2012

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