If you’re looking for muscle and strength gains, you might think lifting weights is the only way to go.
However, a lot of people try it and find they dislike it. Or that they’re not ready for it yet.
But why do people hate lifting weights, and what can you do about it?
For some people, lifting weights is difficult and nerve-wracking. They may feel intimidated or they’re afraid to get injured. Others find lifting weights has too much rest and doesn’t feel as hard as the workouts they’re used to.
If you hate lifting weights, start with weights that are appropriate for you and ask for help from a trainer or another gym-goer — it can alleviate some of these concerns. Doing bodyweight workouts can also help since you can get used to performing certain movements before adding weight.
There are multiple other ways you can become more comfortable with lifting weights. Several experts weigh in on how you can create a more positive weight lifting experience.
Why Do People Hate Lifting Weights?
Experts find that most of the problems with lifting weights are caused by discomfort.
There are many reasons for this, but below are some of the most common concerns trainers run into with their clients.
1. It’s Uncomfortable
“People hate lifting because it’s physically uncomfortable,” says Pam Sherman, personal trainer with theperfectbalance.guru.
“Many do steady state cardio and never have an uncomfortable moment during their workout. Lifting is uncomfortable and the muscles are challenged.”
If a chair is uncomfortable, you choose a different chair to sit in.
The same is true when lifting weights—if the movements are uncomfortable, you’ll shy away from them and seek something else.
2. It’s Painful
Lifting weights can be painful at times.
Perhaps you feel like your muscles are being torn apart while you’re lifting, or maybe delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) leaves you aching for days after your workout.
Jeff Parke, owner of Top Fitness Magazine, explains, “When you exercise, you create stress in your body that causes microscopic damage to your muscles.”
You’re damaging your body on purpose, so it’s going to be painful!
3. It’s Daunting
“I think that sometimes people can view weight training as daunting and scary when starting out because it takes skill, practice, and technique,” says Karisa Karmali, personal trainer with selfloveandfitness.com.
Weight plates are large, and lifting weights for the first time seems daunting when you look at them.
It gets worse if you’re not sure where to start with lifting.
Nobody likes to feel like they can’t do something or that they don’t have the skills to master what they want to do.
4. Other Lifters Are Intimidating
Maybe you’re confident going into the weight room. You know you can start with low weights, and you have a workout plan to follow.
But then you see them … the bodybuilders.
Anyone with a lot of muscle mass probably looks like a bodybuilder to someone who’s never lifted weights before.
You’re smaller than them, and you realize you have no idea what you’re doing as you approach the weights.
The mirrors in the weight area don’t help since they remind you that you’re not measuring up to everyone else.
TJ Mentus, ACE-certified personal trainer with garagegymreviews.com, points out:
“For someone who is new to lifting weights it may be intimidating and they may worry about doing something wrong and others seeing.”
You don’t want to make a mistake in front of the people that TJ refers to as “big scary-looking guys.”
5. It’s Not Challenging Enough
“Another reason someone may not like weights is that a typical weight training workout has a good amount of rest and doesn’t get the heart rate too high like cardio workouts,” TJ Mentus explains.
It’s discouraging to feel like your workout is ineffective.
If your heart isn’t pumping and you aren’t panting and sweaty, are you really doing anything?
Lifting weights won’t give you that high you feel after an intense HIIT or cardio workout, so many people skip it in favor of another activity.
Tips to Find More Weightlifting Motivation
You’ll always feel some amount of discomfort when you lift weights, but you can still try to make it a more pleasant experience.
Here’s what some of the experts had to say about finding motivation to lift weights.
1. If It’s Uncomfortable
You may be uncomfortable because you’re not used to the weights, or your body isn’t used to moving in this way.
The best way to try to ease your discomfort is by learning proper technique.
Look up YouTube videos or follow trainers on social media to learn the technique required for different types of lifts.
Then practice the lifts using extremely light weights.
This will help you train your muscle memory. Once the moves become second nature, you can start lifting more challenging weights.
Lifting challenging weights will increase the discomfort a little, but it won’t be as bad as it was before you perfected your form.
2. If It’s Painful
If lifting weights is painful, you need to slow down.
“It’s always a great idea to start with bodyweight exercises,” Pam Sherman suggests.
“Squats, pushups (on the kitchen counter), planks, [and] lunges are a great way to begin a strength program.
“After a regular routine of these for a few weeks or a month, the transition to using weights is a lot easier.”
Pushups and planks help build your arm muscles because you have to use them to hold yourself up.
They also train your abs because you have to engage your core muscles in order to stay rigid.
Squats push all of your body’s weight onto your legs, which helps your leg muscles grow.
If your muscles are already used to a challenge, it’ll be less painful when you switch to lifting weights.
You’ll still be a little uncomfortable, but it won’t be as bad as it would be if you hadn’t started with bodyweight exercises.
3. If It’s Daunting
If lifting weights seems daunting, go back to the tip about it being uncomfortable: learn proper technique.
If you know how to perform each movement, you’ll feel more confident and be less concerned about doing something wrong in front of the people you find intimidating.
Consider hiring a personal trainer who can teach you how to lift weights and show you what movements will work best for you.
If you make a mistake, the trainer will correct you without shaming you—that’s their job.
Master the technique for each lift and follow your trainer’s guidelines. The next time you enter the weight room, you’ll know exactly what to do.
That’ll eliminate the dread you used to feel when you entered the weight room.
4. If Other Lifters Are Intimidating
“Many times the big scary-looking guys in the gym are the most helpful because they have so much experience,” says TJ Mentus.
Those guys aren’t going to shame you. Most of them would rather see you succeed than fail!
TJ also mentions that working with a trainer can help a lot if you find other gym-goers intimidating.
Since you’ll have someone by your side, you won’t feel like everyone else’s eyes are focused on you.
And remember that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s always okay to ask someone who’s more knowledgeable than you.
After all, everyone starts somewhere, and everyone in the weight room was a beginner at some point, too.
(Here are some tips if you have to go to the gym alone.)
5. If It’s Not Challenging Enough
If you love the burn and breathlessness that cardio can bring, bring cardio to your weightlifting.
TJ Mentus suggests, “The best solution for this would be to do HIIT training with weights or circuit training to keep the heart rate up and produce that out-of-breath feeling.”
You’ll get all of the benefits of weight training, but you’ll still get to enjoy your regular cardio workout.
It will also make your cardio workout even more challenging.
Top Alternatives to Lifting Weights
The points above should help make lifting more tolerable, but no activity will work for everyone.
There are plenty of alternatives to explore if you still can’t motivate yourself to hit the weight room.
1. Stick With Bodyweight Movements/Calisthenics
Kent Probst, a personal trainer, kinesiotherapist, bodybuilder, and creator of longhealthylife.com, recommends “bodyweight exercises against gravity, such as pushups, planks, and Bulgarian split squats” as an alternative to lifting weights.
Bodyweight workouts will still build strength and stamina, although it’ll take more time.
You can experiment with different workout combinations, add more reps and sets as you grow your abilities, and find a way to add more challenging moves to your repertoire.
If you’d like to get started with bodyweight workouts, consider looking for a calisthenics class.
During a calisthenics workout, you’ll do pushups, Bulgarian split squats, and other similar exercises.
You’ll also do pullups, chin-ups, dips, and more.
2. Use Resistance Bands
Resistance bands don’t strain your muscles quite as much as lifting weights does, but they still provide a fantastic workout.
According to Kent Probst, “[Resistance] bands can easily be purchased online, and can be taken anywhere for resistance exercise, especially when traveling.”
Karisa Karmali says resistance bands are great if physical capacity is your issue with lifting weights.
Jeff Parke states that resistance bands are less likely to cause the same level of muscle soreness as weight lifting.
If pain and physical ability are your problems, then resistance bands are the way to go.
3. Wear Ankle and Wrist Weights
If you want to challenge yourself a little, consider wearing wrist and ankle weights during regular workouts.
You can wear them while walking, running, doing HIIT, working with resistance bands, and more.
You won’t feel like you’re lifting weights, but your muscles are still challenged more than they would be without the ankle weights.
You can increase the weight as your workout becomes easier over time.
4. Try Pilates
Pilates is great if you hate how intense lifting weights can get.
The poses are hard to hold, so it’s perfect if you like a challenge.
There may be some mild discomfort (like with all workouts), but it’ll be more comfortable than lifting weights.
Pilates improves your strength as well as your posture, flexibility, and mental awareness.
It’s primarily a bodyweight exercise, but you can also use a Pilates machine to enhance your workout.
5. Consider Barre
Barre is a ballet dance-inspired workout.
It’s low intensity, and the moves are derived from ballet and other dances.
This workout is fantastic for enhancing muscle and joint strength, and it also helps your body move more fluidly and flexibly.
Barre poses are tricky, and they put strain on your muscles and help them grow.
It’s a difficult but low-intensity workout. You’ll experience mild discomfort as a beginner, but it will go away with time.
Lifting weights can be a chore.
Some people may eventually overcome their hatred for it, but others won’t.
There are plenty of ways you can gain muscle strength without lifting weights, though. Don’t worry if you want absolutely nothing to do with the weight room!
Perfecting any strength-building workout will take time and training, but the important thing is to remember not to shy away after one or two bad experiences.
If you continue to work through your troubles, you may find that you fall in love with an exercise you once despised.
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Hope this helps!