Musings by Gerald Boggs

Strength Training and the Blacksmith
Many of us are very passionate about blacksmithing. We spend a great deal of time and effort pursuing skills that will help us become better blacksmiths. However, most of us neglect to develop the most important "skill" we need as blacksmiths. That skill is the physical attribute that we call strength. Strength is the foundation needed for all activities. Without strength, you can't stand up, sit down, or carry the groceries into the house, and you certainly can't swing a hammer without a degree of strength. If you stop and think about it, the limiting factor in how heavy a hammer you use is strength. How often have you heard, "That hammer's too heavy for me".  There shouldn't be any question on the importance of strength, but very seldom am I able to impart the importance of strength to my fellow smiths. When I try, the responses range from telling me how hard they work and therefore don't need to do anything more, to outright hostility for even suggesting that they might "need" to train. Yet over and over again, I hear smiths complaining about sore shoulders, elbows and wrists. And the number of times I've heard someone tell me they hurt their back lifting an anvil....

Strength isn't just about how much weight you can lift and it isn't about making bigger muscles, it's about being healthy. Part of what being strong gives us is robustness, and this is important to blacksmiths. Robust means "able to withstand or overcome adverse conditions." Face it, blacksmithing is hard, dirty, stressful work, and to make matters worse, it's asymmetrical. Meaning you only swing that hammer with one arm. What are you doing for the other side? or for that matter, the other direction of the effort of hammering? When we're strong and healthy, we become robust and we're better able to stand up to the stresses of hammering all day.

Question: So if Strength is the most important physical attribute you need as a blacksmith, how do you gain it?

Answer: By lifting weights. No, I don't mean lifting to get Arnold Schwarzenegger muscles. I mean keeping your body healthy by making sure you stay strong in both muscles and bones. And the best way to do that, is a progressive weight training program using a barbell, there is nothing else that even comes close. In this world of high tech and fancy devices, and a never ending stream of "new" ideas, how to train effectively often gets lost. One just needs to strip away all the fluff and look back at how men of old used to train; Squat, Overhead Press, Dead Lift, Bench Press and chin-ups. Everything after that is not necessary for a strong, healthy body. If I've gotten your attention and you think you might want to learn more, visit this man's web site: http://startingstrength.com/ Mark Rippetoe, I did and it changed how I train. At 55 I'm now stronger then I've ever been in my life.