The Benefits of Lifting Heavy

even-arnie-had-oneLifting heavy weights on a regular basis creates a certain peace of mind. It’s impossible to explain to anyone who has’t experienced it.

When I first sobered up, I felt weak, dehydrated, and generally miserable. Hitting the gym was a chore but I did it anyway.

Less than 2 months later, I had undergone a radical physical transformation. Less than 6 months later, I was in the best shape of my life. I looked and felt better than ever before.

It’s no coincidence that testosterone is a potent mood-enhancer. Ever seen those commercials for low T? Feeling tired, depressed and unmotivated are symptoms of low testosterone. These are also the main symptoms of post acute withdrawal syndrome.

Over time, lifting heavy weights increases testosterone levels in men. It also increases natural, pain-relieving endorphins and a variety of other feel-good chemicals. You can’t beat addiction without rewiring your brain, and lifting heavy restores balance to your brain chemistry.

Before you resort to pills, try lifting weights. Resolve to give your fitness program 3 solid months of near-daily effort. Then sit back and watch your sense of well-being soar to unprecedented heights.

It’s common knowledge by now that women benefit from lifting heavy as well. Women do not bulk up like men do from lifting weights, unless they’re taking male hormones. A woman who starts lifting can expect more strength, a better mood, and a much leaner body with slightly more muscle mass.

Unlike jogging on the treadmill, lifting heavy weights causes your body to burn calories and pump out feel-good chemicals for hours after you stop lifting.

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It 100% works, but you’ll never hear it from addiction treatment centers. Some of them would rather have your repeat business. This is also why they’ll never tell you about The Sinclair Method.

Get Started With These 6 Exercises

If you’re strong enough to lift a barbell, which usually weighs 45 pounds, then you should be focusing on compound exercises.  Otherwise, start with dumbbells or an EZ bar and work your way up to it.

These 6 lifts have been the foundation of my routine from early recovery to this day:

  1. Bench Press
  2. Military Press
  3. Squat
  4. Deadlift
  5. Barbell Row
  6. Barbell Curl 

Refer to the videos for each of these, at the bottom of this article, to see proper form in action.

If you’re just starting out with weights, master the form before you start lifting heavy. I have included videos below for reference, since improper form is the biggest hindrance to strength gains and puts you at risk for injury.

A very simple routine based on the above would be to lift weights three times per week, perhaps as follows:

Monday: Bench Press, Military Press

Wednesday: Squat, Deadlift

Friday: Barbell Row, Barbell Curl

Aim for 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps for each of the exercises above. The 4-6 rep range is ideal for building strength. Most people at the gym are doing too many reps. Bodybuilding magazine workouts that tout 10-12 reps for “muscle pumps” are useless, unless you’re taking steroids.

You might have noticed that in the simple routine above, Monday is Chest and Shoulders Day, Wednesday is Legs Day, and Friday is Back and Biceps Day. You could add other exercises targeting these muscle groups on their respective days, but always start with the barbell lifts. Note that Bench Press and Military Press both indirectly work the triceps, so you might add dips or tricep extensions on that day.

Bench Press

Military Press



Barbell Row

Barbell Curl


  • Chris Scott

    Chris Scott founded Fit Recovery in 2014 to help people from around the world dominate alcohol dependence and rebuild their lives from scratch. A former investment banker, he recovered from alcohol dependence using cutting-edge methods that integrate nutrition, physiology, and behavioral change. Today, Chris is an Alcohol Recovery Coach with dozens of private clients, the author of a short book called Drinking Sucks!, and the creator of an online course called Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0.

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