Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: Lift by Daniel Kunitz

I was a competitive swimmer for fifteen years. During that time, my coaches incorporated strength training into my training regimen. But I never enjoyed weights and once I graduated from college, both the swimming and the lifting ceased. In my mid-thirties, I trained for a marathon. Strength training was never a part of that training for me. And after the race was over, my exercising again dwindled down to nothing beyond the occasional tennis match. It was through tennis that I rediscovered weight training. Whether it helps my tennis game at all or not might be debatable but I have come to a renewed appreciation for what weight lifting does for my general level of health, my strength, and my weight. As Daniel Kunitz’s nonfiction work Lift shows, my grudging discovery, forgetting/ignoring, and then rediscovery of weights mirrors in a small way, the fitness world’s use and understanding of the importance of heavy weights and strength training in addition to cardio as well.

Kunitz tracks the rise of weight lifting culture from its origins to what it looks like today. He starts with the ancient Greeks and Romans, moving through all the different manifestations of the fitness culture, including those time periods when weight lifting was seen as too strenuous, unattractive, or the purview of the less intelligent, up until today when we have a veritable smorgasbord of choices for our weight lifting pleasure. He himself is a CrossFit aficionado and so comes at the topic from that perspective. He tells of the connection between fitness training and the military, gymnasiums and the political, and fitness regimens originating in certain spiritual traditions. He does a deep dive into all of this, intricately detailing a history probably not known to many. He describes early gyms, their development, and their various apparatuses. He talks of cultural stances on weights and weightlifters and how those stances have changed over centuries. He discusses the original masculine bent of the programs and examines the rise and acceptance of training for women. And he discusses how strength training has undergone a renaissance from simply exercises meant to build muscle to “training for life,” with movements designed to mimic and augment real life situations which call for strength.

The book can be overwhelmingly in-depth, especially for those who approach lifting in a much more casual manner, and his cavalier dismissal of dangerous outcomes like rhabdomyolysis, which is in fact on the increase and not as rare as it once was, is a bit troubling. But his research is quite extensive and the historical roots and philosophy of fitness is interesting. When he describes certain training moves, especially historical moves using outdated equipment most people have never seen, it can be tough for the non-visual to visualize what he’s telling the reader but perhaps visualizing ancient pieces of equipment or the moves practiced with them is not ultimately all that important and so this difficulty is minor. The writing is a little bit dry although those pieces where Kunitz inserts his own experiences offer a more interesting spark to the general reader. Those with a keen interest in the way that the fitness industry, and specifically the weight lifting community, has changed over time and the way that perceptions of the importance and efficacy of this type of training have changed back and forth as well will find this jam packed full of information.

For more information about Daniel Kunitz, take a look at his publisher's page. Check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I was never much into weight training but I know that there is great value to it. I'm interested to learn more about the history of this particular for of exercise.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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