Knuckle draggers unite!

July 11, 2013 — 11 Comments

I’m writing this post from a hotel room at 5 AM in Shanghai.  It’s been a particularly crazy travel week starting with Singapore, now in Shanghai and moving to Sydney this weekend.  My flight schedule will have started with a flight to Singapore, connecting through Frankfurt followed by a flight to Shanghai followed by an overnight flight to Sydney followed by a flight from Sydney to NY via Seoul, Korea.  A colleague worked out that it’s a little north of 29,000 miles travelled over 20 days with a total of 60 hours spent on airplanes (excluding layovers, airport time and getting to and from the airports).

It goes without saying that on trips like this, a whole lot of rules go out the window.  When I’m strapped to a seat for this long, the whole hedonic hunger eating thing pretty much beats down my frontal lobe and restraint goes out the sealed airplane windows.  I’m thinking of the 60 hours as a three day cruise.  How bad could that be?  On terra firma, I’ve been pretty good, sticking with smart choices for my meals in hotels, offices and restaurants for dinner.

As always, my saving grace in trips like this has been sticking with my workout routines.  I hit the gym the second I got into my Singapore hotel on Tuesday morning for about 45 minutes of disgusting sweat-infused cardio.  Cardio is always pretty easy for me to squeeze in, but my exercise planning efforts center around making time for four days of heavy weight lifting each week – no matter what.  Therein lays the topic for this post.

I’ve spent the last 4.5 years at goal weight, and I attribute much of my success there to making pretty consistently healthy food choices.  However, if you put a gun to my head (please don’t, btw), I would have to say that exercise has been my salvation.  I’ve preached for many years that you can’t lose weight without changing your diet, but you can’t keep the weight off without exercising pretty consistently.  I think most of us find this pretty intuitive.  The trick is in finding an exercise regimen with which we can be happy (or at least not very sad).

Those who have followed this post for a while or have read my book know that weight lifting is a pretty big part of my life.  I lift free weights four times per week using what bodybuilders call a four day split –focusing on one or two body parts once per week (e.g., back/biceps one day, chest/triceps the next, etc.).  I also try to follow the rules that bodybuilders use which is to focus on getting 8-10 reps with increasing weight as heavy as I can manage for that rep range.  I do not try to get a cardio workout in from my weight routines, and rather I use the bicycle for that.  Each body part is good for about 6-8 exercises with three sets of 8-10 reps each.  I do superset (quickly alternate between exercises) when I can, but not always.

Why do I do this?  Because Arnold did.  In the days of fancy workout systems like Crossfit, Insanity, PX90, kettlebells, etc, I am a dyed-in-the-wool 1970’s knuckle-dragging meathead.  The only thing missing for me is tube socks and parting my hair in the middle.  I’m not against any of those high-tech and fancy pants new workout systems, I’m just not interested in them.  My logic is that Lou Ferrigno looked pretty impressive (particularly in green), so why fight it?  I realize that I am missing out on a whole wonderful world of muscle confusion, but I’m pretty confused about most things in life so why confuse myself more?

Why wouldn't anyone want to rock this look?

Why wouldn’t everyone want to rock this look?

So there you have it.  I’m aligning myself with bodybuilders (sans steroids).  I’m with the dudes from the Jersey Shore.  I am a proud member of a subculture that is oft-mocked. I certainly expect to be required to give up my metrosexual New York City credentials.  I am a meathead.

Honestly, I’m not sure why more people don’t do the same.  For any guy reading this post, I hate to break it but there is no way that lifting hard for an hour four days per week will make you balloon up into a cartoon figure.  However, if you lift as heavy as you can and keep lifting as heavy as you can, you will build up muscle mass.  That will hugely help you keep the weight off, and you will look better.  What’s wrong with that?  It’s also worth mentioning that I didn’t really start lifting in earnest until I was in my mid-30’s, ramping it up in my 40’s.  My point is that it is NEVER too late to start.  Show me a really fit 60 year guy, and I will show you someone who worships at the altar of iron.

For any woman reading this post (of ANY age), building up muscle and raw strength is one of the smartest things you can do.  It boosts your metabolism, it reduces risk of osteoporosis, and it will give you great tone.  What it won’t do is bulk you up.  Given your relatively lower levels of testosterone, it’s almost impossible for women to bulk up no matter how hard and how heavy you lift.  Four hours a week will put you at little to no risk.  That this fear of bulking up exists after so many years is a source of endless surprise for me.

I write all of this knowing that most of these words will fall on deaf ears as many find weight lifting “boring”, “too time consuming”, “icky”, “intimidating” etc.  However, I feel obligated to make the case for my meathead big iron ways because of everything it has given me and the effect it’s had on my health and looks – though I haven’t rocked a spray on tan (yet!).  If you do decide to give it a go, start slow.  Learn proper technique.  Most importantly, begin building a weekly routine that you can develop and build over time.  There is no reason to start with four days of heavy lifting per week, but two days might be pretty manageable.  My only advice is that once you get going, keep trying to gradually increase the amount of weight you are using so that you are doing the 8-10 reps, struggling a bit on the last one.  Most-most-most importantly, don’t quit.  Build it into your schedule, simply stick with it, and the results will follow.

Finally, the next time you see Mike “the Situation” Sorrentino, give him a hug and commit to solidarity.



11 responses to Knuckle draggers unite!

    Geoff Withnell July 12, 2013 at 7:07 am

    I’m with you, Dave. I’m not at goal weigh yet, but I’m making steady progress in that direction, aided enormously by lifting. And I started lifting at 57! And guys, I have to tell you, it’s just fun to be strong!


    Lifting is the main component of my workout and I love it. I can’t understand why more women don’t do it. It’s a powerful feeling. I’m at 115 down as of today–I think something must be going right.

    I don’t part my hair in the middle or wear tube socks, but I sure remember those days. I’m proud to be a knuckle dragger!


    I have been lifting weights ever since I started ww in Dec 2011 and there were times the scale didn’t budge but I went down in inches. 44 inches gone and 100 lbs lost. Thanks for posting this. I love resistance strength training


    Love your insight (on this, and well… everything). My take–cardio intervals will boost the spirits a bit and keep the heart healthy and strong. Limiting food intake will help you pull the fat off. Lifting heavy free weights (heavy, defined individually), will make what’s left– look and be– sexy, strong, and beautiful. It is empowering. Weak is pathetic. Strength is the power to function for life. Skinny-fat for a woman (or man) is unsightly. Sculpted muscle is beauty.


    I recently began lifting and I am really enjoying it. I love see the changes that lifting brings. I am looking forward to losing inches even if the scale goes nowhere. It will eventually catch up.

    thanks Dave!


    I’m curious, is all this travel for Weight Watchers? I don’t understand why you have to travel as much as you do.


      I would think that as weight watchers is a world wide brand the guy at the top needs to visit offices and managers in all sorts of places! Not just keeping an eye on those who weigh us but also those doing (inter)national advertising and promotional deals (protecting the brand) , the guys and gals who come up with all of those recipes (books and weekly sheets), the companies who manufacture ww food for different regions and tastes, not to mention the back office HR, accounts and payroll teams. According to wiki that is about 28,000 people in 30 countries. He’s a busy guy! Which makes me think that if he can manage 4 exercise sessions a week perhaps I should stop making excuses…


    David, thank you for continuing to post about your strategies for getting in activity and tracking points while traveling. It makes me feel not alone! I have recently (re)started my weight loss journey, in no small part to you — the virtual kick-in the pants your book gave me, anyway. I’m currently traveling for work and am struggling with exhaustion, poor food options and a severe deficit of FlexPoints remaining for the week! If anyone has a sense of humor and some tips on what to do when the points run low…please share! my link below

    Debbie O'Donnell July 23, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Well done David.
    Knuckledragger, meathead—-love love love having those nicknames and being in such good company. Lifting weights has brought strength to my life on so many levels. At 62 I am as fit (or maybe more) as most 22 young ladies. I started lifting weights at 52. I love the way I look. Most definitely younger and healthier than the friends in my age group. WW helped me shed the extra lbs to see definition. My health has improved with the one two punch of Weight Watchers and iron.


    David – Just got the email notification of your leaving Weight Watchers! So SORRY to hear the news. You were a breath of fresh, honest air with an intelligent quality that I really admired! Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors!!!


    David. Please contact me. I’ve been tracking the weight loss market as an independent analyst since 1989, every day. I’m troubled by current mgmt. at Weight Watchers and think they are missing the boat on many issues. Can we talk off the record? Would greatly appreciate your insight. Call me at Marketdata at: 813-907-9090 in Tampa, or email me at: I’m sure you’ve read our reports. See the latest news, commentary, etc. at, our other website.

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