Entrepreneur
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By Bryan Krahn

Why Entrepreneurs Should Start Strength Training (and Where to Begin)

By Bryan Krahn

Strength training

This is the age of the entrepreneur.

Just check your social media feeds. Everyone is seemingly “hustling,” trying to make their hobby or side-passion into a legit and profitable 9-to-5 career. At least for a year or two, until their plans for “world domination” come to fruition and they can retire to some tropical island, free to post poolside selfies to their hearts content.

Of course, for those who actually live the entrepreneurial life and don’t just tweet about it, the reality isn’t so rosy. Things like 9-5 schedules, stress-free vacations, even weekends with the family are a pipe dream.

Instead it’s 4 am wake-ups, insurmountable email, and a seemingly endless stream of fires to put out, often at the expense of less urgent but far more important priorities. Like health.

Most entrepreneurs who actually survive the grind to the top realize that neglecting their health and fitness is a mistake. Because if you’re not keeping your body healthy, you’re actually wasting time in terms of lost productivity, not to mention quality of life.

That’s why virtually every successful person, when queried “what do you do every day to stay on top of your business?” will list “exercise” as one of their top “must-do’s,” whether it’s a spin class, a three mile jog, or even a yoga session.

But lately more and more entrepreneurs are turning to strength training.

It seems like an odd choice. Weight training? That requires gym memberships and daily commutes and fumbling around a cavernous stadium full of complicated equipment, or scheduled torture sessions with a slave driver in spandex named Brittney.

Plus, it takes forever to build big muscles, and bulging biceps look kinda silly in a corporate environment. And is any of that even healthy?

The short answer is, it is healthy. And if you’re an entrepreneur, I argue that strength training should take priority over any elective exercise you could do. Here’s why.

1. Weight Training Builds Muscle

I know, duh. But this isn’t about a building a back as wide as a barn door. With just a little extra muscle, you’ll be able to do everyday tasks like lifting, carrying the groceries, and sprinting up stairs like a frisky 14 year-old.

Strength training is also the perfect antidote to all the lousy things sitting at a desk does to your hips, lower back, and posture. If that’s not enough, the amount of muscle you carry is your number one defense against the wasting forces of age.

2. Weight Training Is Ridiculously Healthy

Weight training is about more than muscle. Think cardio is the only thing that strengthens your heart or improves your bloodwork? Here’s a snippet of the health benefits weight training can provide:

  • Improved cholesterol
  • Lowered risk of diabetes
  • Lowered risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased risk of breast cancer
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Strengthened immune system

All that and tighter shirtsleeves? Sounds good to me.

3. Weight Training Improves Flexibility

Musclebound is a myth. By working the muscles through a full range of motion, strength training can improve your flexibility. This greatly reduces the risk of muscle pulls and back pain.

4. Weight Training Burns Fat

Cardio burns calories and helps you lose weight. But too much cardio combined with no weight training can leave you looking like a smaller, softer version of your current self, something the bros call “skinny fat.”

However, by increasing the amount of lean body mass you have, weight training improves your body composition, or muscle to fat ratio. So while the scale may not change as much versus a cardio-only approach, in a few months your body could look dramatically different.

5. Weight Training Reinforces Structure

Entrepreneurs are often very regimented. Most will confess to waking at the exact same time every day (even weekends), working in finite blocks, and avoiding time leaks like the plague.

The cool thing about weight training is, it works incredibly well with this kind of mindset. Training regularly can help establish and reinforce structure, not to mention making you tired enough to sleep at night.

6. Weight Training Engages Your Brain

All exercise increases your heart rate and dilates your blood vessels, pumping more blood to your brain. However, using specific muscle groups engages parts of your brain related to fine motor control, which further helps “turn on” your higher-level circuitry.

As a writer, I can’t count how many ideas for blog posts and articles have “come to me” while straining under a heavy squat or bench press. It seems counter intuitive, but the very act of clearing one’s mind and just focusing on performing an exercise seems to cause ideas to just “appear.”

7. Weight Training Is the Perfect Stress Reliever

Strength training is basically a controlled battle against resistance. As you get stronger, the weights get heavier. It’s a non-stop war, with every workout providing an opportunity to improve upon your previous outing — if you have the fortitude to venture past your comfort zone. Which is the perfect analogy for succeeding in business.

Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said he learned “everything he needed to succeed” from bodybuilding, and he’s made millions in three different careers.

8. You’ll Look Better

And looks matter. Many entrepreneurs are on the introverted side, a quality that may actually help them during the initial “rise & grind” days.

However, at some point even the most reclusive entrepreneur will have to step out from behind their computer and make an impression. And this is a lot less stressful if you can look in the mirror and confidently declare that you’re in damn good shape.

Of course, appearances shouldn’t count this much in the business world, but they do — especially when your persona is an integral part of your company. It might not be right, but as the kids say “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

The How-To

So you’re sold. You’ve ordered a closet full of gym clothes and are ready to pump up to Men’s Health cover proportions.

Not so fast. Whether you’re 14 or 64, the key to weight training success is to “start slow and with room to grow.” So your first few years of weight training should be about establishing a foundation of strength in the basic movement patterns and drilling technique.

While a true entrepreneur may be tempted to just jump in and have faith that they got this, that type of thinking has chiropractor’s office written all over it. Trust me.

Super-entrepreneur and recent weight-training convert Gary Vaynerchuk inspired the following workout. According to his coach Jordan Syatt of Syatt Fitness, Gary has embraced the weight training lifestyle with the same unbridled enthusiasm and realism with which he approaches business.

Here’s a great workout inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk’s plan that will get you well on your way to dominating the world, without dominating your life. You can easily find guides for each exercise on YouTube.

Warm Up

  • Bike – 3 minutes at a brisk pace
  • Arm Circles – 15 circles forward, 15 backward, each progressively wider
  • Bodyweight Squats x 15 reps
  • Bodyweight Walking Lunges x 8 per leg
  • Wall Pec and Shoulder Stretch

Monday – Pull Workout (Muscles you pull with, i.e., back, biceps.)

  • A. Chin Up or Lat Pulldown 3 x 8-12 reps
  • B. Single Arm Dumbbell Row – 3 × 8-12 reps
  • C. Seated Row to Neck with Rope – 3 x 10-12 reps
  • D. Back Extension – 3 x 12-15 reps
  • E. DB Hammer Curls 3 × 12-15

Tuesday – Low Intensity Cardio

30 minutes of brisk walking, outdoors or on a treadmill set to a low incline

Wednesday – Push Workout (Muscles you push with, i.e., chest, shoulders, triceps.)

  • A. Incline DB Bench Press – 3 x 10-12 reps
  • B. Overhead DB Shoulder Press – 3 x 10-12 reps
  • C. Overhead DB Triceps Extension – 3×10-12
  • D. DB Lateral Raise – 2 x 10-12
  • E. Rope Triceps Pressdown – 2 x 15
  • F. Push Ups – 3 x failure

Thursday – Higher Intensity Cardio

On a recumbent bike or rower. Warm up for 5 minutes, and then do 20 seconds sprinting as hard as you can, followed by 40 seconds easy pedaling or rowing. Repeat for 15 “rounds” total and follow with 10 minutes of easy cardio.

Friday – Legs & Core

  • A. Squat – 3 × 8-10
  • B. DB Walking Lunge– 3 × 12/leg
  • C. Lying Leg Curl – 3 x 8-10
  • D. Leg Extension – 2 x 15-20
  • E. Standing Calf Raises – 2 × 15-20
  • F. Weighted Cable Crunches – 3 × 8-10
  • G. Medicine Ball Russian Twist – 3×15
  • F. Bodyweight Bicycles – 3×25

Weekend

Saturday: Optional cardio session, spin class, or racquet sports. Yoga is also a great idea.

Sunday: Off.

Tips for the Muscle Entrepreneur

1. Warm Up.

A workout is only as effective as its warm-up.

This is especially true for 18 hour a day desk-jockeys. Sitting for 12 hours and then jumping under a heavy barbell is a recipe for a week of Advil and bed rest.

The good news is, an effective warm-up can be knocked out in 5 minutes or less.

2. Focus on adding weight or reps each workout, but only if you can maintain good form.

You need to constantly push your body to work harder for it come back bigger, stronger, and better.

3. Cardio too!

Just because you’re hitting the weights three times a week doesn’t mean that you can now skip the treadmill.

Performing cardio not only strengthens your heart, it also improves insulin sensitivity, which is how well your body handles carbohydrates, so you build more muscle in your weight training sessions. A mixture of low intensity work (like brisk walking) and higher intensity intervals (bike sprints) is ideal.

4. Every day!

A big part of making something a positive part of a structured entrepreneurial lifestyle is doing it every day. However, daily weight training will cause you to overtrain.

This is where splitting up cardio and weight training into separate daily sessions helps immensely. It doesn’t require a lot of time per day — just 45 minutes on the three weight training days, and 20-30 minutes on off days — and delivers incredible benefits. Not bad for less than 5 hours per week!

Nothing in life comes easy, as most “wantrepreneurs” soon find out. Building anything of value, whether a profitable business or a healthy, strong, body, requires discipline, determination, and the ability to keep one eye on the goal line.

But while weight training is definitely an investment in valuable time, the payoffs are more than worth the cost.

After all, what’s the point of retiring to some tropical beach if you’re too embarrassed to take your shirt off?

  • OphelieLechat

    I’ve been strength-training for four months now and it’s made a huge difference in my life (health, personal, work). It’s time-efficient (I do two 45-minute sessions a week, plus cycling for commuting and for fun a few days a week), you can see results right away, and it’s one of the nerdiest sports out there: you can track and adjust nearly everything: muscles targeted, weight, reps, nutrition, rest, etc.
    It’s also really interesting (for a once-sedentary knowledge worker) to feel real physical tension and connect it to the task at hand. If my heart’s pumping hard and I’m taking deep breaths, it’s not because I’m under a deadline and feeling the stress: it’s because I’m pushing dozens of kilos on my shoulders. It’s very mind-clearing.

    • Starting strength training is the best life change I ever made, better than meditation or really any of the other things I rate highly for keeping sane and healthy in this information-overloaded, sedentary work we do. Glad to hear you’ve had a similar experience!

      • bryankrahn

        A friend really into meditation told me that strength training was MY meditation. It certainly leaves me in a happy place.

    • bryankrahn

      Awesome! I agree, if you are in any way a “numbers person” then strength training is the perfect fit. And if you are less analytical (like me) there are other carrots to chase like how your muscles feel after they’ve been pumped up and pushed.

  • estevan

    I’m not going to lie, I’m surprised to this article here but obviously, sitting in front my computer all day is killing me. So I appreciate this. I’m actually taking some weight lifting classes soon.

    • That’s awesome Estevan! There’s nothing like weight training with good form for keeping issues caused by sitting at a desk in check.

  • Kemar Kwame Cohen

    Love the article and Im in the fitness industry as an entrepreneur that trains entrepreneurs and i think wearable tech will play a big role in proactive and rehabilitative remote personal health care

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