Saturday, February 7, 2015


This was most likely an inevitable turn for this blog, but that does not discount the joy that we will have in the journey.  Nietzsche’s name is very popular amongst existentialist thought and dialogue, and though in pop culture it’s easy to simply write him off as “that nihilism guy”, the reality is that much of his writing can be applied to our endeavors here.  As we have discovered, the realm of lifting is a microcosm of reality itself, and those writers who critique our reality in turn can allow us to critique the world of lifting.  It is with this understanding that we explore the parallels between Nietzsche’s work and weight training.

As with all of my writings on philosophy, I will reiterate that this is not an academic work, and I will in turn not be citing my sources.

Beards are the "in thing" among lifting at present, but this mustache trumps all

“God is dead”

When Nietzche wrote the above, many misconstrued it to be an attack/declaration on the death of the Christian God.  Though Nietzsche was more than willing to criticize Christianity in many of his works, the meaning behind this quote was more to strike at the idea that “God” was no longer a compelling force for action/morality in the world.  This was the crisis of existentialism, in that mans’ purpose had been tied to the existence of the supernatural for so long that, if we lose faith in God/God’s relevance, we in turn lose faith in our purpose.  Before, we simply said that we must act and think in a certain manner because God commanded it, but now that God was “dead”, what were we to do?

On the one hand, gluttony is no longer a sin.  On the other hand, definite proof that God has abandoned us.

This existentialists crisis is the same crisis many trainees tend to face upon realizing that everything they have learned about lifting/nutrition has been “wrong”, and in most cases was simply tradition and superstition passed down from generation to generation.  We learn that “high reps to get cut” is false, that “eating fat makes you fat” is a lie, Arnold used steroids and his body is unachievable naturally, the list goes on.  Nietzsche spoke to the fact that, when confronted with this crisis, the logical and inevitable response is one of nihilism.  However, it is here where Nietzsche points out that simply because we must accept nihilism does not mean that we have reached the end of our journey.

Nietzsche speaks on the idea that there are two different approaches to nihilism: negative and positive.  Negative nihilism is what most people envision when they see the word: giving up, being defeated and exhausted and resigning yourself to whatever fate the world has in store for you.  This, of course, is a sign of weakness.  Contrast this with positive nihilism, which is hinged upon the idea that, upon realizing that there is no greater purpose or higher meaning for us, we MAKE our own meaning.  We see the absence of meaning as liberating rather than confining, knowing that it means we are free to pursue life as WE deem fit, rather than as has been predestined for us.  In this instance, the respond of nihilism is a sign of strength, for it means we make our own destiny.

In the lifting community, we in turn can witness these nihilistic responses to discovering that our world is a lie.  There are those that bemoan the fact that there is SO much information out there, and everything contradicts everything else, and it’s so hard to get a clear answer, and could someone PLEASE just tell me EXACTLY what to do?  These people are weak, and have pursued the path of negative nihilism.  Then, there are also those who, upon finding out that their God is dead, cling desperately to a new God.  They worship at the house of Rippetoe, Wendler, Tate, Simmons, Green, etc etc, forsaking all others and freely burning at the stake any heretics that they come across.  These people are too terrified of the ramifications of nihilism to accept a world without God.

This of course was one other viable compromise

Then, there are those who decide that realizing everything they’ve learned is wrong means that they are free to train as they deem fit, as there are no longer any rules to confine them.  They train for their own purpose, regardless of what others in society say is the right way to train, or the right reason to train, or any other “rules”.  For these people, approval of “the herd” is meaningless, and in many cases an indication that one is headed toward failure.  Instead, it is understood that those who succeed in a world with no meaning will do so facing the opposition of those who lament their freedom rather than enjoy it.

Of course, simply because we choose to make our own way does not mean that the way we choose is instead the best way to progress.  Many, when given the choice, choose to pursue a life of hedonism, believing that a life free of pain is the greatest joy and, in turn, that this joy is what should at all times be pursued.  However, Nietzsche was quick to critique that a life free of pain was the life of mediocrity, and in turn doomed the species of man to downfall.  Instead, man should seek pain, adversity, toil and torment, for it is this which makes man strong.  The next time we discuss Nietzsche, we will discuss this aspect and how it relates in turn to our goals of becoming bigger, stronger and better.


  1. Wouldn't seeking out pain correlate directly to your life sucks training?

    1. A great question and definitely something I can address for the future post. Right now, I'd say the primary difference is that "life sucks training" is about conditioning you for WHEN life sucks, whereas Nietzsche's philosophy was more about how it is only during those periods that we grow stronger.