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The Power of Moderation

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Key Points

  • More is not always better

  • Follow the path of the oldest, healthiest people

  • Training for strength is healthy. Training for maximal strength is not.


If some is good, then more must be better. It seems like many people in the health and fitness world truly subscribe to this motto. The only problem with this philosophy in relation to exercise is that IT IS COMPLETLEY INCORRECT AND CAN LEAD TO LONG TERM HEALTH ISSUES! In fact, your goal with exercise should be to challenge your body with just enough of a stimulus to elicit an adaptive response. If you apply too much stimulus over time your body’s tissues will fail... otherwise known as an injury.


Not sure if you buy it just yet? Let’s use two examples to highlight the power of moderation.


Excessive Joe

  • Age 20 - Joe has no history of significant injurie and is living the college life of staying out late partying, hitting the gym hard the next day, and pounding pre-workout drinks before every lift. If his joints ache after a tough lift? He’ll just pop some ibuprofen and push through. Gym goal = LIFT HEAVY.

  • Age 30 - No history of significant injuries, but something is always tight/stiff/aching/sore - he never feels 100%. Joe traded in the party life of college for 60 hour work weeks and kids, drinking caffeine 3x a day, and sleeping 5-6 hours max per night. He gets up early to HIT THE GYM HARD. MUST. LIFT. HEAVY.

  • Age 40 - Joe had a big disc herniation that almost required surgery and his shoulder is constantly pinching when reaching over head. His shoulder’s range of motion is limited and he needs to use knee wraps when squatting otherwise it would be too painful. He’s still working a ton, but will never miss a lift even when sick! Weights are down from 10 years ago, but the goal is the same - GO HARD EVERY TIME. LIFT. HEAVY.

  • Age 50 - Joe’s shoulder injury caught up to him and he finally decided to have a rotator cuff repair. Best case scenario for rehab is to have functional use of his shoulder, but it will never be perfect. His low back is always tight and he’s had numerous bouts of sciatica. It’s been over 20 years since he was last “pain free.” Joe says things like “well everyone in my family has had shoulder surgery, it’s probably just genetic.” He can’t lift like he used to for upper body because of the surgery, but that just means GO HARDER ON LOWER BODY. LIFT. HEAVY

  • Age 60 - The last decade has been tough, one injury after another, cortisone injection after cortisone injection. Joe’s gotten second and third opinions on knee replacement surgeries and says things like “ I just have bad knees.” He’s able to walk after the brutal recovery from knee replacement surgery, but is no longer able to lift anything too heavy.

  • Age 70 - Joe’s body is always uncomfortable and he has no desire to exercise because it just flares up pain. His other knee is on the verge of needing a replacement. Joe is still trying to be active because he finally has time to enjoy the retirement he worked so hard for. However, 9 holes of golf is his limit due to pain. Joe is able to get up and down from the floor, but needs a lot of help.


Moderate Joe

  • Age 20 - Joe has no history of significant injurie and is living the college life of staying out late partying, hitting the gym hard the next day, and pounding pre-workout drinks before every lift. If his joints ache after a tough lift? He’ll just pop some ibuprofen and push through. Gym goal = LIFT HEAVY.

  • Age 30 - Joe has no significant injury history, but had a close call lifting too heavy in his 20’s and realized there has to be more to exercise than just lifting heavy. He works 60 hours a week and has kids. He consumes limited amounts of caffeine, sleeps 7-8 hours a night, rides his bike to work, and walks wherever he can. Joe finds ways to incorporate strength exercises while playing with his kids and goes to the gym 2-3x a week to maintain a healthy level of strength and build strong bones. Gym goal = FEEL GREAT and MOVE GREAT.

  • Age 40 - Joe fell and broke his wrist, but worked through the rehab and came out better and stronger than before. He works 60 hours a week and has kids. He consumes limited amounts of caffeine, sleeps 7-8 hours a night, rides his bike to work, and walks wherever he can. Joe finds ways to incorporate strength exercises while playing with his kids and goes to the gym 2-3x a week to maintain a healthy level of strength and build strong bones. Gym goal = FEEL GREAT and MOVE GREAT.

  • Age 50 - Joe has no new injury history. He works 50 hours a week, limits the amount of caffeine he consumes, sleeps 7-8 hours a night, rides his bike to work, walks wherever he can, and finds ways to incorporate natural movements throughout his day. He goes to the gym 2-3x a week to maintain a healthy level of strength and build strong bones. Joe can still hike, bike, swim, golf, play basketball, and feel great after, but wonders why none of his friends can keep up with him. Gym goal = FEEL GREAT and MOVE GREAT.

  • Ages 60 & 70 - Joe has no new injury history and is retired. He limits his caffeine, sleeps 7-8 hours a night, rides his bike or walks wherever he can, and finds ways to incorporate natural movements throughout his day. Joe goes to the gym 2-3x a week to maintain a healthy level of strength and build strong bones. He can still hike, bike, swim, golf, play basketball, and feel great after, but wonders why none of his friends can keep up with him. Gym goal = FEEL GREAT and MOVE GREAT.

Of course, everyone would much rather be in Moderate Joe’s shape at 70 years old. Despite this glaringly obvious fact, the majority of the fitness worlds approach is MUCH more similar to Excessive Joe. Push yourself to the max during every lift, never miss a training session, more, more, more, more.


The key to longevity and health is found through natural daily movements. The people in the Blue Zones who live the longer than the rest of the world don’t even work out in the western sense of the word - they simply move often throughout their day and do physically challenging labor daily. Now, I understand that in America the gym is a place of community and it is where most people have access to the weights needed to build strength. Strength is a hugely important factor to being healthy over the course of one’s life. However, training for maximal strength is NOT HEALTHY, it goes beyond what is needed for a healthy life. In the case of heavy lifting, going above and beyond for long periods of time will almost always lead to muscle, tendon, and joint issues that can dramatically reduce quality of life.


Best of luck on your health and wellness journey! If you would like to learn more about working with Blue Iron Physio, click here, to set up a call with Dr. David Schwartz



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