Lifting Weights Raises More Than Just Your Muscle Mass

By Kamal Darji

It was my freshman year in high school. I was a scrawny kid in New Jersey who was in love with the game of basketball, and I spent a lot of my time playing pickup games at the park near my house.

Everyone around me, however, had become more and more interested in lifting weights.

As a result, I decided to take a weightlifting class as a way of both fitting in and, hopefully, becoming stronger.

I remember back then everyone was obsessed with the bench press. I would see guys walking up to the bench and knocking out their sets with ease.

One day, when the coast was clear, I walked up to the bench. There were 45 pound plates on both sides and the bar, itself, weighed 45 pounds. I did the math in my head and came to the conclusion I could bench 135 pounds since everyone else made it look so easy.

I unracked the weight with a confidence that was rare to me; however, as soon as the bar began its descent, I knew I was in trouble.

The weight came to a rest on my chest and I was struggling to even move it at that point. I let it sit on my chest for a while as I looked around the room. I did not want the females in there to see me at my weakest point nor did I want the guys to make fun of my strength or lack thereof.

Then a guy, who was built like a young Terry Crews, came running over and helped me rack the weight.

As I got up from the bench, some of the people around me had a look of disgust on their faces. The girls were all giggling in the corner while some of the guys were just shaking their heads.

Granted, the embarrassment of that moment kept me out of the gym for a few years after that; however, it did give me a feeling that I somewhat enjoyed.

It was in college, when the itch, so to speak, would strike again.

I had always struggled with my confidence growing up; I was not a ladies' man by any stretch and more often than not, I preferred to be alone. I preferred to stay in my room and just read a good book over interacting with others.

My roommates in college, however, changed all of that. They were much stronger than me and convinced me to go to the gym. We started from the very basics and they made sure I utilized proper form—we created a consistent routine.

Over time, I was becoming stronger, and I fell in love with the euphoric feeling lifting weights provided.

As I started lifting more, I became more confident, and I observed how it transferred to other areas of my life. I became more outgoing and I no longer considered interacting with others a nuisance.

Whenever I would hit a personal record such as benching 225 pounds for the first time or deadlifting 315 pounds, it would give me a rush, and I kept going back for more.

The videos online helped a lot in inspiring me to lift as well; for instance, guys such as C.T. Fletcher, Bradley Martin, Mike Rashid, Kris Gethin, Jay Cutler and other various behemoths in the weightlifting world provided a spark. My friends and I would push each other and serve as a support system whenever it was needed.

The exciting thing, in my opinion, about lifting weights is that you have to earn everything. I was very weak at first compared to the regular gym-goers; however, a good friend taught me that one must remove one's ego when it comes to making true progress.

Furthermore, I would, on occasion, ask the strongest guys for advice. To my surprise, most of these guys were very humble and extremely helpful in the tips they would give me.

Lifting weights has definitely had a very positive impact on my life, and it is something I hope to pursue as long as I possibly can. It has helped with my depression, anxiety and overall well-being.

Moreover, I believe it serves as a great analogy for life: those that keep pushing forward ultimately make the most progress.

Contact Kamal Darji at