Real Manliness Goes Beyond the Gym

by Robert Maxwell

It's important not to allow the quest to get strong to overshadow other important aspects of manhood.
It's important not to allow the quest to get strong to overshadow other important aspects of manhood.

There's something particularly disturbing about a man who regularly posts gym selfies. Real strength should be self-evident. A truly strong man doesn't want or need to present the world with artificial proof of his prowess. He knows proof happens naturally. Such men have strength that goes beyond their ability to lift a heavy barbell. They have strength of character. All men should be physically strong, but genuine manliness can't stop there. Skill in squats and deadlifts should not be the sole measure of a man's worth. Although gaining strength in the gym most often has a positive carryover to the rest of life, dedication to training can sometimes cause a man to become unbalanced and neglect other important aspects of manhood.



Some trainees understand from the beginning that they're getting strong for themselves. Strength alone is sufficient reward, and they don't crave the attention and approval of others as their bodies improve. This is ideal. In other posts I've written about having solid reasons for why we train. Words of praise from friends and family don't qualify. Compliments are nice, but unless you have more substantial motivation, your training enthusiasm will quickly dry up. A confident man is secure enough that he doesn't depend on the admiration of others to galvanize him into action. This confidence can be grown through strength training, but working out can also serve as an excuse for unconfident, insecure people to bolster their faltering self-esteem through bragging. Not cool. If you're excited about training, great. Share it with others, but don't fish for compliments. Real men don't need other people to make them feel good. They generate their own good feelings by living well.



If you're great on the bench press but can't change a tire, you might want to re-examine your priorities. Strength is important, but it loses some allure when not coupled with a range of useful, practical skills. One of the main reasons we train is to become stronger for the everyday tasks life throws at us. If you lack know-how in these tasks and aren't working to improve, consider spending less time in the gym. Yes, you read that right. Many generations ago, most men were strong, fit, and capable with their hands. They built cabins, rode horses, wrangled cattle, and farmed land. Times have changed, but the value of a real man remains undiminished. Don't focus all your natural masculine energy on lifting weights. Training is important, but save some manliness for learning to change your own oil and tires, use a chainsaw, complete home renovations, fix broken things, or run a tractor. Real men can handle themselves in any situation, and when they run up against their own limitations in any area of life, they work to improve. If your main source of manliness is being a gym rat, you're falling short. Do something about it.



Lack of practical skills is one problem, lack of work ethic another. Successful strength training means working hard in the gym, but if that's where your hard work begins and ends, there's an issue. Many trainees find work outside the gym physically and mentally easier because of their lifting. Others use their training as an excuse to take it as easy as possible in the rest of life. Manliness means meeting your responsibilities with a smile, no matter how you feel. Real men never complain. Complaining makes you the opposite of manly. Your responsibilities don't care how tough a workout you just did. They aren't concerned with your energy or enthusiasm. They just need doing. So get them done with a good attitude, and don't give in to the temptation of ease after a workout. This approach might make you physically stronger, but your mental strength will deteriorate like an unused muscle.



Strength and fitness accomplishments foster personal pride, and that's a good thing. But when pride grows to the point where you stop listening to others and become unwilling to learn, it's gone too far. Training seriously for a few years will make you stronger than your non-training peers, but that doesn't mean you're a superior human being. Guys who don't lift may be lacking in one area, but each one is likely your superior in another. Don't be overly prideful. Listen to others and learn from them. Don't dismiss wise advice because it comes from someone who doesn't train. Don't be the stereotypical gym rat - huge, strong, and stupid.