The Myths of Weighlifting w/ Ilan Cumberbirch

By Yard Athletics – Feb 15th, 2019

Greetings! Today we are starting out a new series, diving into some of the myths that surround lifting weights, especially when it comes to gaining and losing weight, leaning out, bulking up, risk of injury, the works. And what better resource to ask than founder and director of Yard Athletics, Ilan Cumberbirch.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave with no access to the internet, Ilan is the all-seeing, all-knowing leader of Yard Athletics and a veritable guru when it comes to strength and conditioning.

Many times when people first approach lifting weights, they see it as intimidating not only because they might not know proper technique of the exercises (or even the exercises themselves) but because they feel like it won’t get them the results they want. Maybe someone told them squats cause you to balloon up 4 pant sizes in a week, and therefore they stick to the eliptical machine.

Ilan is here to change all that! We have a laundry list of questions to throw at him, but as always if there’s something you’re not sure about just send an email to [email protected] and we can include it on the blog.


Q: Ilan, what are the main questions you get asked when someone is interested in starting a lifting program?

A: The questions vary depending on the individual asking.

Generally there are skeptics due to preconceived ideas about the “Golden Era” of bodybuilding, and watching Arnold, Ferrigno and Stallone on the big screen. They either believe that they will instantly morph into super-human beings by touching a weight, or that weight training is bad for their body. Quite the opposite…

Many people feel that they “know their body”, but have apparently tried everything under the sun in order to attain their goals with little to no success. Questions usually include:
– “What makes your program different than others?”
– “Will you be able to work around my injuries? I read that squatting past 90 degrees is bad for my knees”
– “I enjoy doing spin 5 days/week, pilates 3x/week, Crossfit on the weekends and ultramarathons every 3rd Sunday. I want to put on 20 lbs of lean muscle mass, have busting biceps, washboard abs, and sweeping legs in the next week: can you do this?”
– “I don’t want to get a big neck, legs and shoulders, I just want to ‘tone’ my arms, shrink my waist and have a Kim K backside.”
In terms of my response to “What makes your program different than the others?”; there probably isn’t much difference between the program I prescribe and programs you might have followed in the past. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. If anything, the program I am most likely to prescribe will be extremely simple. A large focus will be on technique, full range of motion, and hammering home the fundamentals to ensure that the individual moves in the most bio-mechanically efficient manner they are physically capable of. What will vary is their willingness to commit to the program and comply to the prescribed sets, reps, intensity, rest periods and exercises on a consistent basis. Nothing beats hard work and consistency.
“How will you be able to work around my injuries? I read that squatting past 90 degrees is bad for my knees”
Over the course of one’s lifetime, we all experience injuries. Finding ways to work with around these injuries them is what differentiates those who are willing to succumb to said injuries and those that want to overcome them. Now, by no means am I a proponent of the old adage “No Pain, No GAIN!”. Quite the opposite. Working through a pain free range of motion is imperative to longevity and health through one’s lifetime. Finding variations of different movement patterns which allow you to move pain free is what we are after. If a back squat is not achievable due to poor shoulder mobility, let’s utilize a front squat, goblet squat, belt squats, trap bar deadlifts, or more unilateral work. If overhead barbell work is not achievable due to past shoulder injuries, let’s utilize landmine variations and single arm dumbbell variations. Let’s address the limitations and strengthen your weaknesses. As the other old adage goes, “there are many ways to skin a cat”. Training through one’s full range of motion not only strengthens the musculature, it also strengthens the ligaments, tendons and bone structure due to the loads and stressors placed on them which will have a very positive impact on your physical abilities, especially into the latter years of one’s lifetime.
“I enjoy doing spin 5 days/week, pilates 3x/week, Crossfit on the weekends and ultramarathons every 3rd Sunday. I want to put on 20 lbs of lean muscle mass, have busting biceps, washboard abs, and sweeping legs in the next week: can you do this?”
1) I cannot do anything, I can only assist you in achieving your goals. Often times clients look to their trainer for the answer when the answer lies within them. Be truthful and realistic with yourself, we are simply here to facilitate your success and provide you with the greatest likelihood of achieving your goals.
2) Less is more. The minimum effective dose required to achieve a desired outcome is what we are after. It may be difficult, however there eventually becomes a point of diminishing returns on one’s physical investment into their training, where we begin to see neutral or negative adaptations. No point beating your head against a cement wall. People are so over programmed these days, under the false misconception that doing 2-3 workouts/day is the only way to achieve their physical goals, on top of managing their careers, family and social life. We need to be realistic in our expectations and demands of ourselves and remember that it is a process. There is no overnight recipe or quick fix. It is a lifelong journey which is meant to be enjoyed, not something suffered through all in the hope of attaining a bikini body by spring break in Cabo for that one hot Instagram post a week before you leave.
3) Rest is a weapon. If you’re going to break it down, you have to build it back up. Rest is where the adaptation takes place, so we need to prioritize adequate sleep, nutrition and recovery over increased training stimulus.
I don’t want to get a big neck, legs and shoulders, I just want to ‘tone’ my arms, shrink my waist and have a Kim K backside.”
We will address this question in the next blog post, so stay tuned…

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