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lift book coverPlease join Daniel Kunitz, author of Lift: Fitness Culture, from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors, as he tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Reviewed by Poppy Johnson

Seldom does a book come along that explains so well why we are and should be doing something. In Lift, Daniel Kunitz does an excellent job of going over the reasons we lift and why we need to lift, as well as breaking open some myths about lifting along the way.

Let’s begin with what this book isn’t. Although there are elements of workouts related to lifting in the text, this is not a workout book nor is it a weight loss book. That said, if you do follow some of the guidelines reviewed in the book, you are practically guaranteed to lose weight.

The book is sectioned off into 10 chapters that include describing the inner statute, why lifting started as a craze in the U.S., what to do with your breathing, body weight changes and requirements over the years, the olden days and what we used to believe about weightlifting and its effect on our physiques, how muscles are really formed, women’s movement influences and more. In the back is a reference area that allows any readers interested in checking out more articles on the topic to look up the info easily, and some general notes on the sources.

Now, let’s get into the deets of weightlifting. In days gone by, doctors actually rebuked lifting weights because it was considered unhealthy. The same way people with heart issues were told to take a lie down. We now know they need to get a dog and at least walk daily around the block, or train for a half marathon in addition to their cardiac treatment. Exercise in days past used to be considered poison–thankfully thoughts on this topic have changed drastically! Kunitz rightly declares that if we commit to eating better and start paying attention to large and small muscle groups, the likely side effect will be added strength, improved fitness, weight loss, and even reduced age triggers.

This takes me to the next point in the book. There are strong reasons why we don’t exercise when we should. But I bet you that 90% of them are in our own head. Kunitz describes a process of the Mind Gym, which was created to help us visualize things and make them real in our head. Apparently it works. You can use these tools to future visualize what you want to do, and develop lifting workouts that will suit your personal situation.

The next sections review what was commonly believed about weightlifting over the decades and centuries. It is a huge craze today, but in the past, it was actually banned from YMCAs for being “unhealthy” (in the 1930s for example). Now, women and men lift, compete and enjoy the benefits of lifting for achieving healthier bodies overall. Fitness gyms have undergone radical changes over the years (which could be the subject of an entirely separate book). People used to go to the gym to use rote exercise machines to target one section of the body to look like “that guy” or “that model”. Today, we know that a person has to work all muscle groups because they work in tandem (not in isolation) for our bodies to perform at peak performance. Kunitz includes a lot more historical tidbits, from government realized that lifting was good for the recruits to the military who were failing their entrance physical exams, to information on the pioneers of exercise and their influence on exercise today.

After reading Lift, I learned what I always suspected to be true: our bodies are machines and we need to treat them well in order for them to perform well. I also liked that the author made the mitochondria connection I keep hearing about–the more you stress your muscles, the more you make them create repair organisms which in turn repair and solidify muscles.

To share a funny story with you now, dear reader, seems appropriate, although it is not an advertisement of any kind. I finished reading this book yesterday while sitting outside on a park bench. I saw many people walking by glued to their apps on their phones, and it took me a moment to realize they were all using this new popular app meant to get people out and walking around. The funny part is that whatever they were looking for was supposedly right near my park bench on their GPS. The point is, people chasing imaginary creatures on an app are still out and about and may not even realize they are circling the same park bench dozens of times. And does it matter? They are still logging in the same amount of steps for the day, and are having a great time doing it.

I recommend this book to any adult who wants to start lifting. Children may want to work with a parent and/or consult a doctor since lifting the wrong way can cause damage. For adults of any age–go and buy some nice weights that feel comfy to your hands! You will be shocked at what you can achieve without ever leaving your home.


After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper Wave. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.