Weightlifting is Japanese salarymen’s newest hobby, report says

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

The stereotypical life of a middle-aged salaryman is supposed to go something like this: Wake up and go to work. After work, go drinking with your boss and coworkers at an izakaya pub, then go for a second session of drinks at some hole-in-the-wall bar, grab a bowl of late-night ramen somewhere, head home, go to sleep, and do it all again the next day.

Dai-Ichi Life Insurance’s Economics Research Institute, though, says there’s another activity that’s becoming increasingly common on salarymen’s schedules: weightlifting. According to a report authored by the institute’s chief economist, Toshihiro Nagahama, a growing number of Japanese businessmen in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s are following up a day of pushing paper and clacking keyboards by pumping iron.

Nagahama himself is a midlife convert to weightlifting, following a scathing physical roughly five years back which showed him to have hyperlipidaemia (excessive fat in the blood), something he’s largely alleviated through improved fitness and diet. As to what’s triggering the trend, Nagahama says that weightlifting, or kintore as it’s called in Japanese (from kinniku toreningu/”muscle training”), is a good fit for mature white-collar workers in Japan. Recent workplace reforms have led to less overtime in conscientiously managed companies, giving salarymen more time to use for other activities, such as taking care of their health.

However, Japan’s baseline work culture being what it is, it’s not like these weightlifting salarymen are clocking out of the office at 3 in the afternoon. They still have busy lives, and Nagahama explains that weightlifting is a more time-effective way of getting/staying in shape than other exercises like jogging.

“For jogging, you have to run every day [to see results],” Nagahama says. “But with weightlifting, you need to give the muscles you use time to heal, so it’s actually counterproductive to lift every day. Even if you only lift once or twice a week, if you couple that with a moderately healthy diet, you’ll easily notice positive results.”

Nagahama stresses the visible rewards of weightlifting as a major motivator: “If you do a proper one-hour workout once or twice a week, and keep at it diligently, your muscles will become visibly bigger, and your physique will noticeably change.” The economist also asserts that unlike high-impact activities, like jogging, or sports that require other participants, like tennis, weight-lifting is something that’s easier to start in middle age, and that the metabolism-boosting effects of bigger muscles is another attractive point for salarymen, since it helps to mitigate the effects of those mugs of beer and bowls of ramen even on days they’re not actively exercising.

Finally, Nagahama thinks there’s also a psychological factor at play. Many Japanese companies promote employees based on experience and seniority, but the higher you get in the corporate pyramid, the fewer spots there are above for you to rise into. Once they hit their mid 40s, some salarymen start to be able to see the endpoint of their career trajectory, and for someone whose primary reward-for-effort in his adult life has been moving one more rung up the ladder, that slowing of momentum can leave them feeling a little empty.

Weightlifting, though, with its easily trackable performance statistics (weight lifted, number of reps in a set, number of sets in a workout), plus the visible body changes mentioned above, gives these salarymen something to strive for. “One of the great joys of weightlifting is how it gives you a sense of personal development that you can’t get from work,” Nagahama says.

An additional bump in attention for weightlifting came with the fall TV season’s anime adaptation of fitness manga "How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?" though that’s something that’s been occurring primarily among younger demographics than Nagahama’s report is focused on. Still, the combined effects have been enough to make “Kinniku ha uragiranai,” “Muscles won’t betray you,” a new rallying cry for amateur weightlifters in Japan. Nagahama even references the saying in his report, and it sounds like the weight rooms at Japanese gyms are going to be at least a little more crowded than they used to be.

Source: J-Cast Kaisha Watch via Livedoor News via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Middle-aged, left-by-wife Japanese guy goes from schlub to stud, rebuilds muscles and life【Pics 】

-- Japan’s muscle idol continues to turn heads with body that looks like it could crush stone 【Pics】

-- “Common habits of Japan’s low earners”: What this survey tells us, and what it doesn’t

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

It's an excellent way of staying in shape, and can cost nearly nothing. I invested 10,000 yen in 2 adjustable dumbbells and a bench. That plus some floor exercises like planks can work the entire body and is all you need, unless you're really ambitious.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

This is great. Any efforts towards building a body are beneficial, both physically and mentally. Having a nicer body leads to higher self confidence, and exercise helps build a better immune system. One doesn't have to go all out, a little strength training like Jeff Lee says by itself is beneficial.

Anyone in their 30s and beyond who doesn't have some sort of regular exercise - which can pretty much be anything at all - is speeding up the aging process.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Weightlifting is superior to long distance cardio so glad to see a shift in thinking around the world.

Resistance training has so many incredible benefits especially for older people.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

As long as you don't overdo it and wreck your lower back, I've read it's also good keeping the bones strong which will hopefully keep people from becoming bedridden at an older age.

Everything in moderation.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Lets hope this leads to more weight lifting gyms (not the silly ones with pools/saunas and 90% treadmills), and competitive pricing. Because Anytime gyms are really beginning to get overcrowded these last couple of years. Understandable because they are affordable (compared to the traditional gyms), and 24h means you can fit them around your work schedule. But while its great that more people are getting into it, the crowding is beginning to get annoying!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think it has something to do with the proliferation of 24 hour gyms, which are excellent for people with busy schedules. I used them a lot myself, 3 times a week with visible positive effects on my health and stress levels, and on the values of the annual health check.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

On a closer look, this article is just a salaryman who does weights' opinion. He is not an expert on exercise.

You do not have to run everyday to get results. Please refer to the World Health Organisation etc. on exercise, not ordinary people. Through GPS and other tech, running and cycling will produce way way more data to satisfy nerds and give motivation. You can end up spending more time looking at numbers than actually running or cycling.

Working out is good exercise and can be done in the evening and in the city. Intensity is important in exercise and weights provide plenty of that. I used to work out twenty years ago and got up to 120% bodyweight on the bench press, but still only had a 36 inch chest. I don't have the genetics to get big. Had I had access to a friend with steroids, I guess I probably would have taken them.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

“For jogging, you have to run every day [to see results],” Nagahama says

Not entirely true. A 5-8km run or two a week will help you kick start a life-style change, lose weight (if that's what you're after) get toned and look/feel better. Add a few sit-ups, push-ups etc here and there and you'll get fitter.

The economist also asserts that unlike high-impact activities, like jogging, or sports that require other participants, like tennis, weight-lifting is something that’s easier to start in middle age".

Again am not sure it's entirely true, unless you've never played any sport in your life, then yes. Personally I've always seen gym work-outs as a complement to other physical activities i.e football/rugby/basket training, jogging or even touch footy, cycling etc. Being 'gym-fit' & buff and not being able to run a 5k, catch/throw a ball of any shape, sprint, jump etc has never been for me. Love the outdoors too much and with a gym-only program I'd miss the feeling of being out of breath, the rain, wind etc. I need a bit of both (gym & outdoors).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Great news. I have lifted since junior high. It has immeasurably helped my mental health. Recently I started bodyweight calisthenics to spice things up. I tried training for a marathon once but my knees revolted so now I jog short distances once or twice a week.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

a growing number of Japanese businessmen in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s are following up a day of pushing paper and clacking keyboards by pumping iron.

Well this is very vague because I am afraid that in reality there are still too few people involved in regular and serious physical activities here.

The fact that maybe more people are into it is a good thing but working out with discipline is still a foreign notion here. And you can also see that with poorly equipped and narrow gyms which are as so many things in Japan ridiculously expensive.

Now the fact that people are not given the time to work out is a problem. Working out once or twice a week is not enough even doing weightlifting, this dude has no idea what it's talking about. In fact most of the people who say that they do weightlifting are doing the wrong thing for several reasons:

Having look at plenty of them, most of them have no Idea what they are doing, doing things with an awful wrong form. It's almost comical. They need first to learn things and seems to me that a lot to dudes are too arrogant to do that.

Most of them have no idea how to organize a work out and train the full body by organizing their routine into several sessions towards the week. That's why claiming that two sessions are enough is just BS.

As I said, they still finish work late, so people need to go work out late and finish late, preventing them to take the time to organize a good diet. Weightlifting is no joke, good nutrition is essential to get results and prevent injuries. Plus they need to take the time to work on mobility, so it's clear that they are not doing things in any way that could be beneficial to them.

Doing only weightlifting is of course not enough. Having intensive cardio routines is essential for heart training.

I am more into calisthenics (although I do have some weightlifting on a regular basis). I am 41 years old and I train 4 to 5 times a week. I do muscle ups, front lever, back lever hand stands push up, weighted calisthenics, all the hard stuff. That makes me in great shape but this needs a lot of work. A lot of work. A lot of discipline and putting a great importance on my diet. Which by the way is incredibly expensive to do in Japan. All my diet is based on fresh food that I cook by myself, and of course I need proteins. Buying fresh rich protein food and vegetables is just crazy expensive here so that's also a limiting factor for many people.

And to put all that work I made clear with my company that I am not going to stay at work past 17:30, there is no way that someone can train seriously to get real results without putting serious time on it.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

My weightlifting regimen has been hampered due to increased work hours, martial arts, and of course the wife and kids, but I still try to lift 1 or 2 times a week. Sometimes I'm successful sometimes not, but I strongly do recommend it as an excellent way to stay in shape

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Any activity is good - even if you only get out once a week to do something. The more you can do, the larger the benefit (well, to a certain limit). The important thing is to get out there and do something - anything.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Running 10km daily has caused my HDL to shoot up, something I never had with just lifting weights. I'll stick to the running. Costs nothing too.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Too many beefs with how gyms and gym goers here do things to warrant getting a membership anywhere.

Make the space to have your own iron dungeon and you'll never go back.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Make the space to have your own iron dungeon and you'll never go back.

Good idea, I"ll ask some neighbors if I can use one of their rooms. There's gotta be at least one room around here someone's not using...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Agreed that the technique of some of these salarymen I see at the gym lifting (I pump 3-4 times a week), is hilarious. A few hammer curls, some lateral raises and then half hour on the treadmill. How is that going to help you get massive?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I’ve been listening to people criticize others technique for 30+ years.

If there is one thing I’ve seen for certain, it’s that people love to look down on others techniques at the gym.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Agreed that the technique of some of these salarymen I see at the gym lifting (I pump 3-4 times a week), is hilarious. A few hammer curls, some lateral raises and then half hour on the treadmill. How is that going to help you get massive?

I’m a big guy and I’ve been bodybuilding as a hobby, to look good and stay fit since high school and I have to honestly say, the majority of Japanese that I have encountered that are interested in bodybuilding have No idea what they’re doing most of the time or even understand how the process for building muscle requires. I get hit with questions all the time on how did you get so big, what tips or advice could you give me, but it really doesn’t matter in the end, most don’t follow my advice or but in the sacrifices they need to in order to bulk up, but then they complain constantly and then “I always say, I tried to give you some solid advice, but you chose to do something different.” Don’t complain.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

All good and well but a lot of the people in the gym have no idea what they are doing there and are just blocking or obstructing machines.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Two of my in-laws are personal trainers in Japan, one of which was a competitive bodybuilder. I'm a cardio junkie myself so I understand the health aspect, but they go at it hard. My brother in law works at Gold's and basically eats nothing but chicken thighs (only half kidding). He is huge for a Japanese guy and every time I've been in there there's plenty of his coworkers and clientele that are buff. Sure, there's plenty of people weight training that have bad technique, but I wouldn't say it's proportionally more than I've seen back home at my old gym in States.

Anything that will improve your fitness is good and if it's only once a week, hey, better than nothing right?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

How is that going to help you get massive?

Why would anyone want to 'get massive'?

Guys who are muscle all the way to the tops of their heads are a turn-off.

'Moderately muscular' is the look to aim for.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Advice: buy a whippet and walk (well, jog to keep up) it off-lead 2- 3 times a day. Plus, they keep your feet warm at night.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The secret is 20 raw eggs a day.

No need and It doesn’t work like that. You need other forms of protein and a mixed diet and nowadays you don’t have to struggle with downing raw eggs, I take a an all egg protein powder mix with chocolate, peanut butter, bananas plus supplements, eat 5 times a day, 3 main meals and 2 lighter meals, I follow a strict regiment and the only way to bulk up is focus on the specific muscle you want to target, isolate and train it and do 3 different muscle groups 1 day and the next day train 3 other muscle groups.

Why would anyone want to 'get massive'? 

Why would anyone want to be skinny!

Guys who are muscle all the way to the tops of their heads are a turn-off.

To some, but not to everyone, in fact, I found quite the opposite.

'Moderately muscular' is the look to aim for.

If that is what you like, but as a kid, I was always fascinated by Arnold and his physical symmetry. It left a huge impact on me and I was hooked on it from the age of 17.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So previously on this forum you said you ate 20 raw eggs a day for your body building. So what not correct?

No, you misunderstood. You can eat the raw eggs if you can handle it in that form provided you balance that out with other forms of protein. I prefer the egg powder myself.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I tried the raw egg thing once and as soon as that egg was in my mouth I vomited. I stick to tuna in water.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Bad technique is everywhere to be seen in the non Golds gyms at least but that's because they have Noone else to look at and learn from. The country is only just getting into it, where as most of us were learning from seniors at school/university 20 years ago.

As for goals, at least the Japanese I have spoken to at work and at the gym, none of them want to get "big"... In fact they were worried about getting too muscly. They wanted some muscle definition, that's all. After all the most popular bodyshape for women here is "hosomacho". Of course you still get oohs and ahhs and maybe even a gf who is attracted to big muscles but mostly they want the skinny shredded bodytype

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why would anyone want to be skinny!

The world isn’t divided into ‘massive’ and ‘skinny’.

What’s wrong with ‘just right’?

 as a kid, I was always fascinated by Arnold 

So was I. I marveled at why anyone would deliberately do that to their body.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The world isn’t divided into ‘massive’ and ‘skinny’. 

I prefer massive, maximum.

So was I. I marveled at why anyone would deliberately do that to their body.

Easy, you work your tail off to bulk up like that. At least I can take off my shirt on the Bach and not be ashamed.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I think any person, including Japanese, can easily learn good weightlifting form on the internet. One excellent website is stronglifts 5x5, another is Mark Rippetoe's book "Practical Programming for Strength Conditioning" and his online videos. And there must be many Japanese language youtube videos. The main problem I see is the young guys come in and are either too shy or too proud to ask for any advice, and then it seems that they try every set to go to a max and ultimately have the weight end up on their chest.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why, bass, not how.


Lack of basic reading comprehension skills backs up the image of ‘muscle all the way to the top’.

Sad, really

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites