Why you should lift heavy things
It’s always interesting to see the looks on the faces of people in the gym when we do a heavy lifting day. I know that some of you see lifting heavy and think you are going to look like a bodybuilder and get bulky. So, I want to dispel the myth and help you understand the benefits of lifting heavy and how it should apply to you.
Nutrition: Bulky and muscled bodies require specific nutrition. Most bodybuilders are very intentional with what they eat and what supplements they use. In order to actually gain muscle, you have to be very intentional with the amount of protein you have daily. Bodybuilders eat much more protein than we would likely encounter in our day. It’s not typical to have 280 grams or more daily (think 10 chicken breasts each day). The supplements list starts at creatine and includes testosterone boosters and more.
Age: It’s not as easy to get big muscles after a certain age. If you are 18 years old, your hormones lend themselves well to gaining muscle. As a matter of fact, even without lifting heavy weights, you will just gain muscle at these younger ages from 13-18 years old. Once you reach a certain age (men after 30 and women after 18), your main muscle building hormone, testosterone, starts to decrease. Women who are pre-menipausal have testosterone levels that are decreasing and are like that of a young child. This makes it very difficult to gain muscle.
Frequency: Depending on your goals, you should be lifting heavy loads once in awhile. One to three times per week is enough for most of us. Bodybuilders do it every day. For the most part, if my goal is to become lean and not gain muscle, then I only need to visit the heavy load days a few times a week or take a week once in awhile to focus on it.
Calories: Lifting heavy actually burns more calories than aerobic exercise. When you lift heavy loads, you burn more calories due to the demand of the load on your entire body. This of course is dependent on what types of movements you do with the heavy loads. Squatting, pushing things over your head, and picking loads up off the ground are not only things that you should be able to do in everyday life, but doing these things burn more calories because you have to use more of your body to move the weight (think squat as opposed to hammer curls). You also burn calories for 4 to 48 hours! Compare that to a run around the lake. You stop burning calories as soon as you stop running.
Technique: This goes without saying, but lifting heavy loads is completely technique dependent. If you don’t know or understand how to move and use your body to get into good, safe positions, then you can’t add load to the movement. In other words, if I am having trouble sitting down and standing up due to knee pain, then it won’t work to add 100lb to that same movement and hope for the best. Instead, we have to start with simple movement that is unloaded and work our way up to something that is loaded.
Injury prevention: One of the best ways to prevent injury is to lift heavy loads. It not only creates stronger bones and more bone density, but stronger muscles mean less injury and fewer soft tissue injuries.
Feelings: Heavy is relative. It means something different to everyone. I think it’s important to recognize that the best answer to the question, “how heavy?,” is much easier to answer than we think. You can use certain internal cues to gauge how heavy it should be for you. Are the last few repetitions in a set hard to complete? Were you out of breath? Was it challenging? Do you need to rest for at least 30 to 60 seconds before you do another set? You can use these questions to determine just how much weight you should be lifting.