If you lift weights, have you ever wondered whether you're doing it right? Specifically, are you lifting enough weight? According to a study done by the University of Michigan, many of us aren't. Researchers took beginners (both men and women) through a series of moves, allowing them to choose their own weight. After assessing their 1 rep max (the general standard for choosing weight), they determined that most chose a weight well below what was needed to stimulate muscle growth.
Are you guilty of going too light? If so, you may not be seeing the results you'd like. Learn more about why lifting heavier weights could change your entire body.
Why Lifting Heavy is the Key to Weight Loss
You know that losing fat involves increasing your metabolism. What you may not know is that muscle plays a huge role in raising metabolism. A pound of muscle burns about 10-20 calories a day while a pound of fat burns 5 calories. That means any growth in your muscle tissue is going to help you burn more calories all day long. In fact, strength training has all kinds of great effects on your body like:
•Increasing resting metabolic rate so you burn more calories, even while at rest.
•Making you lean and slim--muscle takes up less space than fat so, the more you have, the slimmer you are
•Strengthening bones and connective tissue, which can protect your body from injuries in daily life
•Enhancing balance and stability
•Building confidence and self-esteem
However...this only works if you're using enough weight to stimulate that muscle growth. In other words, if you can lift the weights you've chosen (for most exercises) more than 16-20 times, you might not see the kind of fat loss you would if you increased your weight.
So, why don't we lift more weight? For some, lifting weights is scary, especially if you've never done it before.
•It feels weird. The goal of weight training, if you didn't know, is to lift as much weight as you possibly can (with good form!) for the number of reps you've chosen. In daily life, we typically don't push ourselves to fatigue in anything we do, so this idea may not only feel foreign, it may feel downright miserable. That's one reason it's best for beginners to gradually work towards that.
•Fear of injury. Because our muscles burn when we challenge them with resistance, people often feel they're injuring themselves when they lift. And injury can be a real fear for beginners since injury can occur if you max out before your body is ready for it. Taking it slow while still challenging your body will help protect you from injury.
•Confusion. When you haven't lifted weights before, you may not know what's too heavy and what's too light. It may take some time to get a feel for your body and what it can handle.
•Fear of getting bulky. There's still a tired old myth running around that men should lift heavy and women should lift light to avoid getting big and bulky. Women hear this: Lifting heavy weights will NOT make you huge--you simply don't have the testosterone levels to build big muscles. Lifting heavy weights WILL help you lose fat.
•Fear of pain. The other thing about lifting weights is the psychological factor. The discomfort level associated with training to fatigue is pretty high...if you haven't lifted weights before, you may not be able to overcome that discomfort enough to lift as heavy as you're capable of. Again, this is one reason it's best to err on the side of caution (if you need to), while always working towards more challenge and more weight.
These fears often keep people lifting the same amount of weight for weeks, months or even years. Most of these fears are unfounded, if you take time to ease into a weight training program and work (slowly) towards the muscle fatigue that will make your muscles grow.
How Much Should You Be Lifting?
For weight loss, science has found that lifting between 60-80% of your 1 rep max is the best way to stimulate muscle growth, which is what helps you lose fat. The problem is that most of us don't think much about how much weight we need, much less going through the process of figuring out 1 rep max for every exercise we're doing. In fact, I see many gym-goers lifting the same weights week after week, which is just one way to keep your body from changing.
The important thing to remember when it comes to strength training is that you must give you your muscles more weight than they can handle--that's how muscles grow. The challenge of lifting heavy is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one and, if you haven't pushed your body's limits in a while, just the act of lifting weights may be all you can handle. If you're consistent with a basic program and build a solid foundation of strength, you'll be ready for the next step--lifting heavy and pushing your muscles to their limits. You'll be amazed at the changes in your body.
Glass, Stephen C. Effect of a Learning Trial on Self-Selected Resistance Training Load. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 22(3):1025-1029, May 2008.
WOMAN!!!!!!!!!! Read this and watch this!!! See anything in common with us at BBCF - YEAP we do the same lifts, and these girls are kicking some ass!
I don't know about you, but I'm getting rather tired of all the stereotypical nonsense surrounding women and weight training.
"Deadlifts? No, no. That's a man's exercise; we don't want to hurt ourselves now do we? You better stick to this here butt blaster instead. Don't go too heavy now; that'll just make you big and bulky like those female bodybuilders. If you want to 'tone up,' you need to go for the 'burn' with high reps and just a little bit of weight. Okay, now over to the hip adductor machine. This one is great for targeting and toning up those inner thighs."
And as if the abundance of misinformation spouted out by the average lay person regarding women and weight training isn't enough, these words actually came from the mouth of a "certified" personal trainer. A man's exercise? What the heck is that? Are women so incompetent and weak that they can't manage to conduct exercises with barbells and dumbbells or something? Higher reps to tone up? Big and bulky?
Man, I wanted to clock this guy; however, instead of "laying the smack down" on his misinformed butt, I decided to write this article instead. Let's take a look at how a woman should train and at the same time dispel some of the common misconceptions regarding female trainees:
A desirable female physique is one that can only be achieved by moving some serious iron in the weight room! But what about all the talk about weight training making women big and bulky? First, it is physiologically impossible for you as a woman to put on large amounts of muscle mass; you're body's hormonal makeup is not one that will allow you to do so.
God never intended for women to look like men (go figure), so he made the chemistry of each gender's respective bodies different. Regardless of how you train, how often you train, how much protein you eat, etc, you're not going to even come close to the big, bulky physique of a female bodybuilder.
It will not happen. That look is only obtainable by one means: steroids. Because their natural hormonal profiles would never allow them to get that "big," they resort to changing their body's chemistry through the use of illegal drugs. Secondly, if the right training method is chosen, the hypertrophic (growth) response to resistance training can be even further reduced. This brings us to our next point.
Training in higher rep ranges promotes more sarcoplasmic (fluid) hypertrophy, which in turn yields a "softer" pumped look. If you want to be hard, firm, tight, etc, the latter is certainly not the way to go. The second aspect of a muscles' tone is neurogenic tone, or the tone that is expressed when movements or contractions occur. Again, lower rep training comes out on top as training with heavy loads will increase the sensitivity of alpha and gamma motor neurons, thus increasing neurogenic tone when conducting even the simplest of movements (i.e. walking, extending your arm to point, etc).
Finally, as alluded to in point number one, training with heavy loads and low volume (sets x reps) is the best way to get hard and strong, but not big. Muscular hypertrophy is generally a response to a high volume work output; therefore, by keeping the sets and reps low with heavy training, you won't have to fear getting overly big (this really isn't even an issue due to the physiological reasons mentioned earlier).
It's not important that you move big weights; what is important is that you are selecting and lifting loads that are heavy for you. Over time, you will get stronger and the poundage you can handle will increase. So, for you as a female trainee, a "heavy" load can be defined as a weight that you can lift in good form for 3-6 repetitions. This is in agreement with the recommendations of Canadian strength coach Christian Thibaudeau as he notes, "Women do not have the capacity to recruit as many motor units as men do.
As such, they'll need 1-2 more reps to fully stimulate their muscles. So when training for strength, a man should use between 1 and 5 reps while a woman will benefit more from doing 3-6 reps. Also, most women will need to perform 1-2 more sets of an exercise to achieve the same degree of stimulation as a man, once again because of their lower motor unit activation."
Joel Marion, Editor-in-Chief of Rugged Magazine