Why you Need to Lift Heavy Weights
The first time someone suggested I pick up weights I laughed in their face. I was 23-years old and a lot more svelte and agile than I am now. I liked dancing, swimming and running for exercise. But when I moved to a small town for my first job out of college I couldn’t find the right venue or time to do these things. Reluctantly I joined a gym and found myself in an aerobics class following what I thought was boring choreography with jumping and jacking. For the second half of the class the instructor told everyone to grab weights and cheerily handed me a pair. “No thanks” I turned on my heel and headed for the door.
Now a few decades later I’d like to find that guy and apologize. My karma is coming back to haunt me. As an exercise instructor my biggest challenge is trying to get women to not only use weights but to pick up heavy ones. They just don’t want to work that hard or are afraid they’ll explode with muscles like a body builder. If only it were that easy.
In order to build the muscles of an Adonis you must spend a lot of hours lifting. Not to mention a strict diet and supplements. Furthermore, women just don’t have the hormones to bulk up. While men do, it takes a lot of time and effort to build big muscles.
Now that I’ve hopefully relieved your fears of turning into the Hulk or She-Hulk, here’s why you should spend a few hours a week lifting heavy stuff.
1. First, as you age your bone mass decreases, meaning they become easier to break.
This happens sooner for some people and especially women. Studies have found that a regular regimen of weight training helped elderly people increase bone density and elevate blood levels of osteocalcin, a marker of bone growth. It could make a big difference if you slip and fall and risk breaking a hip or other bones. The heavier the weight the stronger the bones become to accommodate the work.
2. Another good reason to lift weights is that you will burn more calories.
While cardiovascular exercise is great for dropping weight fast, you will keep it off easier with more muscle mass. When at rest a pound of muscle burns about 10 calories while a pound of fat will burn only one or two calories. The more muscle you build the more calories you’ll burn while you sleep. There are also numerous overall health benefits from weight training.
3. And finally the best reason to lift weights for many of us is that with more muscle and less fat you’ll look better in your clothes.
Fat takes up more space than muscle and usually in unflattering places like the gut, hips and thighs. Although you can’t target the areas you want to lose weight if you tighten up those areas with muscle it will contour your body in a better way.
Lift weights for the entire body.
I’ve noticed that the guys don’t have a problem lifting heavy weights and prefer working the chest and arms because they have stronger upper bodies. While the ladies tend to push harder on lower body exercises like squats. The biggest muscles are in the butt and thighs so you have a head start with strength built from climbing stairs or carrying things.
Joining a group muscle conditioning class is a good way to start if you don’t know what to do.
Men usually show up and pile on weights and then cannot finish all the sets. I usually encourage them to lighten their weight and complete the high number of repetitions to fatigue the muscles in legs and bottom half.
Meanwhile, I beg the ladies in my classes to challenge themselves when doing bench presses and push-ups. While some women spend thousands of dollars on breast augmentation I say you can have a beautiful chest with a good bra and pushing yourself to the point of fatigue during these exercises. I assure you will not grow broad massive shoulders. It will in fact help you look more feminine.
Instead of fearing that saying “no pain, no gain”, embrace the concept that “great things come to those who work!” If you feel like you could do another set without a lot of effort you probably should. Or at least the next time you do the exercise try to use a heavier weight and notice the difference.
If you’re looking to make major changes in your body add weight training to your weekly routine three to four times a week skipping a day to let muscles recover. If you’re happy with your strength you can probably lift twice a week to maintain it.
Always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regiment.
- Study on Resistance Training & Bone Mass: http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/bonemass.html
- Muscle Contraction & Fatigue: https://backyardbrains.com/experiments/fatigue