Saturday, December 31, 2011

Let's Get It Right ~ Pick up heavier weights if you want to lose weight.

In my classes I try to push members to pick up heavier weights, especially those who have been lifting the same weight for months.  I always remind them that they can drop to lighter weights if needed, but they should start heavier.  The key is to not go so heavy that it compromises your form, it doesn't make sense to pick up a heavy weight if you don't have full range of motion and no one wants to increase the risk of injury.

I hear so many women say that they don't want to pick up heavy weights (and I am talking about picking up 8lb, 10lb, 12lb weights not 25, 30, 35) for fear of getting to big and bulky.  Guess what - it won't happen!  Women don't have enough testosterone in their systems to get big like men.  I can promise you that picking up 8lbs instead of 3lbs is not going to lead to bulk.

I know that none of us want to face the fact that getting older means you have to adjust your workouts - what you did in your teens, twenties and thirties doesn't necessarily work.  I know both men and women who grew up doing lots of cardio-based sports and never had to worry about their weight...until they hit their late 30s/early 40s and then they started gaining weight...gaining fat.  They spend hours on cardio equipment at the gym (steady state cardio...we will save that post for another day) and go on calorie limiting diets only to either see no change or lots of yo-yo changes to their weight.  The HARD REALITY - as we age we lose muscle mass.  Loss of muscle mass also means that metabolism starts to slow down.  Want to shed pounds and lean out the body, then you have to find ways to get that metabolism going again.  The key is to get it going and keep it going so that you lose the weight AND keep it off.  Developing lean muscle mass requires lifting heavy enough weights. 

How heavy is heavy enough?  I hate to tell you, but light weights is not enough.  The key is to safely use heavy enough weights to stimulate muscle growth (NOT BULK, growth) ~ what does that mean?  It means that if you can do more than about 16 reps with the weights in your hand, your weights are not heavy enough.  Continuing to test the waters by increasing the weight you choose by 1-2 lbs every few weeks will allow you to progress safely.  The key is that the weight is heavy enough for you to reach muscle failure within 6-12 reps.

Why should we lift heavy weight - ESPECIALLY if weight loss & lean muscle mass are your goals:

(1) In order to lose weight, you need to rev that metabolism.  Guess what - a pound of muscle burns 10-20 calories per day, while a pound of fat only burns about 5 calories per day.  I am no mathematician, but more lean muscle = more calories burned...I like those numbers.  By speeding up the metabolism, weight loss is much easier - let's shed that layer of fat that is covering up those muscles.

(2) Lifting heavier weights increases your resting metabolic rate - what does that mean?  It means that you will be burning calories all day long.  Compare this to cardio based programs where you only burn calories during the actual workout.  Over a 24-hour period, you will burn more calories from lifting weights than you will from cardio alone.  Who doesn't want to make their body a calorie burning machine?!?

(3) A pound of muscle is more dense than a pound of fat.  The more lean muscle mass you have, the smaller you look/are.  Again, who doesn't want a slimmer look?

(4) By strengthening muscles and increasing bone density, you will reduce the risk of injury doing the activities you like to do in every day life.  I have heard stories of people side-stepping down curbs, tripping, losing their balance, etc resulting in injuries that could be avoided if they had strong muscles and bone density.

(5) Guess what - your own body weight is also an effective tool, so do exercises which will have you reach muscle failure within 6-12 reps.  The key is to push yourself hard enough to reach muscle failure.  Think push ups, pistol squats, pull ups, etc

Good luck!

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