12 Reasons to Lift Heavy Things in the New Year
Everyone should consider adding a some type of resistance or weight training to their exercise regimen for these 12 reasons.
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I have been noticing a migration in my local gym over the past couple years. Sure, there are still a few folks who come in and head straight to the treadmill, the elliptical machine, or the stationary bike. But lately, it's been harder getting some quality time at the squat rack, half rack, smith machine, weight benches, and cable machines. How come?
This migration to the weight area of the gym signifies to me that people are coming to recognize the value in building muscle. Lifting weights is arguably a better use of gym time than, say, hitting the hamster wheels. This is because the amount of cardio we actually require in our lives can easily be incorporated into the other 23.25 hours a day we spend outside the gym. All you need to do is adopt a carless mindset.
Why Not Lift Weights?
When you think of weight training, you probably picture huge bodybuilders with beefy muscles and chiseled chests. Erase that image. These days, regular folks hit the weights and even scientists are saying that resistance training offers amazing benefits for everyday, regular-sized people looking to improve their health.
As a coach, I have heard it again and again: “I’m too old, small, weak to start lifting weights.”
As a coach I hear a common refrain: “I’m too old, small, weak to start lifting weights.” Other people think they need to lose a bunch of excess body fat before they hit the weights, or they're worried that lifting heavy weights will make them “bulk up.”
Let’s knock those excuses and justifications off one by one.
1. To start with, I would put money on the fact that you are currently a lot stronger than you think you are. Certainly strong enough to get off those machines and pick up some real dumbbells, kettlebells, or plates. Of course, it is essential that you take it slowly and don’t rush into it but once you’ve got technique dialed in, I think you will be surprised and proud of how much weight you can lift.
2. Next, let’s dispel that “I’ll get bulky” idea. To become jacked and muscle-bound, you need to train with very high volume with very heavy weights which, as you will find out, you don’t need to do to get the majority of the benefits. You also need to make nutrition a top priority, and I hate to say it, but you actually have to purposely overeat the majority of the time. Bodybuilders often use the expression “eat like it’s your job.” So that portion of the bulking equation is totally within your control. Then there is your genetics and gender. Yes, most women find it nearly impossible to get bulky from a basic training program but what they do find is that they lose extra body fat and reveal the muscle that is hiding underneath.
3. Finally, everyone from kids to seniors can benefit from engaging in some type of heavy lifting. Of course kids, older folks, and anyone with conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, or cardiovascular disease risk factors will need to follow a specific training program. But the fact is that we are all capable of training with some form of resistance.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the benefits of lifting weights and why you should incorporate it into your life.
The 12 Benefits of Weight Lifting
- Look Toned
- Burn More Body Fat
- Get Smarter
- Boost Testosterone
- Protect Bones, Joints and Tendons
- Build Bone Strength
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Improve Endurance
- Improve Mental Health
- Manage Chronic Pain
- Improve Liver Health
- Slow the Aging Process
Let's dive deeper into each benefit.
1. Look Toned
Getting toned requires two things to happen: you lose excess body fat and you increase the size of your muscle cells.
Toning is mostly about revealing lean muscle which means for most people, the removal of the fat that is covering up the muscle. Then building and shaping the muscle itself provides the real tone which is why simply losing fat doesn’t lead to the same look as losing fat and building muscle.
If a big portion of being toned is losing body fat, shouldn’t we do some cardio? Well, no. The best way (aside from a good diet) to shed unwanted body fat at the same time as increasing lean muscle mass is to prioritize anaerobic exercise with sprints and weights and include one to two heavy-weight workouts a week. Those workouts can incorporate some “classic” weight room moves like squats, lunges, step-ups, presses, rows, and chin-ups because those exercises use a variety of muscle groups.
2. Burn More Body Fat
Lifting weights elevates your energy expenditure after a workout significantly more than doing a regular cardio workout. This is due to the metabolic stress that weightlifting causes. In a study comparing light versus moderate weights on “afterburn,” women who did two heavy sets of 8 reps at a 70 percent load burned nearly twice the calories for up to an hour after exercise, compared to a group that did two light sets of 15 reps at a 35 percent load.
Training at a higher intensity with heavier weights once or twice a week gives even more of a boost due to the fact that it trains more motor units in the muscles both metabolically and neurologically. This is a magical combination which helps increase coordination and helps you stay lean.