Benefits of lifting heavy weights: This guide walks you through the concept of weight lifting, the benefits of lifting heavy weights and other important tips to keep in mind while lifting heavy weights.
When we think about fitness, most commonly the first thing that crosses our mind is the gym and then the weights in the gym. The huge dumbbells, plates, kettlebells and humongous machines seem intimidating to many and it’s not unusual to fear them.
Many of us also don’t like the pain and the soreness that comes with lifting weights and hence we prefer to stick to the regular treadmill, ellipticals or cycling. Although, cardio exercises have their own place in the workout plans, avoiding weights is not a solution if one is looking for a long-term fitness plan.
Today, let us keep our fears of weight lifting aside and see what we can gain by making weights our best friends.
What is weight lifting?
When a person lifts weight, the training is called weight training. It is a type of strength training in which weights are used for resistance. Stress is created on the muscles either using free weights or by using machines on which weights are loaded.
The range of weights varies from light e.g.1 kg to heavy e.g. 25 kgs and more. You can choose the weight which you are comfortable with. (Beginners are advised to start with light weights).
As a beginner, you should first get the form of your exercises correct and then you can switch to heavy weights. You can keep adding weights slowly to make your exercises more challenging. This is called progressive overload. Adding weights every time you lift is a way of progressive overload.
Weights can be in the form of different equipment like dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and many more. These are called free weights. Plates can be used as free weights or can be loaded on certain machines too. Some other machines have weights inbuilt in them and you can set the amount of weight you want to lift on these machines.
Machines are the safest option if you want to go for heavy weight lifting. Selecting the right weight depends on different factors like your goal, your level of fitness, the amount of time you have to finish your workout and also your level of motivation.
There are different sports that use weight training like bodybuilding, powerlifting, weightlifting, etc. But athletes involved in other sports like basketball, football, cricket, boxing, etc can also benefit from weight lifting and these athletes usually include strength training as a part of their exercise regimen.
Now, there are various beliefs related to weight lifting (the most common being that the heavier you lift, the faster you will lose fat). This is not necessarily true. Firstly, you do not need to always lift heavy weights; lighter weights can also do the job. It depends on how you plan your exercise routine and how you progressively overload. Also, fat loss depends on many other things like your diet and consistency of workout and not only on the amount of weight you lift.
Another belief is that if women lift heavy weights, they gain muscle mass and start looking manly or more masculine. Now, as compared to men, it is difficult for women to gain muscle mass and also to lose fat. Thanks to the female genetic makeup and the hormone estrogen. Hence, women should not be scared of strength training and lifting heavy weights.
Let us now see what are the benefits of lifting heavy weights:
Benefits of lifting heavy weights
Increases muscle mass and reduces fat
Lifting heavy weights will make your muscles undergo myofibrillar hypertrophy which will increase their thickness and give them a good shape. It will also help you burn more calories. It will increase your resting metabolic rate. This means as your lean muscle mass increases, your body will utilize more calories; even when you are at rest after your workout.
The combined effect of both will make you look toned and your muscles more defined.
Improves strength and coordination
Heavy weight lifting will increase your muscular strength. Especially for women, it means that the daily tasks will just get easier to perform. It will also increase mind-body coordination. Hence, lifting heavy weights will benefit you not just now but also in the long term.
It is a long-known myth that heavy weight lifting reduces flexibility and shortens muscle length. That’s not true! In contrast, lifting heavy weights for the full range will improve your flexibility and that too for the long term. The catch here is full range. You can also vary your workout so as not to do the same repetitive movements every time and prevent your muscles from shortening and becoming less flexible. Stretching the same muscle group after the workout also helps in improving the flexibility of that particular muscle.
Reduces risk of injury
Heavy weight lifting will help strengthen your bones and connective tissues and reduce symptoms of arthritis and back pain. This will also decrease your risk of injury while performing daily activities like lifting a bucket and moving furniture.
Helps in fighting ageing
Lifting heavy weights will help fight age-related issues in both men and women. As one ages, the muscle mass decreases; this is called sarcopenia. Regularly lifting heavy weights will reduce the age-related loss of muscle mass. Also, it will help in preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Lifting heavy weights improves stamina and endurance. So, never mind if you are a marathon runner or a cyclist, lifting heavy weights will pay off in your next run.
Makes your heart stronger
Resistance exercises and heavy weight lifting have proven to improve cardiovascular function. These reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients.
Studies have shown that lifting heavy weights boosts self-confidence and also helps fight depression and anxiety. It will also release happy hormones that will keep you fresh the entire day.
Important tips to keep in mind while lifting heavy weights
Although lifting heavy weights has its benefits, there are some things that you should pay attention to while strength training. These are important as they will help you perform your exercises more efficiently and also prevent you from any injury.
- Warm-up and cool down
Warm-up and cool down should become a very important part of your exercise routine. A proper warm-up prepares your body, muscles and heart for the upcoming exercises. Warm-ups can be compared to the studies you do before an important examination while cool down time is like the vacation you take after an exam.
Drink enough water before and during your strength training session. It will help rehydrate your body from the water loss due to sweating and will also help in reducing the lactic acid buildup in muscles that happen while lifting weights. You will experience fewer muscle cramps and less soreness if you are well hydrated.
- A proper form of exercise
It is important to understand the exercise you are performing. This means knowing how to perform the exercise properly and also which muscles will the exercise target. It will help you to avoid any exercise-related injury. Also, always remember to keep your back straight while lifting to avoid any spinal injuries.
- Breathing technique
Practice the correct breathing technique when you lift. It may seem difficult in the beginning but do it consciously till you get it correct. Breathe in when you lift and breathe out when you go back to the starting position.
- Wear proper shoes and gear
It is important to wear shoes with enough traction when you lift. It will reduce the unnecessary strain on your knee and ankle joints. Also, see to it that you wear proper breathable clothing when you lift.
- Know your limits
Stop lifting if you feel a sharp and sudden pain. You can discontinue that particular exercise for a few days or continue with lesser weights. Do not lift heavier than you can without the help from your trainers and don’t be scared to ask for help either. If you are suffering from any systemic conditions, always consult your physician before you begin lifting.
It is true that lifting heavy weights can sometimes become intimidating but now that you know how to go about it, do not fret the weights. Remember, if you do not try, you will never know.
Begin your strength training journey and let us know how much weight you can lift in the comments section.
If you are interested in learning more about the science behind workouts, you should check out our Exercise Science Specialist Course.
The ESS course will supplement the knowledge of fitness professionals and be useful for someone who
is keen on understanding exercise science in detail.
It is a detailed course that explains the various aspects of exercise science. You will gain an in-depth knowledge of the science that operates behind exercises. Click here to learn more.
Author: Dr Pooja Nilgar (Content writer & Editor)