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 60 calories a day while a pound of fat burns 5. 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:
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. The machines...the dumbbells...the people who seem to know what they're doing...it's enough to make anyone skip weights altogether. Aside from that, there are other fears that invade our minds, such as:
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.
So how do you figure out how much to lift if you don't know your 1 rep max? Typically, if you lift 60%-80% of max, you could do anywhere from 10-20 reps. Lifting at 80% and above takes you down to the lower rep range, which is where you'll be if you're trying to gain size. That means keeping your reps somewhere between 8-16, if you're lifting for weight loss and fitness. Your weights are determined by the number of reps you're doing.
For Beginners: Choose a weight you can only lift 16 times. You don't need to go to complete failure, but make sure you're challenging your body. Begin with 1 set of each exercise, slowly working your way up to 2-3 sets (i.e., adding a set each week) When you've added sets and have a solid foundation (after 6-8 weeks), add more weight so that you can ONLY do 8-12 reps. Continue to progress by adding a rep each week until you reach the max reps (no more than 16), increase your weight and drop your reps back down to 8-12.
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!
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