Does part of your exercise program involve lifting heavy weights? I don’t mean those 6lb dumbbells in your basement that you do bicep curls with while watching an entire episode of Game of Thrones. It ain’t “heavy” if you can do reps for 60 minutes straight. I’m sorry, but you aren’t getting stronger with the same 6lb weights for 10 years straight. I mean lifting a heavy weight 4 times that leaves you out of breath. Or doing a circuit of lifting exercises such as squats, lunges, pullups, pushups etc that gets your heart elevated just as much, if not more, than when you plod along on the elliptical.
This clicked for me around a year and a half ago and really clicked for me around 9 months ago. I always knew lifting heavy was important for gaining muscle. But, I have personally experienced a HUGE improvement in my body and metabolism now that I am consistently putting a focus on lifting weights that put me out of my comfort zone. For about a year after college I was lifting weights, but not pushing my limits. I made a concerted effort starting 12 months ago to progress the weight on the bar every week. I have never looked (obviously my opinion) or felt better in my life.
Strength training is technically doing body weight squats or doing that “Body Pump” class at the gym. But, you are not getting STRONGER if this is all you do. Are you getting the results you want for you body with JUST those workouts? My clients have continually said no.
If your goals are to “tone up,” “feel stronger,” “fit better in those jeans,” or “get stronger.” The results you want come with getting out of your comfort zone in the weight room and getting STRONGER. Safely out of your comfort zone though. Lifting weights safely. There is a time and place for HIIT workouts, p90X, running, Zumba, yoga, pilates etc but what makes every one of those exercise modalities easier? Getting stronger.
I can list numerous benefits of strength training such as increased muscle mass, increased bone density, better balance etc. That is boring though. Here is why strength training is so important for a better quality of life.
Reason #1: Everyday life activities become easier, more comfortable and less painful.
- Walking up and down the stairs is easier and less painful. When your quads and hamstrings getting stronger your knees do less work as your muscles take over the work load. The reason all my new clients work on stair walking with me.
- Picking up the grandson who weighs 20lbs is easier if you are used to lifting 50lbs off the floor in the weight room. If you are only used to lifting 6lb dumbbells at a time, the 20lb grandson is going to feel heavy. That is just common sense. Strength is relative to what your typical day to day activities are. Got me?
- You can hit the golf ball further.
- You can walk the dog a mile instead of only around the block without your legs feeling like 300lbs.
- Your running becomes easier as your quads and hamstrings get stronger. Look at Olympic runners legs some time. They lift weights. They don’t just run to get faster.
- You have less lower back pain. I cannot talk about the importance of core strength enough for decreasing lower back pain. Lifting heavy weights (safely) forces you to engage your core muscles, thus strengthening them. Heavy deadlifts, heavy squats, heavy lunges, pullups, pushup etc are all great core exercises.
Reason #2: Metabolism improves allowing you a buffer zone with your nutrition.
- When you get stronger you have more muscle. When you have more muscle your metabolism burns fat more efficiently. When you burn fat more efficiently most people are generally happier with their bodies
- With more muscle you can go on vacation for a week or take a ‘break’ from your nutrition habits for a time and not put on 12lbs or lose all your progress.
- **This doesn’t work forever though. You can’t just stop lifting or eating healthy and assume your body won’t change. Most people realize this, but don’t actuallyyyyy realize it until it is too late. Sound familiar?
You are probably wondering what is “heavy” when I am talking about strength training? Strength is all relative. 400lbs to me is “heavy.” 100lbs to you might be “heavy.” But, what matters is that you are lifting that weight safely, it puts you out of your comfort zone, you can’t lift the same weight more than probably 5-12 reps without your form going to shit and you get the results you want. I wasn’t getting the consistent results I wanted with my body because I wasn’t being consistent enough getting stronger by increasing the weight on the bar.
I can now deadlift 150lbs more than a year and a half ago and partly because of this I can eat my way through a week of vacation and not put on 7lbs anymore. I have more of a nutritional buffer which makes life more enjoyable. I weigh the same as 2 years ago, but as I have gotten stronger and gained more muscle my metabolism has improved enough that my bodyfat percentage is down 2-3%! This has taken time, I have been patient.
Getting stronger requires patience. But, if you want a better quality of life it is worth it 100% of the time.