If you have been coming to my classes for any length of time, you have heard me encourage the use of heavier weights to continue challenging yourself during class. In group fitness, we are somewhat limited to the weight load we use, but sky’s the limit out on the fitness floor!
Being strong not only makes daily life easier (carrying children or groceries, getting up and down off the floor, doing yard work, not being easily winded, etc.…) but it also leads to more independence and better quality of life as we age.
Below are just a few reasons as to why I encourage heavy strength training along with tips for knowing if you are using heavy enough weight to see changes in your strength, fitness and overall health.
Increases Metabolism and Supports Fat Loss. Lifting challenging weight actually does this BETTER than cardio alone. That is because strength training not only provides an aerobic response (getting your heart pounding), but it also builds and preserves the muscle you already have. When combined with a proper diet, “Strength training produces a more efficient weight loss effect than an equal amount of cardio. Your muscles will get stronger and denser (not necessarily bigger), and you will burn the fat on top of your muscle”3 making you not just lean, but also strong.
Reverses Muscle Loss That Comes With Age. As we get older, we tend to become less active which leads to a loss of muscle and strength. Lifting challenging weights has been shown to not only stop this muscle loss, but also reverse it.4 Preserving and increasing muscle mass then translates into better quality of life and more independence as we age.
Helps Improve Posture. Our skeleton moves because muscles pull on our bones to create movement. This is not only how we are able to walk or run, but it’s also how our posture is formed. Strong muscles pull on bones to hold them in a particular position. Lifting weights helps to strengthen weak muscles to pull your body into better posture and overall alignment.
Increases Bone Density. Another concern as we age is loss of bone density resulting in weak bones that can be easily fractured. Weight bearing exercises do more than just strengthen and grow muscles. They also help to strengthen and develop bones. 5
Strengthens Ligaments and Tendons. We tend to forget about the importance of strong connective tissues. The stronger our ligaments (connects bone to bone) and tendons (connect bone to muscle) are, the stronger we will be overall, and the less likely we will be to suffer injury. “Muscles may be the key to strength, but connective tissue connects their power to your skeleton as well as holding and supporting all of your joints.” 6
Improves Stability, Balance, and Coordination. Strong muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons translate into being able to support and control your body better.
Improves Overall Health. Strength training has been shown to build a strong heart (which is a muscle), reduce blood pressure, and improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Not sure what weight load you should be using? A good starting point is to choose a weight where you can complete 8-10 repetitions with perfect form. By the time you reach that 8th – 10th rep, you should feel like you could do 1-2 more reps before you have to stop and rest. If you still feel like you could do 4-5 more reps, your weight is not heavy enough.
The key here is not go to complete failure, but to keep the weight load challenging enough to elicit change. A good rule of thumb to follow is that as your weight load goes up, your reps should go down.
Still not sure if you are using the correct weight? Reach out to me anytime to schedule a free fitness assessment so we can get you started on a program to continue developing your strength, health, and overall quality of life.
The information found on this blog is based on my own personal thoughts and opinions. I am not a doctor or registered dietician. Please be sure to consult your health care professional before starting or changing any fitness or nutrition program.
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