Many people make the assumption that there are no benefits to lifting heavy weights. Some feel that lifting lighter weights with high reps will yield the same results. This is simply not true. Lifting heavy weights in which you are challenging your body and progressively overloading your muscles can have far quicker and better results.
The quickest way to build strength is to lift heavier. More muscle means more strength and more muscle means quick and efficient fat burn. Lifting heavy has also been shown to strengthen connective tissues and bone. This type of exercise will slow down the aging process and allow you to do daily activities such as yard work or playing with your children with ease. As long as you practice good form and safe lifting practices, lifting heavier weights can be very beneficial. It produces great results appearance wise and health wise. ACE (American Council on Exercise) provides seven benefits of how using heavy resistance can maximize the results from your fitness program.
- Using heavy weights increases intramuscular coordination, the number of type II motor units and the number of muscle fibers engaged within a specific muscle. Have you ever felt your muscles shaking while lifting heavy weights? This is because you are recruiting and activating the larger type II muscle fibers, which are only stimulated to work when a muscle is challenged with heavy resistance or working to fatigue.
- Using maximal loads for compound (multi-joint) movements like the deadlift, squat-to-shoulder press, bent-over row or chest press can improve intermuscular coordination, which is the ability of many muscles to work together to generate and control high levels of force through multiple joints.
- Lifting heavy weights elevates levels of anabolic hormones—specifically testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)—which are used to repair muscle fibers damaged during exercise.
- Lifting heavy weights increases production of the hormone IGF-1. This hormone is related to the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a neurotransmitter responsible for stimulating the growth of new neural pathways in the brain along with enhancing communication between existing pathways. In short, lifting heavy could make you smarter by enhancing cognitive function.
- Training with heavy weights helps you to improve your self-confidence. Knowing that you can lift heavy stuff gives you the confidence that you can handle common challenges, such as a putting a bag in the overhead bin on an airplane or carrying a heavy piece of furniture while reorganizing a room or helping a friend move.
Matt Anderson, a Sports Performance Coach with USA Weightlifting, is a personal trainer with the OrthoCarolina Wellness Center. Matt hails from Charlotte and attended East Carolina University, graduating in 2015 with a BS in Exercise Science. He has been a strength/conditioning and speed coach for three years. He has played both baseball and basketball. Matt is committed to his own exercise and training program and that commitment and teaching style are contagious and motivating to his clients. His clientele has ranged in age from seven to older MLB and NFL athletes.