Ladies, The Heavy Lifts Are Calling Your Name
This one goes out to my lady friends in particular, but for any gentlemen who may stumble on this, you’ll likely benefit as well.
And I know we talked about this not too long ago, but this bears repeating and elaborating.
Ladies, I’m begging you. The next time you go to the gym, please lift some heavy weight.
Now I know “heavy” is going to vary from person to person. That’s fine and expected.
But really what I’m asking you to do is focus on progressively increasing the weight you use for each lift or movement.
I’m still trying to figure out who perpetrated the myth that high reps with low weights are the way to go for a “lean, toned look” but oh mama I would like to give them a piece of my mind ( the same thing goes for anyone demonizing specific macronutrients…but I digress).
Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with higher rep work. I just don’t believe it should be the core focus of your training program. Especially not as a default. If your body responds well to this, great. Keep doing it.
But if you’ve been curling 2lbs dumbbells for the last six months, please keep reading.
A lean, toned body is the result of a favorable change in body composition. Body fat must go down, and lean muscle mass must go up. How much either goes up and down is also going to vary from person to person.
The idea of high reps and low weights helping support that look is that more reps equal more calories burned which in turn is going to help reduce body fat.
No objections there.
But this is only a fraction of the equation and is by no means an optimized way of training.
Two challenges come up. First, your body is going to adapt fairly quickly to the lighter weight (one of the advantages of being a novice lifter is that gains can be made pretty quickly in the beginning under the right circumstances).
Also, while you technically might burn more calories in the here and now, this is only a temporary increase is metabolic activity.
And when I say this is only a piece of the equation I mean that we're only focusing on body fat reduction and doing little for muscle development
Now, when I say muscle development, images of big bulky bodybuilding women may come to mind. And for many of you, that's probably not what you're after.
For 99% of the women reading this, understand this: you could only be so lucky to be able to look like that. Well, I shouldn't say lucky because it wasn't luck. It was years of dedication and hard work.
Fortunately (or unfortunately for some), a woman's hormonal profile does not support that level of muscle development.
The women you see with that physique have spent years and years of their lives dedicated to that pursuit. Some have even put their health at risk by using some “performance enhancing” substances. You're not going to look like that in 6-12 months of heavy training.
Point being, you most likely don't have to worry about getting "bulky." Are there exceptions? Always. But for most ladies, you have little to worry about from that angle.
So back to the issue of lighter weights.
To get "lean and toned," we need to develop the musculature that supports that frame. This requires that we build some muscle. Not a ton of muscle. But enough.
2-5 lb mini dumbbells just aren't going to provide the stimulus to do so.
And here's the really cool thing about giving our body what it needs to develop muscle.
Lean muscle mass is some of the most metabolically active tissue in our body.
This means it burns a whole heck of a lot of calories just to maintain itself.
That's right, putting on some weight can actually help us lose weight because not all weight is created equal.
Increasing muscle mass can help us decrease body fat, and it makes it easier to do so - especially for women.
Many women have been stuck with perennial dieter’s syndrome. This is a made up condition that describes anyone who is always on a diet. And unfortunately, most of these diets were likely very restrictive.
What happens when we restrict our caloric intake for too long is that our metabolic rate begins to slow. It’s a survival mechanism. If you need 2000 calories a day to “keep the lights on” but you’re only eating 1200, yes, you’re going to lose some weight but stay with this for too long and your body is going to adapt.
If we have an artificially low metabolic rate because of long-term calorie restrictions, then it becomes more and more difficult to make changes to our body composition. We literally cannot eat any less or move anymore without going insane.
While eating more and packing on some muscle may make you gain weight in the short term, it’s going to make the majority of your health and fitness goals much easier to accomplish in the long term.
That, and you’re going to be much happier since you’ll have a nice looking frame and you’ll probably get to eat far more than your used to eating.
And being able to tell someone that they get to eat more food is usually news I like to deliver.
So, my dear friends, please consider lifting a little heavier the next time you enter the gym (and the next time and the next!). I think you’ll be glad you did.
P.S. If you’re at all concerned about getting injured from using heavier weight, please please please consider reaching out to a professional (local or otherwise) who can help make sure that your body is ready to bear the extra burden. Online assessments can work great to review form but if you’re still new to the weight lifting/resistance training world, working in-person with a qualified trainer or coach will save you from a world of hurt (pun intended :-D )