I love going to the gym. But to be honest with you, I have to pretty much talk myself into most cardio workouts I do. If I had it my way, I would primarily lift as my form of exercise. I started my journey of weight training in college, when I was doing The Firm which is an at home DVD series of cardio combined with dumbbells for strength moves. I remember the first time that I needed to increase the weight. It didn’t take long for me to start feeling the results. I was stronger. I could get around campus easier and by the summer, I was throwing around my friends kids in the lake with no problems!
Soon after college I joined the gym and was quickly introduced to Group Power (similar to Body Pump). I love the format and that we would hit every body part in 45 minutes. I quickly picked up on the routines and was able to progress to heavier weights, all while toning up and thinning out a bit. What I liked most was that there was music to workout to, which often took away from the agony of doing 3-4 minutes of bicep curls! Gosh they still kill me!
I was learning muscle endurance, which was all fine and dandy with me. But eventually my body stopped changing, I got used to the routine and it was pretty hard to increase my weight (after all I was doing the same exercise for 3-4 minutes!). So I started venturing out a bit. I ventured to the squat rack and worked my up to 45 lbs on each side! I started using the leg press machine and was stronger than most guys! But I never really deviated from my upper body workout.
When Dave and I started dating, I was spending 2 hours a night in the gym, as it would take me FOREVER to get through my workouts. It was time consuming but I really didn’t think that I could ever lift heavy. I just couldn’t wrap my head around being that strong. But then Dave and I started talking, and I decided to order the book Thinner, Leaner, Stronger and it just confirmed everything Dave was saying.
I could build more muscle in less time by lifting heavier weights for 8-10 reps 3 times through. I am finishing most of my workouts in 45 minutes, and I’m seeing results. Don’t get me wrong, I still have to do cardio, and I often throw in a high endurance day every once in a while, but I really love lifting heavy.
The first time I did rows with 100 lbs, I took a picture and sent it to my best friend, I was so giddy! I can now squat my weight. Never in a million years did I think I would be this strong. And I haven’t “bulked” at all. And it’s been easier for me to keep weight in check since I changed my routine.
Now that I lift heavy, I have a hard time imagining only using the little pink weights at the gym. I know there are some great workouts based on using low weight and high reps but I really LOVE lifting heavy.
What I’ve come to realize is that there are many ways to approach fitness and weight training and that what works for me might not work for everyone. I’m also extremely lucky to have Dave around to help check my form and give me ideas of new moves to try when I get bored of an exercise routine. I’ve also read more books than I can count on weight training and they all basically say the same thing. If you want lasting results, clean up your diet and pick up some iron!
I know most people realize that they lift weights to build muscle. But how exactly is muscle built? Well when you lift weights (light for long periods or heavy for short period) you actually make microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. Growth in muscles occurs when the body responds to these microscopic tears. As your muscles grow, your body adapts and that weight that used to challenge no longer does. As it becomes easier you should increase either the weight or number of reps to see continuous progress. This is where I was having trouble. I was really not getting any stronger. Workouts were difficult but I couldn’t move up in weight. I was wasting my time and that really upsets me looking back! After all, I wanted something to show for all of my hard work!
We all want to tone our muscles, but what is muscle tone really? Muscle tone is a loosely used term that basically says your skin is tight against your muscles, due to low body fat (and usually low water retention). We often then believe we need to hit cardio harder to burn ‘fat’ for our muscle or our abs to show. There’s only one problem with that, if you have no muscle, what’s going to show? I’m guessing not much! Well, how do we fix that?
Lifting: Light vs Heavy?
So what exactly happens when you lift light weight and high reps? When you lift high reps, blood rushes to your muscles and lactic acid builds up causing a major pump. Your muscles become dense and you look “beastmode” for about 2 hours, then it disappears. The pump feels great! But I want something that is going to stick around after my gym workouts done.
It’s true that high reps can help with muscle endurance. To get the most out of your workout and see results in record time, a training program of lifting weight to fatigue is important. So if you decide to lift light weight, high reps, you’ve gotta be willing to put the time in for those high reps. It’s much easier for me to get to fatigue using heavy weights. Also remember that our body’s are masters of adapting.
What’s there to lose?
This was honestly my approach. I told Dave I would try his approach for 6 weeks. What is there to lose? Besides a little junk in the trunk that is! I kept my HIIT workouts and still run so it’s a good balanced training program mixing cardio and strength.
I’ll Get Bulky!
No you won’t, I promise. Women don’t have the amount of muscle building testosterone to become big and bulking and we certainly don’t eat enough calories to pack on the pounds. Just to give you some perspective, the last time Dave was bulking he was eating over 4000 calories.
Other great benefits of weight training:
1. Muscle grows only when over stimulated and pushed to fatigue. The best stimulation? Lift heavy and you’ll get stronger.
2. The more muscle you have the more energy your body uses for up keep; albeit not much – but anything is better than nothing, right?! (Does muscle really burn fat?)
3. You get curvy! Adding muscle will help define and tone your body and give you all the curves in all the right places. Have I told you about my love for squats yet?
4. Pushing heavy helps you maintain and build bone. Remember, we lift to be healthy, not just yummy! Say no to osteoporosis.
5. Great stress reliever. Any bad day can be made better at the gym!
6. You look bad ass doing it.
Always remember to lift safely!
What about you?
- Do you lift heavy?
- My favorite day is Legs Day! What’s yours?