Impressive strength and muscles means lifting impressively heavy weights…or does it?
Traditionally, weight training involves lifting the maximum weight you can and then lifting 80-90% of that weight in eight to 10 repetitions until your limbs tremble from exhaustion. The theory is that this stimulates a surge in testosterone and human growth hormone, leading to increased strength and muscle size.
But if you’re not lifting 100+ pounds during your workout, don’t worry – recent research finds that you can still get comparable effects with a lighter workout.
When participants lifted just 30-50% of their maximum one-repetition weight for up to 25 repetitions, four times a week for 12 weeks, the muscle strength, lean muscle mass, and and muscle fiber size they gained were nearly identical to those of participants who followed a more traditional weightlifting routine of 10 repetitions at 75-90% of their one-rep max.
The key was to continue lifting until they reached total muscular fatigue. That would be the lifting a weight repeatedly until the effort of the final lift is at least an eight on a scale of one to 10, according to researchers.
Additional benefits to lifting lighter weights include the possibility of fewer injuries and a much lesser intimidation factor.
Still not convinced? Here are 7 more reasons to start lifting weights today:
Weight training can actually help burn more body fat than cardio alone, and it helps to preserve and build more lean muscle mass. And more muscle mass means better metabolism. Even better? Weight training helps to beat belly fat! This may be why weight training is best for keeping weight off.
Aging means muscle and bone loss, especially for women. Weightlifting can help strengthen bones because the stress causes more bone to be deposited, resulting in greater bone density.
Studies have found that lifting weights can improve symptoms of depression just as effectively as running – great news for those who don’t like to run or can’t.
Improve Heart Health
Strength training can improve cardiac health by helping lower blood pressure naturally and improving blood flow throughout the body when practiced regularly.
Regulate Blood Sugar
Weightlifting increases white muscle, a type of muscle that uses glucose for energy, thereby lowering blood glucose levels.
Prevent Back Pain
By strengthening your core muscles, the muscles that support your spine, weight training can offset the pain caused by daily activities like sitting at a desk all day.
As you get older, losing your balance is dangerous because of the risk of serious injury. Weightlifting strengthens small muscles known as stabilizer muscles that keep you steady and prevent falls.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re a lightweight lifter. With a few more reps, you can still be a workout heavyweight!
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.