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Why Almost Everyone Should Be Lifting Heavy

At Chain Effect, our trainers are often asked the question, “Should I be lifting heavy weights?” Here, our expert physical therapist Taylor Pope provides the answer.

While you might think lifting heavy weights is only for bodybuilders, it has far-reaching benefits that can help almost everyone. Whether you want to lose weight, increase strength, prevent muscle loss from aging, or just improve your overall quality of life, lifting heavier weights can help you achieve any of these goals. Before you write off lifting heavy weights as something only the most dedicated gym-goers do, take a moment to learn more about what “lifting heavy” actually means and the main benefits of lifting heavier weights.

What Qualifies as Lifting Heavy?

Before you start lifting heavy weights, you might think you have to immediately jump to the heaviest weight you can find. However, what qualifies as a “heavy” lift will vary from person to person, with age, gender, and fitness level all affecting how much weight you should lift. While you might start off lifting a little bit lighter weight as an older person, everyone has the ability to progressively increase loads and strength independent of age.

Though everyone is different, heavy lifts tend to be those that a person can only do one to six reps of before exhausting their muscles and having to rest. In contrast, a person doing a lighter weightlifting session will usually pick weights that they can do 10-12 reps of with good form before they need to rest in between sets.

What defines your practice depends on your goals. A strength goal tends to involve heavier weight and fewer reps (3-6 rep range). Meanwhile, hypertrophy goals involve a higher rep range of 10-15 reps with many working sets each workout. No matter your method, you require careful attention to nutrition and protein intake.

Why Should Almost Everyone Lift Heavy Weights?

Whether you’re a younger or older adult, lifting heavy weights has several advantages, making it essential for most people’s fitness routines. As you consider adding heavy lifting to your workout plan, find out more about the four main benefits of lifting heavy weights below:

  • Build more muscle and increase overall strength: The most obvious benefit of lifting heavy weights is its ability to help you build muscle and increase your overall strength faster than light weights. In a 2021 systematic review of resistance training’s impact on strength gain in healthy men and women, the authors found that higher loads resulted in greater strength gains compared to low loads. The review also found that men tended to receive greater strength benefits at high loads, while women tended to see greater improvement in strength while lifting medium loads.
  • Prevent age-related muscle loss: Heavy lifting isn’t just for young people. As you age, you’ll naturally lose muscle, reducing your strength and muscle mass. Lifting heavy weights can prevent muscle loss due to aging and improve your overall quality of life. In a 2019 review about how resistance exercise training can combat neuromuscular aging, the authors found progressive resistance training can result in improvements in muscle mass and neuromuscular performance. It also showed chronic resistance training increased basal muscle protein synthesis in older adults, which is correlated to thicker skeletal muscles.
  • Burn more fat than lighter weights: Lifting heavy weights can raise your metabolism and burn more fat than lighter weights. For example, the National Council on Strength and Fitness estimates that a pound of fat only burns around two to three calories per day, while a pound of sedentary muscle burns around six calories a day. These estimations mean that improving your muscle mass can improve fat loss and increase your metabolism. Lighter weights don’t build as much muscle mass as heavier weights, so they don’t burn as much fat or increase your metabolism like heavier weights.
  • Reduce the chance of injury: Heavy weight training can reduce your risk of injury when you perform the lifts correctly. For instance, lifting heavier weights has been shown to increase bone density more than lifting lighter weights, which helps prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Higher bone density also reduces the chance you’ll break or fracture your bones when they’re stressed, such as during a fall.

Is It Better to Lift Heavy or Light Weights?

When you’re deciding between lifting lighter or heavier weights, it’s important to understand they both offer benefits. Heavier lifts tend to be better at increasing muscular strength while lighter weights are usually ideal for improving muscular endurance. Since muscular strength and endurance are both important, including a mix of lighter and heavier weights in your workout routine is typically the right approach.

Should I Lift Heavy or Light to Lose Weight?

While lifting light weights and heavy weights can both help you lose weight, lifting heavier weights burns more fat and can boost your metabolism more than lighter weights. As a result, lifting heavier weights tends to be better for losing weight.

Schedule a Personal Training Session In Raleigh, NC, at Chain Effect

If you’re unsure where to start with heavier lifts and live in or around Raleigh, North Carolina, Chain Effect can help. Our personal trainers can help you design a workout plan for lifting heavier weights, show you proper form, and encourage you while you push yourself to reach your goals. We also offer body composition assessments to help you better understand your body, track changes in your body composition, and develop a workout plan designed specifically for your unique needs.

Learn more about our personal training services today. You can also listen to our “Are You Lifting Heavy” podcast episode to find out more about the benefits of lifting heavy weights. If you’re ready to schedule an appointment or have any questions, please contact us.

Learn more about our in-person and online nutritional counseling services today. If you’d like to make an appointment or have any questions, please contact us.


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Authored by:
Taylor Pope DPT, FDNP, Owner

Dr. Taylor Pope has been a practicing outpatient physical therapist since 2010 upon graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with his Doctor of Physical Therapy. He specializes in orthopedic and sports injuries in addition to helping non-acute patients identify latent dysfunction.