While there are great weight loss and calorie-blasting benefits of lifting heavy, it’s not why I do it. Weightlifting makes me care more about the weight on the bar than on my body. I work hard at the gym to push my body and mind. It’s about what my body is capable of, not what it looks like.
Lifting heavy, for example using a weight that you can only do 1 to 6 reps with, has made me battle the voice in my head — it’s far more crushing than any weight could ever be. With heavy plates on the bar, there isn’t room for self-doubt or negative thoughts. It takes all of my focus to step up, to stay in control, and to crush the lift.
Weightlifting makes me feel powerful. Confident. My lifting shoes are my “power heels.” When I hit a big lift, I’m unstoppable. I’m capable of moving the weight and handling the other challenges in my life. I walk down the street knowing the physical and mental strength inside of me.
The lessons I have learned in the gym bleed out into the rest of my life. They have made me a faster runner, a more independent person, and a confident woman. Before you get to the heavy lifting, here are a few reasons why you should take this on.
It’s not just me. Training with heavy weights is shown to improve your self-confidence. Weight training can also reduce anxietyTrusted Source, ease depressionTrusted Source, and increase happiness. While it might be hard at times to get motivated to hit the gym, the benefits outlast the initial struggle.
Heavy weights increase the power and strength of your muscles without significantly adding bulk or size, especially for women. This means that everyday physical tasks get easier, and consistent training will increase the amount of weight you can lift. You’ll look stronger, too. Strength training with heavy weights enhances your muscle mass and definition.
Cut the fat
Everyone knows that exercise helps you to burn more calories, but according to Mayo Clinic, a regular strength training program can also help you burn more calories when you’re not in the gym. You get an “after burn,” where your body continues to use more calories in the hours following a workout. In addition to that, strength training builds muscle. That larger muscle mass increases the calories you burn daily without exercise. Just like a double chocolate chip brownie, heavy strength training gives you a double reward when burning calories.
Build your brain
Heavy weights develop more than just muscle. Lifting heavy increases the production of many hormones, including the hormone IGF-1, which helps to stimulate connections in the brain and enhance cognitive function. In a recent studyTrusted Source, leg strength was positively linked with stronger minds that are less susceptible to the negative effects of aging. Simply stated: Strength training can improve your ability to learn and think as you age.
Resistance training using body weight and with free weights, strengthens more than just your muscles. It also strengthens your bones and connective tissues. This added strength and stability will help you ward off injuries and keep a strong body. It can also help reduce symptoms of many conditions like back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgiaTrusted Source, and chronic pain. In this case, the game reduces the pain — the game of strength training, that is.
It seems counterintuitive, but strength training has been shown to improve enduranceTrusted Source, speed, and running economyTrusted Source (the amount of energy and effort it takes to do something like run a five-minute mile). A recent study showed that lifting heavier weights improves economy more than lighter weights. That extra weight on the bar will pay off during your next run or spin class. So don’t lighten on the weights. The heavier the better.
Inactive adults can lose 3 to 8 percent of muscle mass per decade. You might lament the loss of your rock-hard arms or killer abs, but even worse, muscle weakness is linked with an increased likelihood of death in men. Heavy resistance training can help fight, and reverse, the loss of muscle mass. It can also strengthen bones and help prevent osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women. The old saying, “Use it, don’t lose it” seems appropriate for your muscles.
Be a calender girl or boy
Circle weddings, vacations, or any date on which you know you’ll want to show off a toned body. Then mark at least two days each week when you’ll lift to prepare for the event.
Set your cell phone to text you a reminder on strength-training days, Boggs suggests. For visual encouragement, change your screen’s background to an inspiring image, like an athlete whose body you admire.
Grin and bare it
Wear shorts and racer-back tops on days you lift. You’ll pay more attention to your form-and even crank out extra reps-if you can see the areas you’re targeting.
Put a couple of bucks in a jar
Do it every time you hit the weights. “After a few months of regular workouts, you’ll have enough cash to buy yourself a reward, like a smaller pair of jeans!”
Create a visual cue
Once you notice definition, have a friend snap a photo of you in a flattering outfit and make it your Facebook profile picture. You’ll show off your success and be inspired to stick with your routine every time you sign in.
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