Today I want to kick off a series called “5 Reasons to…” which is going to outline 5 reasons why you should or should not be doing something in your current training, nutrition, or lifestyle plan. That brings me to the topic of today’s post, 5 Reasons to Lift Heavy Weights.

First let me define what I mean by heavy weights; lifting heavy weights in this sense is defined by lifting a weight that is 90%, or above, of your 1 rep maximum (1RM). An example would be if you can squat 100 pounds for one single rep, then a lifting heavy would be anything above 90 pounds. With that cleared up, let’s get back to why lifting heavy weights is beneficial to you.

5 Reasons to Lift Heavy Stuff

1)      Central Nervous System (CNS) Development

Lifting weights that are 90%, or above, of your 1RM will result in the recruitment of all three muscle fiber types, Type I, Type IIA, and Type IIB simultaneously. The heavier the weight you are trying to move, the more force must be created thus resulting in higher motor unit recruitment.  This voluntary muscular contraction simply results in more motor unit contractibility and you becoming stronger.

2)       Improved Athletic Performance

As touched on in the first point, the more motor units you can fire at the same time the stronger you will be. As your maximal strength increases, your ability to produce force (mass x acceleration) and thereby power ([force x distance]/ time) increases. While training the speed component in each equation would result in increased athletic performance, so would increasing the amount of weight moved.

3)      Anatomical Benefits

Lifting weights above 90% of your 1RM will result in increased bone mass and density as well as helps increase the strength and stability of connective tissues (ligaments and tendons). Another often overlooked anatomical benefit of heavy weight training is an increased metabolism. The more lean muscle in your body the faster your metabolism will work.

4)      Losing Body Fat

Not only does lifting heavy weight make you stronger it also elevates your heart rate to near max levels, and your body continues to use energy while resting in between lifts as it returns back to your normal zone. Then the added bonus kicks in, high intensity training whether in intervals or near maximal lifting has the greatest Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) benefits when compared to moderate or low intensity training.  EPOC is the body’s process to replenish it’s energy stores, lower the heart rate, lower the respiratory rate, and regulate it’s hormone levels. All of those processes require energy to accomplish so you get an added bonus of burning some more calories post-workout.

5)      There is No Reason Not To

The most common reason recited for not wanting to lift heavy weights is the fear of becoming too big and bulky, and while women are the most common to use this reasoning there are plenty of men that make the same claims. Well fear not, women do not have the natural testosterone levels to become huge and bulky and most women and men do not eat enough food to become massive. Then we can attack it from the other side, most people desire to be lean and toned. To get the toned look men and women want, muscle mass is first required so that when fat is lost you see the muscle. Muscle mass doesn’t come from 30 reps of bicep curls with a 2.5lb dumbbell.

There we have 5 fantastic reasons to lift heavy weights and train better and smart in future. Lift heavy weights to improve your central nervous system, improve your athletic performance, improve anatomical structures, to lose body fat, and because quite frankly there is no reason not to. I’ll leave you with one more bonus reason to lift heavy stuff, it looks awesome,  feels awesome, and is flat out AWESOME.

Matt Lane