If You’re Not Lifting Heavy, You’re Not Getting Results
Nope, not clickbait. In fact, we’ll say it again.
If you’re not lifting heavy, you’re not getting results.
Now, let’s hit pause for a second and try our best to define “heavy” before some of you have a full on meltdown.
We need to first understand that “heavy” is entirely subjective and dramatically depends on the person lifting. After all, fifty pounds may not be heavy for you, but it’s heavy for Julia. Heavy can be a 25# kettlebell squat or a 375# back squat. It’s dependent upon the individual and experience level.
Next, we need to understand that “heavy” does not = “max.” So, don’t go projecting and automatically assuming that we mean you need to be recklessly max lifting. No one said that. This is not an article advocating that you lift as much weight as you possibly can every time you go to the gym. No one wants to see your form going to shit lifting too much weight. That’s a wonderful way to end up injured and feeling like hot garbage all day.
Back to defining P360’s “heavy.” To first try and better paint some parameters around it we’re going to go with Webster’s Dictionary version of heavy.
difficult to lift or move
Good, but not perfect. Yet.
Difficult to lift or move, but possible. Heavy is hard and uncomfortable, but it is doable, repeatable, and personal to you.
A good rule of thumb is to think about the strongest load you can move while still maintaining a safety first technique and the intended pace of the workout.
So many programs sell you total nonsense, basically anything and everything but the concept of training with heavy loads. They’ll write you 14 movements on the
board television monitor and then the coach television monitor asks you do do them for 45 minutes at a weight that leaves you sweaty. Neat story. Ever seen any of your friends who go to these concepts actually get results? If you’re reading this, are you actually getting results?
Of course you aren’t, because light weight cardio-focused boot camps don’t work long term. You probably dropped a few
water pounds in your first month or so, and now you can’t make anymore progress. The because only thing that does, and listen up really closely, is progressive overload: Gradually increasing your load methodically over time to continue to drive adaptation in your body.
1. Lifting Heavy Yields Athletic Muscle
Muscle doesn’t “tone”, it grows. Training at heavy loads carries the obvious benefit of making us stronger people, but it’s also a vital component to the development of the lean, athletic muscle that many of us seek.
There are two kinds of muscle growth, and deepest apologies in advance but we need to get a little science-y here for a sec. Otherwise you won’t trust us.
The first develops muscle in the sarcoplasm. This is hypertrophy (growth) where the cross-sectional area of the muscle increases but with no increase in muscle fiber density, and less increase in strength associated with it. These are longer, more high-rep strenuous bouts of resistance training, like an 8R back squat at 60%.
The second is in strength training, in the muscle sarcomere. This is hypertrophy that does increase the density of muscle fibers and correlates to increase in strength and athletic performance, without a major increase in the cross-sectional area of the muscle. These are the lower rep count, heavier load lifts like a 5R back squat at 75%. Stronger, more dense muscle. So while it will not add the same kind of size as higher-rep, physique ranges, it will create dense, performance-enhancing muscle.
Lower reps at heavier loads will increase the total amount of muscles recruited and will develop growth in a more athletic, functional way that a higher rep approach does not provide.
2. Lifting Heavy Burns Fat
Let’s pretend for a second you are adamantly opposed to training with anything that resembles a heavy weight. Let’s say that you only want to “get a good sweat” because like so many, you have been falsely sold that sweat = fat loss.
Most are so concerned with how many pretend calories they are burning in a workout, they don’t stop to consider if calories even = fat loss. Which in the world of isolated workouts absolutely do not.
Chronic bouts of long cardio can jack up our stress hormone cortisol, which in turn wreaks havoc on your ability to burn fat. These are called catabolic hormones. On the flip side, training with heavy weights causes our body to produce more favorable hormones for burning fat and preserving lean, calorie burning muscle. These are called anabolic hormones and lead to more muscle and less fat over the long haul, two things every single human being alive should want if they wish to remain that way for as long as possible.
But better yet, lifting heavy helps you burn fat outside of the gym. By focusing on training with heavier weights you will build more muscle, and muscle is the one tissue on your body that directly correlates to how many calories you burn just existing. This is called our Basal Metabolic Rate and it is scientifically proven to be positively impacted by swapping out fat for muscle.
The unbelievable irony of those who “don’t want to get bulky” are often those who carry more body fat on their bodies than necessary because they avoid the one thing that will remove it.
3. Lifting Heavy Makes You Resilient
We are always absolutely amazed at the amount of internet valedictorians who like to shout out, “My back hurts just watching that!” every time someone is lifting something that looks mildly strenuous. Which, of course, is hilariously ironic because people that get hurt often are…
If that hurts your feelings, let it. But it’s true. Most people get injured overreaching, which by nature is not being strong enough to do something. The best way to bulletproof your body against injury is to train for it. Strong bodies have strong tendons and stable joints, they are able to handle negative variance in their movement when things get tough. Want to not get hurt picking up your kids, going skiing, or doing a Tik Tok dance on the bar?
To think that somehow encouraging a state of general weakness would better protect you against injury is…wild. It’s a wild position to take.
How to Incorporate Lifting Heavy Into Your Routine
Oh, we can’t just shamelessly plug ourselves, even though it’s the literal answer to the question?
If you insist on figuring this out by yourself, then first understand that you don’t need to go crazy heavy lifting every day. It’s best to pick 2-3 days per week and focus on the compound barbell lifts: squats, rows, pulls, and presses. Secondarily, on days where you follow a conditioning workout, we want you to start lifting 25% heavier on all movements. So, for example if you are performing a kettlebell goblet squat with 25 pounds, you are now commanded to perform that with 30-35 pounds. That doesn’t sound all that hard, right?
Of course it isn’t.
Stop listening to dummies. Start lifting heavier and finally get those results you’re after.