Why Lift Heavy Weights?

09.14.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

Becky Johnson, Certified Personal Trainer (ACE); IBNFC Certified Nutrition Coach

Most of my personal training clients are women between the ages of 35 to 50. I’m 47, so I know exactly what most of them are experiencing at this point in their lives.

We go from being active young adults into middle age (ugh, I hate that term!) and our bodies start to turn on us. We may still have a young attitude, but we start to gain weight in places and have new problem areas that were never an issue before! We slowly start to lose muscle mass and while this mostly occurs with significant aging, lifting heavy weights after 40 is a great way to be proactive! 

Heavy lifting not only increases lean muscle mass, it increases bone mineral density. Bone health is a very important factor to consider in women over 40. Heavy lifting generally consists of lifting at least 75 percent of the most weight you can lift for a single repetition on a particular exercise. This is critical for women, as one in five women in the United States suffers from osteoporosis. Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.

Muscle Mass
Maintaining lean muscle mass requires effort, but it results in an increase in your metabolism. Weight lifting, particularly compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts, improves the strength of the muscles that support your hips and back, ensuring good posture. Deadlifting alone strengthens the back, abdominals and legs, and is one of the best weight-bearing exercises you can do at any age. As you age, this becomes even more important because no one likes to have difficulty picking things up from the ground!

Resistance training, assuming it is done heavy enough, will increase the rate at which you burn fat. A heavy weight lifting session can allow you to continue to burn calories for up to 48 hours after you are done training. Heavy resistance training with shorter rest periods can also stimulate the production of growth hormone, and your production of growth hormone decreases as you age. Growth hormone will help maintain the health of your bone structure, muscle mass and support immune function. And, no, you will not get big bulky muscles from lifting heavy.

Steroidal Hormones
Heavy lifting can have a profound effect on the ability of your body to produce steroidal hormones, particularly testosterone. You must lift heavy for this occur. Testosterone is another hormone whose production decreases as you age, and it is important in maintaining lean muscle mass, wound healing and repair and immune function. Light training will not achieve this, but heavy, compound exercises with high intensity and short rest periods will.

Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass that occurs in everyone. While normally you must be far older than 40 for this to occur, why wait? If you build the habits of maintaining lean muscle mass through heavy resistance training, you will have both more muscle mass and good training habits to rely on as you age. An estimated $18.5 billion was spent in health care that was directly attributable to sarcopenia in the year 2000, according to the "Journal of the American Geriatrics Society." Keep lifting heavy now and you could reduce your health care costs later. As always, consult your doctor and it may be a good idea to look into getting a personal trainer to get you started on the right weight lifting routine. You need one that is safe and effective in order to get the results you want.

Next week I will give you a sample routine that you can try or incorporate into your existing workout.

Stay Fit and Healthy,

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