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But before we dive in, let’s first define what we mean by a “heavy lift.” Strength training programs can vary greatly from person to person. To truly reap the benefits of lifting heavy, it’s crucial to choose exercises and weights that are appropriate for your individual level. While it may be tempting to stick to the same program and weight range each session, your muscles will eventually adapt, and you’ll need to consistently and gradually increase the intensity in order to continue making progress. Determining what constitutes a “heavy” lift for you can be challenging. That’s where the RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) scale comes in handy, allowing you to subjectively gauge the intensity of a lift. This scale ranges from 1-10, with 1 representing little to no effort required and 10 being the maximum weight you can lift. Generally speaking, heavy strength training should be done at an 8 RPE, where the effort is challenging. but the number of repetitions is still manageable.
Now on to the benefits of going heavy:
When you lift a weight at an RPE of 8 or above, your muscles must recruit more muscle fibres to complete the lift. This increased load, combined with sufficient recovery, leads to increased muscle growth, strength gains, and joint stability over time. These benefits, along with improvements in muscular power, body composition, and endurance, can help reduce the risk of injury and enhance sports performance.
Lifting heavier weights has been shown to increase bone density and improve joint health. As you challenge your body with heavier loads, your bones adapt by becoming stronger and more resilient.
When you push yourself to lift a weight that you previously thought was impossible, you can boost mental resilience and confidence. The persistence and determination to push past your perceived limits during your training can flow into other areas of your life, helping you to understand that you’re capable of doing hard things and pushing outside your comfort zone.
Lifting heavy weights has been shown to increase the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins are known to reduce stress and improve mood, providing a natural way to help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. By focusing solely on the task at hand and blocking out distractions, strength training can also promote mindfulness. This combined with the rush of endorphins can lead to improved energy levels and positive feelings.
Start by gradually increasing the weight you’re lifting while keeping your effort at an 8 RPE. Aim to lift a weight that is challenging, but still allows you to maintain proper form and technique. Proper form helps to ensure that you’re targeting the intended muscles and engaging them effectively, which can lead to greater gains in strength and muscle mass over time. It also helps to prevent compensations or imbalances in your movement patterns, which can lead to further injury down the line. As you become more comfortable with heavier weights, continue to push yourself to lift more.
Finally, make sure you’re fuelling your body properly to support your strength training. This means consuming enough protein to help repair and build muscle, as well as carbohydrates to give you energy during your workouts.
Remember, the benefits of going heavy extend beyond the physical. By challenging yourself during your training, you can also build mental resilience, confidence and reduce stress which will benefit you in all aspects of your life. Keep in mind to use proper form and fuel your body properly to make the most of your hard work. So next time you hit the weights, don’t be afraid to go heavy and see what you’re truly capable of – it’s time to break out of that workout rut and start lifting heavy!