Did you know that the average person loses between 3-8% of their muscle mass every decade after the age of 30? Whoa! Sounds kind of scary doesn’t it? Losing muscle as we age is due to many factors such as: inactivity, poor nutrition, ineffective workouts, changes in hormone levels, loss of motivation and lack of knowledge, to name a few. What many people don’t realize is that lifting heavier weights can be a very effective and gratifying way to build and maintain lean muscle.
Lift Weights for Lean Muscle
The benefits of lifting heavier weights are: increased muscle, increased metabolism, decreased risk of osteoporosis, better posture, increased confidence, improved balance/coordination, increased overall strength, enhanced cognitive function, and prevention of injury. The list goes on. Let’s cut to the chase and talk about vanity for a moment. We all want to feel great and look our best. If I told you that lifting heavier would help to restructure your physique to the point that your clothes fit better and your muscles felt tighter and more defined, would you consider making the change? Well it can. Muscle weighs more than fat and is smaller and more compact. Muscle also burns more calories as fuel to exist and to perform the way you want them to. Ladies! Don’t shy away from this because you are scared of getting “big and bulky.” It won’t happen. Keep in mind that 5 pounds of muscle might weigh more than 5 pounds of fat, but it is significantly smaller in size.
The approach would be different for those who have been working out consistently for a period of time than from others who are looking to start a weight training program now. If you are a person who has been strength training consistently for a while, your body will be more prepared to handle the heavier weight load. This does not mean that you should overload yourself with weight that you cannot physically tolerate. Always listen to your body and check in beforehand to make sure that you don’t have any pre-existing conditions that can be exacerbated by the heavier load. A few common red flags would be, but not limited to: joint issues, lack of flexibility, tendon/ligament injuries, back/neck pain and/or injuries, cardiac issues and high blood pressure. These are all things that you would want to speak with your doctor about, prior to “raising the bar” during your new weighted approach to lifting heavier.
Whether you are a beginner or more advanced, you will want to start with a progressive overload technique and move forward slowly as you begin to feel your strength increase. Progressive overload is a great way to increase your strength gradually. It is done by increasing the weight, frequency, or number of repetitions in a set as your body starts to adapt to the training.
If you are not sure how to do this, find a trainer or work with a partner who has more experience in the gym. Take the time to learn about proper nutrition, rest and supplementation, if necessary. This will help you on your new path to gaining and maintaining your stronger, leaner and healthier body.
Combine Movements Into One Exercise
For many of my workouts I like to use dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, Indian clubs, mace bells and TRX straps. I prefer to combine a few movements into one exercise to get more BANG FOR MY BUCK! An example of this would be using 2 dumbbells to perform a squat with a bicep curl on the way up, to an overhead press. With this one exercise I am hitting my legs, glutes, core, biceps and shoulders all in one exercise. Another example might be a TRX pushup with hands on the ground and feet in the stirrups. Once I complete a full pushup, I slowly tuck both knees in towards my chest, then extend them while holding my core tight and my entire body steady. This move targets chest, triceps, shoulders, abs/core and hip flexors.
Don’t underestimate the power of bodyweight exercises. When done correctly, they can target muscles that often get overlooked. Most bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere and without any equipment at all.
Aging does not mean that you cannot challenge yourself with heavier weights and progressive workouts. You are only as strong as you think you are. Why limit yourself to such a belief if you don’t have to? Do your homework and listen to your body. Set realistic goals and go after them!
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