Weight Loss for Women: Lift Heavy, Rest Light
A woman who has been training for many years asked me to look at her weight training program and tell her if it would make her lose weight. I hesitated a bit before answering because to me it was obvious: She was undertraining and therefore not receiving full benefits from her efforts. The fact that this experienced trainee was on the wrong track made me realise that many women still have erroneous notions about weight training and how it affects the body.
Training misconceptions often arise from following the advice of celebrities who simply have great genetics and actually do very little in the way of exercise and diet to maintain their lean, fit appearance. Celebrities also have the resources to hire personal trainers and nutrition experts to guide and motivate them to achieve their fitness and figure goals. Then, of course, they also can afford cosmetic surgery to defy the outward signs of aging.
A related scenario can be seen in the world of bodybuilding and fitness competitions. Women who have the genetics to build lots of muscle often gravitate towards bodybuilding competitions. Their endless hours of hard work, disciplined nutrition, and focus result in a level of muscle development that is impossible for most women to attain. While these elite competitors should be respected for their accomplishments, no one should expect to look like this by simply pumping colorful plastic dumbbells.
Women who are looking to transform their body with exercise – or at least drop a few pounds – often believe they should stay away from heavy weights. Many have been advised that aerobic exercise is the best way to lose fat; the truth is that a bit of cardio is fine for toning purposes, but not for getting lean. Misconceptions like these are common obstacles to success. Let’s look at the facts.
Fact #1: Undertraining is a waste of your time. Let’s start by noting that contrary to popular opinion, no exercise is better than all others for weight loss. Of course some exercises are particularly demanding; for example, squats, deadlifts, and chins. However, many trainees grossly undertrain when doing these lifts, thus cheating themselves out of the maximum benefit. This is where many women need to step up their game. For example, if you are doing a German Body Comp workout or a 6-12-25 and at the end of your workout you are as fresh as when you started, you are not going to change your body.
Fact #2: Training at your repetition maximum produces results. What repetition maximum means is that if your program states you should do 12 reps, you should not be able to do one more rep. Your 12-rep max is just that: the maximum amount of weight you can lift for 12 reps. If you can do 13 reps, you need to add some weight. In my experience I see many women training at 50-75 percent of their 1-rep max. Don’t be one of those women who say, “Well, at least I’m in the gym.” The truth is (with the exception of Olympic lifting in which lighter weights are used to develop qualities such as speed and work capacity), if you are lifting half of what you can do in a set, you are receiving very little training effect.
Fact #3: Rest periods affect the training outcome. Shorter rest periods, such as 30-60 seconds, have the maximum effect on growth hormone (GH) release. Taking shorter rest periods while maintaining relatively heavy weights will increase the amount of lactic acid you produce. High lactic acid will cause greater GH release.
Shorter rest periods will also allow for greater volume of exercises, which will further increase hormonal response to training.
Fact #4: All training variables are important in producing results. To trigger hormonal responses that produce maximal changes in body composition as quickly as possible, you have to consider all the major training variables. These variables include the amount of weight you lift, how many reps you perform, the rest period, and the total number of muscles utilized.
In the end, even the greatest weight training program in the world will produce poor results if not executed properly. To get the results you want, you need to lift heavy, as close to your max as possible. Those pretty pink dumbbells aren’t going to do it.