Why You Shouldn’t be Scared of Lifting Heavier Weights

Strength Train

Why You Shouldn’t be Scared of Lifting Heavier Weights

Going big(ger) will increase your power and confidence.

Words By Colleen Travers

It can be extremely satisfying to crank out an Intervals & Arms Ride or squeeze in a 10-minute Arms & Light Weights class at the end of your workout for good reason—you’re combining sweaty, endorphin-boosting cardio with strength training. Light weights are a great solution for Members new to strength training, or for those working to build muscle stamina. But just like you wouldn’t want to stick to one class type (no matter how much you love it), using only light weights could eventually cause a fitness plateau. By occasionally swapping in heavier weights, you can work toward becoming a stronger athlete.

“Lifting heavy weights is the gift that keeps on giving,” says Peloton instructor Rebecca Kennedy. “It improves your overall strength and increases your load capacity by progressive overload. This means by continually increasing the loads and demands on the body, you will gain muscle size, strength and endurance.”

Read on for more perks of picking up those heavier weights and how often you should be doing it.

Heavy Weights = Total Body Insurance

Thinking of lifting heavier weights like you’re purchasing extra life insurance on your body. That’s because the more weight you lift, the bigger benefits you will reap. “Heavy weights make joints durable to prevent injury, protect heart health and stimulate hormone growth that repairs muscle fibers,” Rebecca says.

Heavy lifting gets even more vital as we age, adds Peloton instructor Rad Lopez. “Lifting heavy supports a healthy metabolism, because it allows your body to burn calories well after your workout,” he says. “Plus, while it supports your muscles it’s also working to strengthen your bone density.” This is crucial in staying strong, warding off osteoporosis and preventing injuries as we get older.

Adding Weight Won’t Add Bulk

“In order to increase muscle mass, your training needs to follow hypertrophy [the act of enlarging an organ or tissue] guidelines with specific rep schemes, sets, progressive loading [gradually adding more and more weight] and enough calories to support this surplus,” says Rebecca. “It’s really hard to put on a lot of muscle and even more difficult to do it fast.” Instead, both Rad and Rebecca say that with a healthy diet, lifting heavy weights will increase muscle definition, not size.

When (and How) to Go Heavy

To avoid overtraining, Rebecca recommends lifting heavy weights one to three times a week. Keep in mind that you may need a few different sets of heavy weights for your workout. (Here’s how to choose the right weight size for you.) “For exercises like deadlifts, squats and rows, you’ll be able to lift more than you would for moves like bicep curls, triceps kickbacks and overhead presses,” Rebecca says. “You want to make sure you’re choosing a load that brings you to fatigue but not failure during each set. For example, if the workout calls for three sets of 12 deadlifts, your load may need to be lighter because your grip strength and body have to hold that weight for a longer duration and more consecutive reps.”

If you’re just getting started with heavy weights, make sure you’ve got the form down for the basic strength training exercises. (A good place to start is Total Strength with Andy Speer.) Incorporate one to two heavy lifting sessions a week, with two rest days in between to properly recover. After four to six weeks, Rebecca says it’s safe to add an additional day if you want, now that your body has had time to acclimate.

And with any new routine, Rad notes, remember to start slow and be patient. Soon, you’ll see lasting progress that you can build on.

Pick up those heavies. Jump into a strength class on the Peloton App!

Colleen Travers

Writer, editor, content creator, and digital consultant with a focus on health, wellness, food, and lifestyle topics.