Lifting Heavy Weights: The Key to All Things Awesome


Warming up with someone’s max is pretty sweet.

If you’re serious about losing fat, gaining muscle or looking better naked there is only one thing you should be doing.

Getting strong AF.

But the vast majority of people go the opposite way by doing a ton of reps trying to lose fat, only to lose muscle and have the strength of a prepubescent girl  #beast.

What you should be doing is lifting heavy weights for a few reps to preserve the muscle and strength you trained so hard for and set yourself up for easier fat loss.

WHY YOU NEED TO READ THIS

If you’ve been working with the same weights for years your shit is broken.

You got your workout from a bodybuilding magazine that focuses on adding size without much strength.  While you look halfway decent in a t-shirt.   It’s time to dive into the deep end of the pool, lift some heavy weights and back up those muscle with strength.

Plus, you’ll be able to lift your girl off her feet without looking like you’re gonna pop a blood vessel.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  “I don’t want to look like a whiskey barrel.”

lifting heavy weights

I get it, believe me, I get it. In my effortless pursuit of my Aesthetic Physiques, I avoided strength training like the clap in my younger days.  Chicks dig the Ryan Reynolds look, not-sa-much on the powerlifter look.

lifting heavy weights

But in the end, younger Dave was an idiot.  Not about the clap, but about strength training by lifting heavy. The way you look isn’t based on how much weight you lift, it’s based predominantly eating habits.

Eat like a powerlifter and you’ll look like a powerlifter.  Eat like and steaming pile of sex and you’ll look like Ryan.

Don’t be like younger me, lift some heavy ass weight.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE STRENGTH TRAINING

Somewhere deep in your mind, you still associate strength training with guys that do strongmen competitions.  Which is the complete opposite of what you want to look like.

More sex is the goal, not less.

You want the broad shoulders, slim waist rock hard abs like Wolverine and Thor.  At the core of their training to becoming superheroes, Hugh and Chris had to get strong.

Like for reals strong.

lifting heavy weights

By scheduling periods of strength training into your routine you’ll be able to recruit more muscle.  This will translate to easier fat loss and muscle gain.

Or basically, everything you want.

WTF IS STRENGTH TRAINING?

Before I try to convince you to be more awesome, let’s define strength training, shall we?  

When I talk about strength training I’m talking about 85-95 % of your 1RM or a weight you can lift for 2-6 reps.

At these percentages, you increase the number of nerve cells (motor neurons) contracting the muscle and the frequency they contract.

Strength is based on the efficiency of these motor neurons ability to contract. The size of the muscle is a secondary factor.

At the end of the day, all you really need to know is you’ll feel more badass.

STRENGTH TRAINING AND FAT LOSS

Me: How should you lift weights when you’re trying to lose fat?

You: Light weight and a ton of reps.

lifting heavy weights

I’ll give it to you, on the face of it, lifting light weights for a million reps makes sense.  It seems that it would burn more calories than lifting a weight for 3-4 reps.

Buuut, by doing it that way will make you weak and actually help you lose muscle.  Muscle is expensive to maintain and if it’s not needed to lift heavy shit, it’s the first thing to go.

The trick is to tell the body, “Yes, I need that muscle, take the energy you need from my beer gut.”

That happens through strength training.

Lifting heavy on the big lifts (squats, deadlifts, barbell shoulder press, rows) during a fat loss period tells your body to spare muscles because they needed to move the weight.

Going the lightweight route, your body sees no need for the extra muscle.   All your hard work to gain it was a complete waste of time.  Way to be skinny fat, bruh.  Way to go.

Inefficiency burns more calories

Whenever you watch someone at the top of their game, they make it look so freakin’ easy.

Usain Bolt immediately comes to mind.  Check out the video of Usain running in the Olympics.

My face shows more strain putting on my schmedium shirts than this guy does running 20+ mph on the world’s biggest stage.

My point is, the better you get at something the more efficient you become.  This is true for all forms of cardio.  The exception to the efficiency rule is lifting heavy weights.

You become better at lifting weights -> The weights become heavier -> Your body work harder to lift said weights  = Inefficiency aka more calories burned aka fat loss.

STRENGTH TRAINING AND MUSCLE GAIN

lifting heavy weights

If you’re up to date on your Greek mythology, like I am (I’m not), then you’ve heard about Milo of Croton.  Milo was the Arnold of Olympic wrestling.

Legend has it that Milo got crazy strong by carrying a newborn calf daily as the calf grew into a bull.  Then he would go do things like breaking a band around his head by inhaling causing his temple vein to swell.

Ya know, the usge.

HA!  And you though your last workout was tough – but did you carry a bull?

Milo used progressive overload to gain strength and huge muscles.

Now when you first started lifting weights, I bet you put on a shit ton of muscle and strength in the first year or so.  #3x10foLyfeYo

As you get more experience points in the gym, that muscle gain came to a screeching halt.  The reason – it’s hard to increase something by doing the same thing over and over.

It’s like trying to get across the room in a rocking chair.

There was no progressive overload.  Your body becomes efficient at lifting that weight and there is no reason for it to add more muscle. Remember that whole efficiency thing?

But you tried drop sets, cluster sets, “Running the Rack” and every other Bro-tastic technique you found in a magazine.  WTF gives?

Ya still using the same weight.

Enter Strength Training.

By throwing in periodic strength training allows you up the weight when you go back to your 3×10 and avoiding the dreaded plateau.  You’ll be able to use heavier weights to overload the muscle and gainz will appear.

Strength training for the win.

I’ll show you a few ways to incorporate more strength training in a minute.

WHO SHOULD LIFT HEAVY

If you breathe you should be strength training.

Since I know there are objections, lemme break it down.

Let’s start with the ladies.

Do you remember the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up lady?”.  I’m willing to bet her fall caused her to break her hip.

And that didn’t happen just because she’s old. It happened because of osteoporosis – brittle bones.

Worldwide,1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture.

Drink all the milk you want but your body needs a reason to keep the bones strong.  This is much like preserving muscle while trying to lose fat.  That doesn’t come from watching the Price is Right and playing Bingo, it comes from strength training.

Like building muscle, your bones need stimulation to keep from becoming weak. By doing a little strength training will help you from becoming walking Life Alert commercial waiting to happen.

Haven’t hit menopause yet?  Alright, let’s say you’re in your 30’s and osteoporosis means jack to you.  You just want that “toned” look.

I gotchu.

Strength training builds lean muscle.

Meet Nia Shanks…

lifting heavy weights

And Staci.

lifting heavy weights

Plus, it makes carrying groceries, babies and anything else you might carry that much easier.

Those damn kids get heavy quick.

Besides that, you’ll reap all the benefits like…

  • Building muscle easier
  • Easier fat loss
  • Harder punches when your husband does something stupid

For the dudes, this will be short and sweet.  Strength training…

  • Makes building muscle easier
  • Makes fat loss easier
  • Rekindles that badass feeling you’ve been missing since that one time you did that awesome thing (you know what I’m talking about *wink)

WHERE TO START

The easiest way to get into the Strength training game is the Stronglifts 5×5 method.  

It’s legit, simple and it works.  Hell, there’s even a Reddit thread dedicated to it if you have questions.

lifting heavy weights

How to Do it:

The program is broken up into two workouts (A and B).  Do three workouts a week and never workout two days in a row or do two workouts in one day.

Workout A is Squat, Bench Press, and Barbell Row

Workout B is Squat, Overhead Press and Deadlift

lifting heavy weights

Each workout up the weight by 5 pounds or 10 pounds for deadlifts.  Repeat for 12 weeks.

Easy peasy.

If you’re just starting out, I’d start with 5×5.

If you’ve used 5×5 for a while you’ll hit a point of diminishing returns. Like everything else, you’ll have to switch things up.

At this point you must ask yourself, how do I hit the upper levels of badassery in strength training?

For that, I give you 5/3/1 and the wave method.

NEXT LEVEL STRENGTH BADASSERY

Let’s start with my fav…5/3/1.

The creator of 5/3/1 squatted 1000 pounds.  Let that swirl around the ol’ noggin a bit.

Dude freakin’ squatted the equivalent of a vending machine (~600 pounds) and a sports bike (~400 pounds)… at the same time.

lifting heavy weights

His name, Jim Wendler.  His game, being ridonculously strong.

How to do it:

The 5/3/1 program is broken up into 4-week cycles with 4 workouts a week. Each workout is centered around one of the big lifts: bench, squat, standing shoulder press, and deadlift.

Each cycle will look like this:

Week 1: 3×5

Week 2: 3×3

Week 3: 3×5,3,1

Week 4: Deload

Using 90% of your 1RM as your starting point, the weight you’ll lift will look like this:

lifting heavy weights

Like 5×5, you start off slow but it escalates quickly.

lifting heavy weights

After each cycle add 5 pounds to upper body 1RM and 10 pounds to lower body 1RM.  Use those numbers for cycle 2.  Rinse and repeat.

5/3/1 shines in two areas for me.

  1. The deload weeks.  Most people don’t schedule in deload weeks to let your body rest.  They keep going until an injury slows them down.  While this might be OK if you’re lifting light weight, it won’t translate well to heavy weights.
  2. The +’s.  The plus signs tell you to add reps if you can.  These little “strength tests” will give you that good feeling that you hit a multi-rep PR.

The one deterrent I have with 5/3/1 is that you start off light. For people coming from a bodybuilding background, they might not have the patience to stick with the program long enough.

But that’s more of a reflection of their lack of patients than the program.

Wave Training

Wave training is the oft-forgotten training method for getting stronger.  But it works like gangbusters.

The method is broken up into 3 progressively heavier sets or “waves”.  Once you perform one wave, up the weight and go at it again.  Once you fail, workout done.

Your workout would be set up like this:

Wave 1:

Set 1: 3 reps @ 85% of your 1RM

Set 2: 2 Reps @ 88% of your 1RM

Set 3: 1 Rep @ 92% of your 1RM

Wave 2:

Set 4: 3 Reps @ 85% of your 1RM +20lbs

Set 5: 2 Reps @ 88% of your 1RM +20 lbs

Set 6: 1 Rep @ 92% of your 1RM +20 lbs

Wave 3:

Set 7: 3 Reps @ 85% of your 1RM +30lbs

Set 8: 2 Reps @ 88% of your 1RM +30 lbs

Set 9: 1 Rep @ 92% of your 1RM +30 lbs

Odds are you’ll fail in wave 2.  Elite lifters will fail in wave 3.  If you can complete 3 waves you started too light.

What I like is progression is built into the program.  No need to ask where do I go next.

What I don’t like:

This requires you to know your 1RM, which most people don’t know.

For a safe way to find your 1RM, Eric Bach did a great piece on it. He’s smart, and chicks throw mildly inappropriate comments at him on the social. #lifegoals

lifting heavy weights

MAKE YOURSELF HARDER TO KILL

Mark Rippetoe has a great quote about strong people…

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.

Face it, the Walking Dead is a prophecy of things to come.  Start strength training now to be Rick Grimes level badass.

And if the world doesn’t spiral into the shit storm they portray at least you’ll be strong and look great naked.  Not a bad consolation prize.

Dave

Tired of Not Seeing Results? Download my 5 Tips for Strength Training

* indicates required

Images: JimNiaStaci, Strong Lifts