Strength training and weight lifting can often be misunderstood as a means of “bulking up” and for weight loss, it is often neglected in favour of cardio exercises. However, there are a number of benefits to strength training including increased flexibility and resistance building.

In this week’s blog post we spoke to strength training expert John Lane (Strong In Body, Dublin) to answer some of your more commonly asked questions in relation to weights and strength training:

Weight Lifting FAQs

1) Does Lifting Weights Make You Bulky?

Contrary to common perception lifting weights does not develop bulky muscle bound bodies. Often the perception of “weightlifting” is aligned with the mutated and drug swollen bodies of bodybuilders that occupy the very extremities of weightlifting.

The truth is; outside of the sheer volume of work and food that is required to build substantial muscle mass (it takes years) these outliers are not representative of the health benefits of lifting weights.

2) Does Muscle Turn To Fat When You Stop Lifting?

No! A muscle cannot turn to fat, period! Muscle and fat are two entirely different tissues and are not interchangeable! Fat is composed of adipose tissue whereas muscle is composed of proteins.

Despite what it may look like on the outside, fat is burned off as muscle builds in the body. If you stop lifting weights, you can still burn off fat by diet and exercise.

3) Does Lifting Heavy With Low Reps (Repetitions) Build Muscle?

Strength training in the true sense of the word has positive implications not just for systemic strength of the body but also for muscular size. There are two main types of muscle involved in strength training.

Using low reps and heavy weights develops the higher-threshold motor units (Type IIB fibres). These are muscles that are known to tire easily and can mostly be found in the arms.

Using higher repetitions and lighter weights, primarily develops the lower-threshold motor units (Type IIA fibres). Therefore, training both types of fibres: Type IIA and Type IIB is optimal as per many strength training programs that have heavy primary lifts followed by lighter, higher rep supplementary exercises.

4) Are Machines Safer/Better Than Free Weights For “Toning-Up”?

When training with weights, it is imperative to utilise training economy – “getting the best bang for your buck” as it were! While machines have certain advantages over free weights (barbells & dumbbells), such as when you want to isolate specific, typically minor muscles or rehabilitate an injury; without a doubt the best exercises for maximizing work are: free weight Barbell Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press and Overhead Press.

For beginners, strength training exercises should start off slow. Don’t expect to be able to do it all overnight. Strength training is not a race—you should aim to take it slow and build momentum.

5) Does Strength Training Have Anything To Do With Cardio?

For decades “cardio” has been synonymous with the treadmill, the cross trainer and many other steady state aerobic exercise machines. However, despite what many proponents of aerobics claim, weight training is highly effective at garnering cardiovascular (heart) health.

Cardio in the true sense of the word relates to the heart. Free weight training/strength training is highly beneficial for heart health according to the American Heart Association.

6) But I Thought Aerobic Training Was For Fat Loss And Weights Are Only For The Guys Getting Big?

To the contrary, weight training produces significant lactic acid accumulation in the muscles, this in turn creates a surge in the growth hormone. Additionally a heavy lifting session has an enormous calorie burn due in large part to EPOC (post training energy demands for recovery). Along with this it gives the metabolism a significant longer term boost.

Additionally, weight training is by far the superior method of increasing muscle mass, thereby elevating the ongoing metabolic rate (BMR), which in turn increases the number of calories you burn at rest and during exercise.

Lifting Weights Is Good For Weight Loss

Bottom line; in any situation where weight loss is required a combination of good nutritional protocols, several free weights sessions per week and some light aerobic exercise is optimal. And everything is optimal over inactivity!

If you have any questions about incorporating weight lifting/strength training into your weight loss programme, contact your weight loss adviser or to book an assessment consultation, find your local clinic contact here.

Blog Post by Claire Jackson