As a personal trainer, one question I get on a regular basis is: Do I need to lose weight before I start weight lifting? , which is actually a stellar question to ask! Why? Because you want to lift weights. Because you know lifting weights is going to benefit you to some extent.
That right there, is what I like to see when I get new clients. Don’t shy away from those weights (here’s looking at you, ladies)!
Now, when you’re new to working out, everything can be super overwhelming. It’s hard enough making it to the gym on a regular basis, let alone knowing the in’s and out’s, tips and tricks that will get you to where you’re wanting to go, so I’ve got you.
Okay But Really, Do I Need to Lose Weight Before I Start Weight Lifting?
The answer to your question is a resounding NO. Do NOT wait until you lose weight to lift heavy weights, or even to just add in some weight lifting. Lifting heavy especially is actually going to help you lose weight. Combine weight lifting with cardio and you are golden.
For some reason, women especially, get it in our heads that lifting heavy is going to bulk us up like the lady version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I can assure you, it will not.
I’m gonna be real with you, I used to think the same exact thing. I used to be a long distance runner and barely lifted weights. I thought cardio was the only way to get down to the size I wanted to be at, and so I did hours at a time. 6-7 miles on the daily. I am here to tell you, I have never been more fit in my life, than when I started lifting heavy weights.
When I focused my mindset to actually wanting to get stronger and push my personal bests, that’s when the weight started just melting off my body. I barely did any cardio. Honest. Ya girl wouldn’t lie to you.
Why Weight Lifting is Better Than Just Cardio
Funny story for you. After not doing the long distance running for a while and having shifted into lifting heavy weights, I agreed to do a half marathon with one of my sisters and didn’t train for it at all. We would talk every day and she would consistently ask how my training was coming along (we were doing the same half marathon training program. Well, we were supposed to be doing it together). I would always just say that it was coming right along….never told her one time I wasn’t training because I liked lifting heavy a lot better. That was my zen.
The day of the race came, and it wasn’t until mile 12 where I just hit a wall. But up until that point, I was freaking killing it. I felt so much more in shape than I had while I was in the long distance running mentality.
Since I was accustomed to pushing myself to my absolute limits by pushing those 1RM
one rep max where you see how much you can lift for just one time. This is how you determine if you’re getting stronger or not, and how much you’re progressing. I don’t recommend doing this often, because it really takes a toll on your body,
I think my mind was just programmed to be like “okay, this hurts, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. We’ve done it before, we’re gonna do it again. Suck it up, you weenie” (my internal voice is the nicest person around, can you tell? lol)
What Exactly Classifies as “Heavy Lifting”
If you’re reading this and have no idea what heavy lifting even is, don’t even sweat it (eh, eh, see what I did there??). My definition (which may be different than other people), is where you do Olympic style lifts.
What the heck are those? Workouts like squats, deadlifts, snatches (advanced lift), overhead press, etc. If you know anything about CrossFit, their classes consist of a lot of Olympic lifts. It’s movements that use more than one muscle (compound movements) and utilize free weights like barbells.
Now that we’ve got that taken care of, what classifies “heavy weight lifting”, is when you either try to get your 1RM (see definition above), or you’re lifting at a very heavy weight, for you. You’re heavy is going to be different than what other people consider heavy. And we’re not talking about 5lbs here. Come on. You’re better than that, I promise.
Not sure how many sets or reps to do? Keep reading, friend! I got you covered!
How to Incorporate Weight Lifting/Heavy Lifting into Gym Program
So you’re scared of the free weights. Totally understandable. Machines are easier to know how to use, and normally aren’t crowded with the bro’s that can make anyone feel out of place (just a tip, make them realize you belong to be there. Do you, you got this).
Here’s how I like to incorporate heavy lifting into workouts routines.
Step 1: Schedule out your days. i.e., leg & core day, push (chest, shoulders and triceps), pull (back & biceps), full body
Step 2: Do dynamic warm-ups for the muscle that you’re going to be focusing on. So, like, a rower machine, dynamic stretches (lunges, bear crawls, etc). Pretty much anything to get your muscles warmed up
Step 3: Olympic lifts/compound/heavy lifting
Step 4: Isolation movements with lighter weights
Step 5: Finish it off with cardio
How Many Sets and Reps to Do For Optimal Success
Me helping you with a workout plan is all good and dandy but not knowing how many sets and reps to do still won’t get you where you want; so here’s how I like to plan when I use the program set up above:
Heavy Lifting: 4×4 or 5×5 (4 sets of 4 reps/5 sets of 5 reps) Isolation Exercises: 3×10-15 (3 sets of 10-15 reps) Cardio: HIIT (high intensity interval training) for 10-15 minutes OR steady state (same pace) cardio for 10-15 minutes
Now, why the breakdown like that? Heavy lifting helps with what’s called progressive overload. It’s fancy wording meaning you’re putting your body under stress and gradually increase that stress (with increased weight or increased sets) to get stronger.
Now, you’ll want to start out with this, so that your body isn’t burned out already by doing isolation exercises that don’t benefit you as much as compound, heavy lifts do.
Isolation exercises target one specific muscle–think bicep curls, or the leg extension machine. You supplement your workout with these guys because your workout would still be super effective if you only did compound movements.
Cardio is last! You read that right! Warming up first is crucial, but that’s only going to be about 5 minutes long. Save your energy for lifting weights so that you don’t slack off.
Okay, how are you feeling? Do you feel like you can conquer the gym?!! I hope so, but if not, check out the FREE fitness e-book I have for you, it helps you plan workouts even more!
One last Pro Tip here for you while doing any sort of weight lifting workout: Ensure you’re doing the form correctly EVERY TIME, and then increase weight when it gets too easy. Do NOT start heavy right off the bat. That’s how injuries happen.
Last thing, I promise. Hit me with a comment below to let me know if you’re new to weight lifting!!