When most people enter the fitness space they usually gravitate towards running or some form of aerobic cardio because it doesn’t require any onboarding to learn, and people are taught it is the most calorie burning choice. I’ve done a separate article on if lifting heavy is better for weight loss than cardio.
While it may be those things, we are forgetting the big picture as to why individuals should prioritize heavy lifting instead. It’s easy to default to the thinking that it’s just for meatheads who want to put on muscle. The truth is there is so much more to heavy lifting than just that.
Better Functioning Brain
Exercise of all forms helps increase BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor). That is Miracle-Gro for the brain which helps your cognitive abilities. Heavy lifting will also help your proprioception; that is having the awareness of your body within a given space. When we focus on lifts like squats and deadlifts, we are training our mind and central nervous system to get better at a skill. We are also teaching our nervous system how to properly handle heavier and heavier loads under stress. This translates well to when we get older. As we age we are more vulnerable to breaking out bones due to the fragility if we aren’t putting our body under this stress and keeping our central nervous system tuned in. By focusing on heavy lifting, you are strengthening your bones and CNS, which allows you to better absorb the impact of injury, or avoid the injury altogether.
Effects on Libido
There isn’t a single better thing a man or woman can do naturally that will have as pronounced of an effect on their hormones than lifting weights. This isn’t just a boost in testosterone. This is a direct increase on your energy throughout the day, your feel good hormones like serotonin and dopamine allowing you to have that sustained energy later in the day. Studies show men can get a 15-25% increase in their testosterone just from lifting weights. And unlike herbal supplements, these levels stay once you’ve been lifting consistently and adding strength. Supplements disappear once you stop taking them. For women it balances out their progesterone and estrogen levels.
They are finding out in studies now that exercise is as effective for helping with depression as taking certain medications. It increases the feel good hormones mentioned above, but it also keeps them sustained and gives you a higher baseline. I know for me, not often, but every now and then I’ll get super stressed in life, and have strong anxiety attack moments where I can’t seem to shake it or focus on anything else. The only thing I’ve found that has helped was going to the gym. I don’t know if it is the exercises specifically, or the fact that it allows me to have no choice but focus on something totally different. Regardless, when I finish my session, and head back home, it’s like I got a new outlook on the day.
Ability to Fight Illness
Having muscle is one of the best insurance policies you can have on your immune system. When we think of illnesses like diabetes, we have to understand having muscle makes our bodies way more insulin sensitive and able to handle carbohydrates and sugars. It also gives you more flexibility in your diet. During the holiday’s my family members always like to comment how lucky I am to be able to “eat anything I want”. I am able to do so because I laid the foundation for it. Having more muscle means you burn more calories at rest. If there is one problem we have in America right now, it’s that we over consume all our food. Focus on building a body that allows you to not only get away with higher calorie days, but the simple habit of exercising will make you want to make healthier eating choices overall.
Empowers Your Confidence
Nothing has given me more confidence in my life than having a body that has the strength to move heavy things. By that I mean, outside of the gym. I hated being the kid that couldn’t help move heavy things around the house. I hated not having control over my schedule, or the ability to stick with things. Building and following a proper strength routine has all the ingredients of what makes you successful in life. By following a strength routine you learn that it takes hard work, there will be setbacks along the way, and consistency is the most important thing. It is very rewarding when you see yourself physically doing more than you ever thought you could and succeeding.