The Benefits of Slowing Down and Getting Heavy in Strength Training by Duncan McNeill
When it comes to working out, there’s a common misconception that more is always better. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. While getting in a higher volume of movement has its merits, there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that using heavier weights with lower volume can provide substantial benefits for building muscle, strength, and overall fitness. Let’s explore why opting for heavier weights can often be a superior workout strategy compared to higher volume strength training.
1. Greater Muscle Stimulation: Using heavier weights places a greater load on your muscles, leading to higher levels of muscle tension. This increased tension triggers greater muscle fibre recruitment and activation, which is crucial for muscle growth and strength gains. Heavier weights in fewer total repetitions can achieve a similar or even more effective level of muscle stimulation.
2. More Calories Burnt: Muscle is a highly metabolic tissue, meaning it demands nutrients and oxygen. This demand means with more muscle our body will naturally have a higher Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and require more calories to maintain itself at rest. Also, workouts that have a higher overall intensity, which is typically governed by weight and speed, tax the muscles which create a phenomenon known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). All this means is the body will keep working in an elevated state hours or even days after your activity to refuel muscles, which again results in more calorie expenditure.
3. Joint Health and Injury Prevention: Heavier weights often require a higher level of concentration and control during exercises. This increased focus on proper form can lead to better joint alignment and reduced risk of injury. Just make sure that you give yourself the rest time needed to keep moving well! Additionally, lifting heavier weights improves bone density and strengthens connective tissues, providing additional protection against injuries and conditions like osteoporosis.
4. Hormonal Response: Engaging in heavier strength training triggers a significant hormonal response. This includes the release of testosterone and growth hormone, both of which play vital roles in our bodies (in women too!) This hormonal cascade contributes to building lean muscle mass and enhancing overall metabolic function as well as maintaining and repairing reproductive tissue, regulating behaviour and positively influencing your sex drive!
5. Plateau Breaking: If you’ve hit a plateau in your strength gains, switching to a heavier weights approach can be a game-changer. Your muscles may have adapted to the volume-focused routine, and challenging them with heavier weights can reignite progress and push you beyond your previous limitations.
Finding your ideal balance between using heavier weights and higher volume training depends on your fitness goals, preferences, and current fitness level. Integrating periods of both lower-volume, higher-weight training and higher volume training can lead to a well-rounded and effective approach. If you are always focused on constantly moving and always sticking to the same weights, maybe it is time to try out something a little heavier!