Maybe you’ve watched weightlifting competitions on television or caught a few images of bodybuilding champs online. Those guys and girls are jacked! Even their muscles have muscles. Is that what you’ll look like if you start weightlifting? How often should you lift weights, and does lifting weights stunt your growth?
Most new exercisers have a lot of questions about weightlifting. Sadly, a good portion of exercisers believe in negative myths about weightlifting and resist the idea of ever picking up a barbell, dumbbell, or other free weight. This is a big mistake because weightlifting is one of the most beneficial forms of exercise you can do. Weightlifting (and strength-training in general), is an excellent way to build muscle, lose weight, increase your balance and coordination, and improve your overall functionality. Let’s look at some of these damaging weightlifting workout myths and learn some important weightlifting facts.
Myth 1 – Weightlifting Will Cause Me to Bulk Up
Probably the biggest weightlifting myth that scares away exercisers (especially female exercisers) is the notion that strength training will cause you to look like a muscled hulk flexing on stage at a bodybuilding competition. While weightlifting will make your body look tighter and more defined, it won’t cause you to explode with muscle suddenly. This is especially true for women, who do not have the high levels of testosterone needed to promote heavy muscle growth.
Those who really want to bulk up and get in bodybuilder shape need to commit to an aggressive and time-intensive weightlifting routine that involves lifting extremely heavy weights, eating a high-protein/low-carb diet, and relying on a big assortment of supplements. For everyone else, weightlifting a few times a week at heavy or moderate weights will result in a strong, well-defined physique. (Learn the five things you need to know to gain lean muscle.)
Fact 2 – You Can Work Out More Than One Muscle Group Each Day
One of the first things that people assume when it comes to working out is that you can only work one muscle group at a time. You will hear bodybuilders talk about “leg day” or “arm day.” Bodybuilders may spend multiple hours working through one set of muscles, but that’s not your focus or your goal.
If you are weightlifting to improve your physique, you will do better to perform strength-training as a circuit, which will allow you to burn more calories and hit more muscle groups during your workout. This will burn a ton of calories and increase recovery times. Just make sure you give yourself time to recover between weightlifting workouts!
Myth 3 – You Can Weightlift Every Day
Many newbies to the weightlifting world wonder how often you should lift weights. That answer will vary depending on your goals and schedule. Ideally, you don’t want to work the same muscle or muscle group more than three times a week. Each time you lift weights, you create microtears in your muscle fibers. This sounds bad, but it isn’t. As you eat, sleep, and recover, your body will repair the damage from your weightlifting sessions, which is how your muscles get bigger and stronger.
In essence, the real improvements to your body happen when you’re not at the gym, which is why getting enough rest and eating a nutritious diet are so important. (Take a look at this infographic on the essential foods you should always stock in your kitchen.) It is possible to weight lift every day as long as you don’t hit the same muscle groups each time. However, we encourage you to take rest days and to add cardio and bodyweight workouts into your exercise routine to diversify your training.
Fact 4 – Weightlifting Can Help You Lose Weight
Again, the idea that weightlifting makes you “bulky” often leads exercisers to assume that weightlifting will make you gain weight. The truth is that weightlifting is one of the best ways to transform your body (though the majority of weight loss comes from dialing in your nutrition). Since muscle weighs more than fat, you may notice the numbers on the scale going up after you start a weightlifting routine. Don’t let this scare you away from the barbell.
Can you lose weight by lifting weight? The answer, for some, is yes. VeryWellFit reports on research that shows a pound of muscle burns roughly three times the amount of calories each day. That means the more muscle you put onto your body, the more calories you’ll burn throughout the day, even when you aren’t at the gym. Additionally, adding muscle transforms the way your body looks. Even if the numbers on the scale don’t budge, you may notice that your clothes fit differently, and your body looks different in the mirror.
While weightlifting can help you lose weight, the biggest benefit of strength training is the way you look and feel.
Myth 5 – Weightlifting Stunts Your Growth
Does lifting weights stunt your growth? Or does weightlifting make you shorter? This is an understandable concern for new exercisers, and there’s a certain intuitive reason for the fear. The feeling of hefting a heavy barbell onto your shoulders may make you feel like you’re sinking into the ground. Fortunately, no studies have ever shown any indication that weightlifting stunts growth or makes a lifter shorter, according to Healthline.
Parents, in particular, may worry about introducing weightlifting to their young children or teens who are still growing and developing. This concern is understandable but is not supported by any scientific research. Actually, studies have shown that resistance training offers numerous benefits to children.
Children or teens should be encouraged to incorporate moderate resistance training into their routine. We recommend that parents focus on helping their children learn proper technique. Take it slow and encourage children to perform a higher volume of reps at a light or moderate weight rather than trying to lift heavy.
Fact 6 – Weightlifting Promotes Joint Health
When you lift weights, you are strengthening all of your muscles. This includes the muscles around your joints, helping you protect them instead of damaging them. Unfortunately, many people who have bad knees or who suffer from back pain are afraid they will do more damage if they lift weights. You will want to talk to a personal trainer who can help you find exercises and weight limits so you can build up the muscles around the joints. In addition to strengthened joints, you should notice that weightlifting helps you increase your flexibility and coordination. Learn more about how to find the right weights to lift safely.
Fact 7 – Free Weights are More Effective than Machines
If you are looking to work a particular muscle, then you will find the resistance machines at your gym are great at targeting individual muscles. However, if you want to improve your overall strength, body awareness, and range of motion, then weightlifting is the better choice. When you lift free weights, you move through a greater range of motion than if you were sitting in a machine. This extra movement activates muscles throughout your body, including stabilizer muscles that help you maintain your balance and coordination. As a result, weightlifting increases your body awareness and helps you move better through space. Compound movements, like squats and deadlifts, target a wide range of muscles throughout your body, giving you a much bigger bang for every completed rep. Speaking of which, here’s everything you need to know about how to master the squat.
Understanding Weightlifting Facts
Don’t let misinformation or fear stop you from adding weightlifting and strength training into your fitness routine. Weightlifting is something almost every exerciser should include in their weekly workouts. If you still feel uncertain about starting weightlifting on your own, you can always begin by using resistance machines in the gym. It’s also a good idea to focus on perfecting your form and starting with light weights before gradually building up to heavier weights. Finally, a great option is to work with a certified personal trainer. A knowledgeable trainer will teach you different weightlifting movements, ensure that you lift safety, and program weightlifting workouts for you based on your goals and current ability.
Now that you know the real weightlifting facts, grab a pair of dumbbells and start lifting at a gym near you.
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