Fear of the heavy

Heavy weights, that is. In my experience, the main concern that my female clients have is about using weights. Some of that is fear about poor form and causing injuries, which is valid and can be addressed with training. But a lot of it is fear of growing muscles themselves, of getting bigger. I see quite a few individuals who would rather fight constantly to participate in activities they don’t enjoy (medium-to-high-intensity cardio) than pick up a weight heavier than 5-10 pounds.

And what’s the end result? Over time, the arms and legs get a little bit leaner and more conditioned, but the entire center of the body from the shoulders down through the butt is slowly losing control of itself. I’m not concerned about what this looks like: ‘looking like” is a personal issue, and not something for me, or society, to determine. It’s the stiffness, lack of control, weakness, balance issues, low back pain, and a host of other issues that come from trying to control the majority of your weight using 4 sticks (your arms and legs) – that’s the part where I want to do whatever I can to emphasize that our bodies need to handle more weight than what our arms and legs can handle alone. No, let me amend that. Our bodies need to handle more weight that we think our arms and legs can handle, for a number of reasons.

We’re built the way we are because of evolution. We evolved from countless generations of creatures whose nervous system was set up along the center line of the body, aided in staying upright with a spine, and anchored/armored top and bottom by a protective ribcage and pelvis. From your spine all the way out to your hips and shoulders, you have the ability to make very powerful movements – run, jump, swim, kick, climb. It’s no mistake that you have ball and socket joints at your shoulders and hips – there’s a world of movement potential out there, for you, and those ball and socket joints allow you to move your arms and legs in a lot more directions than you might be using lately.

However, if you only move small weights with your arms, you simply don’t give your body enough challenge for movement…until it’s a challenge you weren’t expecting, like a fall, or a heavier grocery bag, or changing your tire, etc. And if you mostly employ your legs for sitting in a chair, some walking, some stairs, and some standing, you’re slowly losing control of sideways movements that can be the difference between a foot sliding vs. slipping/falling.
That’s not an inevitable part of aging – ‘use it or lose it’ is an aspect of evolution, of survival mechanisms. Your body doesn’t maintain what you don’t use. When that happens, it’s time to step things up, not give up!

Picking up heavier weights doesn’t have to be a dramatic life-change (but it can be!) – nobody needs to rush out and become an Olympic lifter. You don’t have to buy a weight belt. You certainly don’t need to become a master of the deadlift or kettlebell swing. (And if you’re holding back because you think you’re going to bulk up, relax. Getting bulky from lifting weights actually takes a lot of hard work and nutritional supplementation.) All you really need is an open mind and a willingness to embrace change, and your body will reap a ton of benefits. Your brain will also benefit from lifting weights – any kind of physical learning does wonders for keeping your brain engaged and active.

If you’re the kind of person who needs a list of potential benefits to convince them that lifting weights is worth it, the next post is going to provide just that: every fact-based argument I can make for why lifting weights is awesome for you, no matter what age you are. So, stay tuned for next time and thanks for reading!