LOAD UP, LEAN DOWN
Why heavy lifting is best when it comes to getting sickly shredded
There are certain gym mantras that have managed to withstand the test of time such as
"No pain, no gain"
"You have to squat big to get big."
You'll get no argument here. But the one bit of common gym "knowledge" that just doesn't hold true is that
"Heavy weight builds, light weight burns."
For some reason, it's been burned into our collective training psyche that light-weight, higher-rep training is the only way to get ultra lean. The rationale is not entirely flawed. More reps against resistance over a given workout or training cycle equates to more calories burned, which is certainly beneficial for someone on a calorie-restricted diet looking to get lean. But similar to the now Grand Canyon-like chasm separating steady state cardio from
high-intensity interval training (HIIT)
, the difference lies in what takes place after the gym - in what happens in your body long beyond that final, calorie-scorching rep.
Heavy is the new light
It's common knowledge that lifting progressively heavier weights is a reliable - and nearly foolproof - way to exact drastic, lasting changes to your overall body composition since building skeletal muscle forces your body to be a more efficient incinerator of calories. And while the occasional rollback in intensity (read: weight loads) can be productive and in fact desirable to stave off over-training, those looking to get lean would be well served to update their training curriculum.
More recent research from the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education (Oslo) found that lifting in the six-rep range - think six, grueling reps to near failure - boosted resting metabolic rate higher and for longer after the workout than 12-rep sets. That means that you are still melting fat while you're catching up on your DVR'd episodes of Dexter. This is likely due to the type (fast-twitch) and amount of muscle fibers that are called into action with heavier loads but as with HIIT, it is the intensity of the work that causes the most change in your body chemistry.
HIIT, which involves alternating short-burst sprints and active bouts of recovery, works by immediately spiking your total work at a higher intensity. Instead of "jogging" at a moderate, steady pace for 20 minutes, you are sprinting at 90-95% of your potential for, say 5 minutes and "jogging" for 15. Your body is sending a message, loud and clear: Higher intensity produces greater change. So it is in your best interests to keep your weight loads high if you're looking to get lean. You'll continue to gain strength and size while simultaneously augmenting your resting metabolism, which is key for burning through stubborn fat stores.
Lift Heavy-Get Lean Approach
. Those you linger in weight rooms or visit this site likely have two common goals: getting bigger and getting leaner. The typical recommendation for gaining size is training hard in the 6-12 rep range. By staying at the lower end of that range (i.e. no more than 8 reps), you will transform your body into a lean, mean metabolic furnace.
To speed up your heavy training/fat-fighting efforts, include 2-3, 15-20-minute HIIT cardio workouts per week. After a two-minute warm-up, alternate 15-second sprints with 45-second slow jogs for 10-15 minutes. Finish with a two-minute cool down. For an even greater advantage, perform these workouts following your regular weight training or first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or after taking 5-10 grams of BCAA, which will help to spare muscle.
Another way to boost intra-workout calorie burn is simply to reduce rest periods. Researchers from the College of New Jersey reported that when men bench pressed with just 30 seconds of rest between sets they burned over 50% more calories during the workout than when they rested three minutes.