If you’ve heard any of my podcasts or read any of my articles regarding my exercise preferences, you’ll know that I always recommend lifting heavy stuff. Heavy, of course, is a relative thing. For some people, 45 pounds is a heavy bench press. For others, 315 pounds is a heavy bench press.
Some people get hung up on the specifics, but the reality is that the weight of the lift only matters to the lifter. If you’re lifting a certain weight, and it’s heavy to you, then you’re lifting heavy. It doesn’t matter if someone else would or would not be able to lift it.
But I digress.
Lifting heavy is beneficial for practically everyone, regardless of your age or physical size. These are five reasons why lifting heavy is so helpful:
- Lifting heavy builds muscle
- Lifting heavy reduces insulin resistance
- Lifting heavy improves cardiovascular health
- Lifting heavy creates the biggest physique improvment (when you combine it with keto)
Duh. Of course lifting heavy builds muscles (more on this in a moment). The whole point of lifting heavy stuff is so that the heavy stuff gets easier to lift, and you can lift heavier stuff. And so forth. And building muscle is not the same thing as getting huge (I’m talking to you, ladies). Building muscle is important for all sorts of reasons, and you can build muscle without looking like a “freak.”
Insulin resistance is a situation where your body doesn’t respond well to regular levels of insulin. Since your cells have, basically, built up a tolerance to insulin, your body requires more and more insulin just to do the regular work. More and more insulin means more and more fat storage, and less and less muscle mass.
Lifting heavy reverses insulin resistance, and allows your body to use less and less insulin. Which means, over time, your body will store less fat.
Stay with me on this one. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you were so “out of shape” that walking up a flight of stairs, for example, made your heart race like it was going to burst out of your chest, your lack of muscular strength made it difficult for your heart. Your brain is a complex system of feedback and decision making. It’s primary job is to keep you alive and safe. When it gets feedback from your muscles that they are struggling (because of the stairs), your brain tells your heart to start pumping like crazy so it can keep flooding your struggling muscles with oxygen…so they don’t collapse. The influx of oxygen rich blood into your muscles helps keep them functioning.
Now, notice that the key to this process is the initial feedback from your muscles to your brain. This is where lifting heavy comes in. If you can strengthen your muscles enough, they won’t signal to your brain that they are struggling. Therefore, the stronger your muscles, the easier it is on your heart, because stronger muscles function with better efficiency.
According to Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek’s book The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance, studies show that the most dramatic improvement in physique is achieved when combining heavy lifting with keto.
Now this wouldn’t possible if the calorie hypothesis were true. Based upon the calorie hypothesis, the only way to gain muscle mass is to have a caloric surplus (and lift weights). The only way to lose fat is to have a caloric deficit. So you cannot both gain muscle and lose body fat, if the calorie hypothesis is true. It’s a logical and mathematical impossibility. You cannot have a surplus and deficit at the same time.
But check this out. That is a link to a study done in 2014 (with Jeff Volek and Dominic D’Agostino on the team of researchers) that investigated the effects of a ketogenic diet on subjects who lift heavy stuff.
What is the conclusion of the study? Keto lifters gained twice as much muscle mass, gained twice as much muscle size, and, at the same time, lost 30% MORE body fat than non-keto lifters.
This is powerful evidence that keto spares muscle at the same time that it burns body fat.
So the bottom line is that keto preserves your muscles so you can get stronger and thinner. And awesomer. So if you don’t already…start lifting heavy.