Ask the Professional: Why You Should be Lifting Weights


by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT

Whether people are intimidated of weight lifting, unsure of what to do, or worried that it might make their muscles too bulky, there are plenty of obstacles to beginning a strength training regimen. But the fact of the matter is that incorporating weights into your exercise routine is a must. If you are just coming in and jumping on a cardio machine each time you enter the gym, you could be losing out on some major health benefits. Don't get me wrong, you may be doing some great things for your heart health and cardiovascular endurance, but that's just one element of health and fitness.

A couple of objections to lifting weights that are extremely common are being intimidated by the idea of weight lifting or just simply not knowing what to do or how to start. In each case, one thing that will definitely work to your benefit is consulting a professional. They will not only be able to guide you and teach you all of the ins and outs, but they can also ease you into it and get you comfortable with weights before throwing a full-fledged weight training program at you. As far as being intimidated, you could begin your weight lifting journey at home. Purchasing some light weights to use at home allows you to learn how to use the equipment in the comfort of your own home before picking them up in a crowded gym. Something else you can try is to figure out the times when your gym is less crowded. Overcoming intimidation is all about finding a level of comfortability!

In regards to not knowing what to do or where to start, it is going to come down to getting yourself educated. Whether it’s consulting a professional or using reliable resources to learn different movements, you need to do some research before you begin to lift the heavy weights. Have a plan and make sure your form is correct especially before you start adding weight to the movements.

The objection that is a little more difficult to overcome is when people shy away from lifting weights because of a preconceived notion that they will become “too big” or “too bulky.” While this objection tends to occur more so among the female population, there are plenty of males out there that echo the same objection. Regardless of gender, I always start by telling them that they should be proud of their fitness and the body they've worked for.  Beyond that, lifting weights alone WILL NOT all of the sudden cause your muscles to bulk up; scientifically speaking, it is just not possible. While nobody, male or female, is going to “bulk up” from a few weight training sessions per week, it is particularly difficult for females due to the fact that they have a significantly smaller amount of testosterone, which is one of the most important hormones for stimulating muscle growth. Among the male population, I think this fear is shared by runners, cyclists, or triathletes more than anything, as they are worried it will have a negative effect on their endurance, performance or efficiency. In reality, incorporating weight training can have significant positive effects on your efficiency, recovery, and longevity in any given sport. The bottom line is that when you see people that you think are too big or bulky, they didn’t get that way by accident. They went into the gym with that as their goal, and put in a lot of time and volume to get to that point. 

What are some other benefits that you are missing by not incorporating weight training? One benefit to weight training is increased muscle mass (not automatically meaning you will get more bulky), increasing your metabolism and the amount of calories you burn throughout the day. This also has a significant impact on helping you lose weight and can lead to longer term benefits such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Increased muscle mass can also help slow a lot of the natural physical effects of aging particularly atrophy and a decrease in bone density. One thing people tend to fear about their elderly loved ones is falling. If an adequate strength training program is maintained throughout the aging process, the risk of falling dramatically decreases. Strength, balance, and posture are all improved relative to those not on a strength training program and the better bone density will make it easier to get back up and recover if a fall were to happen. Weight training will also increase joint health, when done properly of course, and overall improve your functional quality in day to day activities. Regardless of your situation, you should absolutely incorporate weight training into your exercise program. You may have objections or excuses but at the end of the day, you could be missing out on a key component of your health and fitness by avoiding it. Talk to a professional if you have concerns or are looking for a place to start. Whatever your health and fitness goals are, strength training will play a part.