With the simultaneous rise of Crossfit and Instagram, images of impossibly slim-waisted women lifting impossibly heavy weights have become ubiquitous.
Does weightlifting lead to weight loss?
Not exactly. It leads to something better: a healthier and more attractive figure. In this post you’ll learn about the three most effective weightlifting techniques and why you should do them.
Weightlifting may not make you lighter, but it can make you more attractive.
When it comes to physical attraction, proportions matter more than weight. That’s what makes weightlifting so effective. When you build muscle throughout your body, you see these changes:
- improved hip-to-weight ratio
- lifting of the butt
- lifting the chest
- improved posture
Because muscle weighs more than fat, and because fat takes a time to disappear, your weight may not initially change much when you start lifting. But if you look and feel awesome, who cares?
We’ve written about this before here. We should worry less about weight and more about our proportions:
While 20-minute, high-intensity bodyweight workouts are best in the long run, weightlifting has undeniable benefits.
20 minutes a day using Power 20 apps is all people need to get in shape and stay there (along with the right diet, managing stress, etc).
But in terms of dramatic, fast changes, weightlifting can be even more effective in the short run. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. In the long run, 20 minute HIIT workouts like Power 20 are superior because they are less injury inducing and more convenient.
Weightlifting is more convenient than cardio and fitness classes.
You can lift weights in jeans. You really don’t need specialized clothes to go lifting, and because weightlifting sessions tend to be quicker than cardio sessions, you probably don’t need to change or shower afterwards.
Of course the hardest part is getting to the gym. While we can’t help get you there, we can help you minimize your time spent there. After all, we should be exercising to live, not the other way around.
Increasing muscles can help decrease fat. Here’s how it works.
There are two ways muscles can help decrease fat: by boosting the metabolism and by improving insulin sensitivity.
When you lift heavy weights, you cause minor muscle trauma by way of millions of little tears. Immediately after finishing a weight training session, your body goes into repair mode. Repairing torn muscle tissue requires energy, and that energy may be taken partially from fat.
Building muscle also improves insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the hormone that shuttles energy in the form of sugar into our brain, muscles and organs.
But when we eat too much sugar, our muscles are the first to become “insulin resistant;” the insulin receptors stop working. The pancreas works overtime to produce more insulin, and we can eventually burn out our ability to produce insulin. This is diabetes.
On the road to diabetes (which 50% of American adults are currently on) we usually get fat. We get fat because our insulin isn’t working right, so sugar gets stored as fat instead of being used by muscles.
Building muscles can partially slow this process by increasing muscle sensitivity it insulin.
No, you won’t get too bulky .
Most women can life weights without bulking up. Their testosterone levels are different from mens’, making adding lots of muscle mass nearly impossible. What does happen is their legs look great, their butts get a lift, they look great in tank tops, and their waist shrinks.
Before we get into the actual mechanics of weightlifting, check out the benefits of weightlifting as summarized in this infographic from HealthCentral:
Ok, so now that you’re convinced, here’s what to do.
Start With Deadlifts.
All of these movements require careful attention to detail, but perhaps none more so than the deadlift. Do these when you’re not fatigued so you can adhere to good form; no cardio or other weights beforehand.
Do five repetitions in each set. Do three sets. Start light and perfect your form.
What does good deadlift form look like? Your feet should be spaced hip-width apart with your grip just outside your legs. Your back should be flat—neutral spine—from start to finish. The bar should remain in contact with your legs for the entire range of motion. Your hips and knees should move in concert to transfer the bar from the ground to an upper-thigh, locked position.3
If you can’t maintain a flat back when setting up to deadlift from the floor, don’t deadlift from the floor! There’s no rule that says you have to. Elevate the bar on squat-rack pins or jerk boxes to a position in which you can flatten your spine. This wonderful deadlift variation is called a “rack pull,” and it’s especially good for those with mobility issues that limit their deadlifting range of motion.
Since many beginners have mobility issues, I recommend you start your deadlifting career with the rack pull and gradually progress to the full-range pull.
Move on to the Bench Press.
Here are expert instructions from Bodybuilding.com:
STEP ONE HANDSPACING
The perfect bench press rep starts without any weight on the bar. Why no weight? The first thing you need to do is determine your proper hand spacing on the bar.
Lie down on the bench and unrack the bar as you normally would. Lower the bar to your chest and have a partner take note of the orientation of your forearms. For optimal power, your forearms should be as close to vertical at the bottom of the rep as possible. Adjust your grip accordingly and take note of where your hands are in relation to the smooth rings on the Olympic bar.
STEP TWO LOCKING DOWN
Now that you have your grip properly positioned, put some weight on the bar. Lay back on the bench and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Your knees should bent at about an 80 degree angle. DO NOT place your feet up on the bench. You will lose stability and potential power by doing this. Place your hands on the bar in the grip width that you determined previously.
A technique that I like to use to lock my shoulders into the position for maximum strength and stability is as follows:
- Instead of placing your palms on the bottom of the bar, place them on the back of the bar.
- Now, without removing your grip, rotate the bar down so that your palms are now directly under the bar. This has the effect of placing your shoulders into their most stable and strong position. It will almost feel as though you are “locking down” your shoulders.
- As you are rotating the bar and locking down your shoulders, lift your torso slightly off the bench and force your shoulder blades together tightly underneath your torso. This will force your shoulders back and puff your chest out, placing the pectorals in a position where they have a more effective line of pull. It also has the added bonus of making your torso thicker, reducing the distance you need to press the weight. Keep your shoulder blades squeezed tightly behind you for the duration of the set.
STEP THREE LOWERING THE BAR
Remove the bar from the racks and tighten up the muscles of your torso. Begin lowering the bar under complete control to a point at the bottom of your sternum (about even with the bottom of your sternum, a.k.a. the breastbone).
Imagine as though your muscles are springs storing up all the energy of the weight lowering and getting ready to explode it all back out. Inhale as you lower the bar and feel it tightening up your chest.
Lightly touch the weight to your chest. DO NOT bounce the weight off your chest! This can cause injury in the form of cracked ribs or even snapping the tip of the sternum (a little bony protrusion known as the Xiphoid Process). It also diffuses the tension you’ve built up in the pectorals, reducing the effectiveness of the exercise for building strength and muscle mass.
Finish with Squats
Do three sets with five repetition per set. Use weights that are heavy enough that you strain, but not so heavy that you cannot do all the reps.
Here’s a primer on how to squat, from Stronglifts.com.
Squat Form 101 Your build determines how proper Squat form looks like for you. The wider your shoulders are, the wider your grip should be. If you have a short torso with long thighs like me, you’ll lean more forward than people with a long torso and short thighs. Don’t try to Squat like someone else does unless you have the same build.
Follow these general Squat form guidelines instead and individualize them as you gain experience….
Stance. Squat with your heels shoulder-width apart. Put your heels under your shoulders. Feet. Turn your feet out 30°. Keep your whole foot flat on the floor. Don’t raise your toes or heels.
Knees. Push your knees to the side, in the direction of your feet. Lock your knees at the top of each rep. Hips. Bend your hips and knees at the same time. Move your hips back and down while pushing your knees out.
Lower Back. Squat with a natural arch like when you stand. No rounding or excess arching. Keep your back neutral.
Grip. Squeeze the bar hard. But don’t try to support heavy weight with your hands. Let your upper-back carry the bar.
Grip Width. Use a medium grip, narrower than when you Bench Press. Your hands should be outside your shoulders.
Bar Position. Put the bar between your traps and rear shoulders (low bar) or on your traps (high bar). Center the bar.
Wrists. Your wrists will bend and hurt if you try to support the bar with your hands. Carry it with your upper-back.
Elbows. Behind your torso at the top, not vertical or horizontal. Inline with your torso at the bottom of your Squat.
Upper-back. Arch your upper-back to create support for the bar. Squeeze your shoulder-blades and raise your chest.
Chest. Raise your chest before you unrack the bar. Keep it up and tight by taking a big breath before you Squat down.
Head. Keep your head inline with your torso. Don’t look at the ceiling or at your feet. Don’t turn your head sideways.
Back Angle. Not vertical or horizontal but diagonal. The exact back angle depends on your build and bar position.
Unracking. Put the bar on your back and your feet under the bar. Unrack it by straightening your legs. Walk back. Way Down. Bend your hips and knees at the same time. Hips back, knees out. Keep your lower back neutral.
Depth. Squat down until your hips are lower than your knees. Thighs parallel isn’t enough. Break parallel.
Way Up. Move you hips straight up. Keep your knees out, your chest up and your head neutral. Between Reps. Stand with your hips and knees locked.
Breathe. Get tight for the next rep. Racking. Lock your hips and knees. Then step forward, hit the rack and bend your knees.
Bar Path. Move the bar in a vertical line over your mid-foot. No horizontal movement.
Breathing. Big breath at the top. Hold it at the bottom. Exhale at the top.
Read more: http://stronglifts.com/squat/#Squat_Form_101