Heavy Lifting: How To Get Started
There’s something SO empowering about lifting heavy weights.
However, it’s also common for the idea of lifting a heavy weight to feel daunting or out of reach. We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re missing out because they aren’t sure where to start when it comes to getting stronger and working up to lifting heavy weights.
BUILD, the powerbuilding program on the Sweat app, was designed in a way that allows for progression and encourages gradual increases in strength through progressive overload.
Having a foundation is always important, so understanding what it takes can help you to hit the ground running. To help you get started on your heavy lifting journey, we’ve put together some of the initial steps you can take to get on the right path.
No matter what your starting point is, lifting heavier weights is such an exciting and achievable goal if you set your mind to it. Keep reading to find out how to make it happen!
How to get stronger if you are a beginner
There are a number of different ways to include strength training in your routine, depending on whether you want to increase your strength or actively build muscle mass.
If mastering heavy lifting is your goal, a structured training program like BUILD can help you understand where to begin and how to work up to a strong lift safely.
If you are completely new to this style of training, then you need to build a solid foundation first. You can do this by slowly getting your body used to resistance training and then increasing the volume of your training once you begin to adapt physiologically and mentally.
Starting out as a weight lifting beginner means planning for gradual strength development before attempting heavy squatting or deadlifts. Starting with lighter weights and ensuring you become familiar with the correct technique will serve you well as a beginner.
When the goal of training is to become stronger and increase muscle mass, remember to nourish your body to help reach this goal. Your nutrition plan can have a huge impact on your training success and your recovery, and weight-loss meal plans may not provide you with the adequate nutrition you need to support this. Interested in learning more about how to support your powerbuilding goals through your diet? You can read more here!
How to lift heavy weights
Heavy lifting takes preparation - it isn’t something you can start overnight. Bodybuilders and powerlifters spend months, sometimes even years, learning how to lift heavy and preparing their bodies. It’s a challenging way to train and it demands consistency and commitment.
For anyone who has been lifting weights for some time and wants to change their training style to powerbuilding, here are some important steps to follow.
Follow a training program
Do your research and find an appropriate training program and structure that you can follow consistently. There is much more to consider than just lifting the weight — it is important to understand what makes a program good for YOU.
Some of the things to consider include what training frequency you want to aim for, how to combine compound and isolated movements, how to organise your training split and how much rest you need.
Following a powerbuilding program like BUILD can help you to manage your workload appropriately and ensure you aren’t burning yourself out. While training progression requires you to push yourself out of your comfort zone, overtraining can have a negative effect on your nervous system.
Each BUILD workout has been carefully designed to help you work up to heavy lifting through a balanced training schedule. The way the program is laid out in the Sweat app makes it easy to see which workouts need to be completed within a week — while still allowing enough time for recovery.
Warm-ups are critical
Walking into a gym and loading up the bar without warming up properly is not a safe way to train, particularly if you plan to lift heavier weights.
It is SO important to warm your body up in an effective way to prepare your muscles and joints for the heavy loads they are about to carry.
For this reason, a regular cardio-only warm-up may not be enough to prepare your body for heavy lifting. Instead, try incorporating some warm-up sets of the exercise prior to completing the heavy sets.
For example, if you were performing squats, you might include a few sets of 6-10 repetitions at a lighter weight or lower RPE (rate of perceived exertion). You can then move on to completing the reps at a higher RPE. Doing this can help fire up the target area and recruit the correct muscle fibres.
Pick the right weight
Beyond warming up with lighter weights and understanding RPE, it’s important to understand how to choose the right weight. Selecting which weight to train with, and when to increase that weight, is something that comes with time and training experience.
The weight should feel challenging for the rep range, but what you consider heavy lifting is dependent on YOUR ability and strength. It’s important to figure out how to lift weights that are appropriate for you and for the exercise you are doing.
For example, the weight you select for a deadlift will vary from the weight you choose for a hip thrust exercise. This can take some self-assessment and paying attention to your body’s limits. If you’re not sure, it’s always better to start with a lighter weight to avoid injury and ensure you perform the exercise with the correct form.
In the BUILD program, there is a 1 Rep Max (1RM) assessment to help you calculate the weight to be used for key compound movements such as a sumo deadlift, bench press and low-bar squat.
The best way to get results from powerbuilding is to focus on the weight that feels challenging (those last reps should be tough!), but achievable. Don’t worry about what anyone else is lifting, it’s about your personal progress.
Focus on your breathing
It is often overlooked, but a key component of any strength training program is your breathing. Each inhale and exhale changes the volume of your lungs, as well as the position of your ribs, thoracic spine and many other parts of your body, which can affect your lifting movements.
You should breathe out as you lift the weight, as your exhalation increases the engagement of your core and provides greater stability for the lift.
Controlled breathing can help you lift a heavier weight while also helping to get more oxygen into your body, reducing the chance of a sudden spike in blood pressure and dizziness. Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and you should find it easier to dig deep on big lifts.
Master your technique
If lifting a heavier weight means compromising your form, don’t do it. Stay at the weight you’re at or go lighter if you need to.
When you lift weights too heavy for your abilities, you may start to engage the incorrect muscles to assist with the movement.
This can not only increase the risk of injury but it also means you aren’t targeting the muscle groups you want to. Spending time learning the proper technique and becoming comfortable with movements like squats and deadlifts can potentially save you from an injury later on. Remember, core strength plays into every form of heavy lifting, so don’t become complacent about the muscle groups you’re targeting.
Having a workout buddy or someone to spot your lifts can also be a way to keep yourself safe while lifting heavy weights.
Follow the exercise videos and instructions in the Sweat app to help build a solid base for lifting weights. It can help you to progress while minimising the risk of injury and improper technique.
Allow for adequate rest
Training frequently and always pushing the intensity might seem like a good approach, but it can ultimately limit your progress and put your body at greater risk of injury due to overuse and stress.
Lifting heavy requires longer rest periods to help you recover prior to the next set. In BUILD, you’ll find suggested rest times within the app to ensure you’re taking breaks while you are training. This is only a guide -you may need extended rest periods to ensure sufficient recovery between sets. On top of that, there are also recovery sessions and rest days as part of the program planner.
Many people underestimate the demand heavy lifting places on your nervous system, so it’s important to listen to your body. If your performance has dropped off, it could be a sign from your nervous system that you need to decrease the volume of your training to allow for adequate recovery before you ramp it back up again.
Not every week of training should be super challenging! Your workout routine has to be balanced with rest time, lighter training days and good quality sleep to allow your muscles to rebuild.
Don’t neglect your nutrition
Heavy lifting demands a lot of energy from your body, so it’s important to fuel your body with the required macronutrients before and after training.
The balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat you need is going to depend on your specific goals. Keeping this balanced across your meals and snacks can be difficult, so if you are serious about your training, consider tracking your macronutrients.
To put on muscle mass, you want to consume enough calories to surpass your energy expenditure, and your diet should also be supporting your recovery.
Lifting heavy weights or want to start? You can do this!
Are you feeling confident about how to get stronger now?
For anyone starting out who wants to learn how to lift heavy and see results, a program like BUILD that implements techniques from powerlifting and bodybuilding could be perfect for you.
Effort and consistency are key when it comes to seeing results, so make sure you plan and commit to your training. Ready? Let’s go!
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.