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      What Does It Mean to Lift ‘Heavy’?

      pubsub.dcentralisedmedia.com / LifehackerAustralia · Friday, 19 February, 2021 - 21:00 · 5 minutes

    Lift heavy to build muscle: that’s advice you’ve probably seen in a million places. But how heavy is “heavy,” and how do you know if your workout qualifies?

    There’s no specific number of pounds that will constitute “heavy” for everyone. What’s heavy for a teenage girl picking up a dumbbell for the first time will be a lot less than what’s heavy for a pro strongman. (If you do want to compare your lifts to other people, sites like Symmetric Strength can show where you stand — but please consider these comps as just for fun.)

    Training “heavy” is shorthand for resistance training that is in a low-rep range and gets heavier over time. This is the type of training that gets you the biggest gains in strength and muscle size.

    Training this way is not the only way to build muscle, but it’s a very effective one. So let’s look at what does and doesn’t count as training heavy.

    How many reps are you doing?

    Training for strength usually has you doing 1-5 reps in each set. Training for hypertrophy (bigger muscles) is often in the 8-12 range.

    The truth is there isn’t much difference in results between the two; getting stronger gives you bigger muscles and getting bigger muscles makes you stronger. I’d say that as long as you’re doing 12 reps or fewer, you’re in an appropriate range to say you are training heavy.

    Once you’re doing much more than that — 15, 20, 50 reps — you’re training your muscular endurance more than strength. You can build some strength this way, but it doesn’t really count as training heavy.

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    How hard does the set feel?

    OK, let’s say you’re doing squats in sets of 8. That could count, but only if you’re loading the squats enough that it’s hard to do 10 of them.

    For some exercises and some goals, you might be aiming for failure — literally, going until you can’t do another rep. An example would be if you’re doing 8 bicep curls and couldn’t manage a ninth.

    But you can also get close to failure without quite going there. For example, if you’re doing squats, a set of 8 might be done at a weight that you could squeeze out 10 or 11 reps of if you really pushed yourself. That still counts as heavy training.

    What doesn’t count is if you’re doing eight reps of goblet squats with a light dumbbell because it’s the only dumbbell you have, or because you’re intimidated about going up in weight. Heavy lifting is when you’re doing the appropriate rep range with a weight that is challenging within that range .

    Are you increasing the weight over time?

    The only way to keep the lift challenging as you get stronger is to keep increasing the weight.

    To use our goblet squat example, maybe squatting with a 9 kg dumbbell was challenging the first time you tried it. But a week or two later, you can probably do the same eight reps with a 11 kg dumbbell. Before long, it may make more sense to do front squats with a barbell, to make it easier to add more weight. You’re lifting heavy.

    But if you kept doing the same sets of 8 squats with the same 9 kg dumbbell, you’re not efficiently challenging yourself to build muscle or strength — you’re just doing an exercise that keeps getting easier. That’s still good for you, because it’s still exercise, but it no longer fits the description of lifting heavy.

    Are you resting between sets?

    This is where a lot of people go wrong, especially if they’re doing home workouts or are concerned about calorie burn during a workout. We don’t lift heavy for the calorie burn during the workout; we lift heavy to build muscle, and save the cardio for another day.

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    If you’re constantly working to keep your heart rate up, with little to no time to rest between exercises, you aren’t training heavy. More likely, you’re doing circuit training. Crossfit “metcon” WODs often fall into this category, as do many home workout videos that bill themselves as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). They’re usually not real HIIT, but that’s a rant for another time.

    If you aren’t resting, that means you aren’t approaching each set of lifts when you’re fresh. Reducing rest times makes the workouts feel harder, but it also means you’ll be working with less weight. That means they usually don’t fit our definition. They might still help you build strength or muscle size, but not nearly as efficiently as lifting heavy.

    If you take a few minutes’ rest between exercises, then you’re lifting heavy. A typical range would be 2-4 minutes between exercises that work smaller or fewer muscles (like curls or presses) and 3-5 minutes or more between sets of big compound lifts (like squats or deadlifts). With an appropriate rest time, you’ll be able to properly lift heavy.

    The post What Does It Mean to Lift ‘Heavy’? appeared first on Lifehacker Australia .

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      Do You Really Need Ankle Weights?

      pubsub.dcentralisedmedia.com / LifehackerAustralia · Friday, 12 February, 2021 - 20:00 · 4 minutes

    Ankle weights have tunneled through a wormhole from the 1980s to the present moment, appearing in countless TikToks and Instagram posts. Do they really help tone your legs? Are they worth buying at all? Here’s what you need to know.

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    Where they’re useful

    Ankle weights’ best use is to add a little bit of resistance to exercises where you are moving your legs against gravity.

    For example, side-lying leg raises become substantially more work for your muscles with even a pound or two of weight on the ankle that you’re raising in the air. Donkey kicks and hollow body holds would fall into this category as well.

    The ankle weights aren’t necessarily making your ankles or legs work harder, in these examples; they just add resistance to what is still an exercise for your hips, butt, or abs.

    These uses of ankle weights make sense, because they’re a way to add resistance over time. To continue progressing, you’ll need to use heavier weights when your current ones become too easy. Eventually, you may get to a point where an ankle weight exercise is no longer challenging and you’ll need to work those same muscles in a different way.

    Where they’re not useful

    If you’re running, jumping, or walking, ankle weights can make the motion a little bit harder, but they’re probably not a good addition. Think about why you’re doing these exercises in the first place. If your goal with running or walking is to burn calories, you can do that more efficiently by running faster or farther, no ankle weights necessary.

    Some trainers even warn that wearing ankle weights while running or walking may set you up for muscle imbalances or for injury; though it’s not clear if that’s really the case or not. (I couldn’t find any solid evidence about injury either way, but historian Conor Heffernan pointed me to a 1988 paper that concluded ankle weights don’t provide any significant extra calorie burn, and aren’t worth the potential risk.)

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    How much is a small weight actually going to help you?

    Any time you’re looking at a small weight — whether it’s a pair of ankle weights, or a tiny dumbbell, or anything else — think of it in terms of progressive overload.

    Progressive overload is one of the basic principles of strength training. To keep getting results, you have to use heavier and heavier weights. That’s how somebody who starts deadlifting with just the bar can end up strong enough to lift hundreds of pounds. Small weights can help you get started on that journey, but they won’t sustain it.

    Ankle weights are often just one or two pounds each, although I have a set that can be loaded with something like ten pounds if you put all the little sandbag inserts into just one cuff of the pair. It was handy when I was rehabbing an injury; my physical therapist recommended side-lying leg raises, and I ended up needing most of the weights in the set by the time my rehab was through.

    Fitness products often exist just because they’re easy to sell

    Looking through ads and Instagram posts for this article, it became clear why ankle weights are popular all of a sudden. You can advertise them by putting them on a model with great legs in a snazzy pair of leggings, and having her work out by a beach or in front of a vibrantly coloured wall. They just look cool, especially some of the newer styles that look like blocky bangles.

    Also, being fairly lightweight, they’re cheaper to manufacture and ship than, say, a kettlebell. So while they may have a place in your workout routine, it would be a mistake to think you’re buying a versatile or long-lived piece of equipment by treating yourself to a pair of ankle weights.

    The post Do You Really Need Ankle Weights? appeared first on Lifehacker Australia .