Not a single Workout Wednesday blog post goes by here on Name's Not Ashley without me harping on the importance of lifting heavy weights. But "heavy" encompasses so many things - how do you know which heavy weight to choose?
My husband and I had a conversation this past weekend on the efficiency of inefficiency. I realize that makes no sense in 99% of contexts - but in weightlifting it does. Your workout is more efficient, meaning burns more calories, if the weight you are using is just heavy enough to make your movements inefficient. (This is also one of the reasons to choose free weights over machines, but that's a topic for another day.) In other words, the more you physically struggle with the weight, the more calories you're burning, and the more lean muscle you're building.
This is not to say that you should be struggling on rep #1 of any given workout set. If you can only do one rep with a certain amount of weight, you are not maximizing your overall efficiency. Instead, you should be struggling by the last few reps in the set. If you're doing 10 reps of tricep extensions, for example, reps 1-7 should be doable, reps 8-9 should be a challenge, and it should be very, very hard for you to complete rep 10. Lifting that amount of weight won't be fun and it won't make you feel strong while you're doing it, but it will be good for you. Let me repeat: struggling is good. You should struggle every single day in the gym.
To help flesh this out, let me put a few real numbers to this concept from my own experience to help you gauge what you should be picking up next time you're in the gym. Let's talk bicep curls. It is easy for me to do a bunch of bicep curl reps with 10 lb. weights. I'm not sweating or shaking by the end of those sessions. However, if I pick up 15 lb. weights and try to do 15 reps, or 17.5 lb. weights and try to do 10 reps, I probably couldn't finish the set. So 15-18 lbs. is the perfect weight for me (until I've trained my way up to 20 lbs.!).
Finally, I want to repeat for the millionth time that lifting heavy weights will NOT make you bulky. It absolutely will not. Something I read online recently made a very good point about choosing weights - if your free weight is lighter than your purse, then you are definitely not getting a good workout. Challenge yourself, and you will rise to the occasion. I promise.
I hope you find this advice helpful enough to put into action, and, as always, if you have questions do not hesitate to send me an email!