Training Basics: Lifting Smarter Not Heavier

When it comes to weight training: lifting lighter weights with perfect form will make a huge difference in your workout and help you achieve your fitness goals. LESS EQUALS MORE.


Sometimes it seems like an epidemic. Experienced or amateur, there are always people in the gym, men and women alike, lifting too much weight in their weight training routine.  A good adage that seems appropriate comes to mind here, “Quality over Quantity.”


Don't get me wrong, there is definitely a time, place, and purpose for heavy weight training. I personally throw in heavy days once or twice a month just to shock the muscles and to activate the deep muscle tissue and fibers. However, for the most part I stick to a lighter weight training and higher repetition regimen.

The first thing I tell my clients when I start training them is "leave your ego at the door." You may think lifting heavy weight is good for your pride but in reality it's terrible for your physique. I was no different when I first started training. The first few years of lifting, I was always lifting as much weight as possible and was constantly trying to lift more than my previous workout.

Perhaps I was trying to impress others or maybe I was following those who were less informed. Or maybe I was trying everything under the sun to grow. Big mistake! Granted, I put on some quality size. I would soon discover how lifting like this could be detrimental to my overall fitness goals, as well as my overall well-being.


I started to develop a disproportional, unbalanced physique and my symmetry was sacrifice. For example, my shoulders started to round forward. I was lifting too much weight on the bench and my shoulders were doing more work than my chest. As a result, I had huge front deltoids and a tiny chest. It's a trade-offwhen you lift too much weight; your form is sacrificed tremendously.

This can also lead to a devastating injury! One thing most people don't realize is your body does not know how much weight you are lifting! It does not know you are pressing 225 on the bench. Your body knows failure, the burn, and the pump. Whether you fail pressing 225 pounds for 5 reps, or fail pressing 135 lbs for 15 reps, you are still pushing your muscles to the max. The only difference is the form, tempo, and technique will be better when you are going to failure with a lighter weight training routine and your body will respond much better.

Not to mention you can start incorporating drop sets, super sets, negatives, and other lifting techniques to really achieve a burn and pump. Doing this will not only shock your muscles, but it will allow you to burn more calories and achieve failure at a more efficient pace.

For example, you plan to work biceps and say you are curling 60 pound dumbbells for 8 reps. The form is sloppy, you are swaying your body to get the weight up, you start using more of your back than your bicep muscle and let’s face it, you are not curling in a slow controlled manner. You are defeating the goals of the workout. Although your arms may be sore after, you will have really missed the attack on hitting the two-headed muscle called the biceps brachii (bicep).

Instead, try using 35 pounds with good form and really use your biceps to curl the weight instead of your back and shoulders. Once you reach failure at a higher rep count, immediately grab 25-pound dumbbells and rep it out until failure. Now what is the difference here? You are going to failure twice opposed to once, your form is better, you just tripled your reps, and you will have a better burn and pump. And you will be attacking the bicep muscle dead on.


I also believe that lighter weight training  is harder than lifting a heavy weight. Now I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. Say you are pressing 225 pounds and you fail at 5 reps. You REALLY fail at 5 reps. There is no way you are getting that weight up again without the help of a friend. Now say you are pressing 135 pounds. You will probably start reaching failure around 20 or so reps.

Here is the difference. Once you start to reach failure with a lighter weight, you can still push yourself to get the weight up for more reps, past failure. Doing this requires a much higher pain tolerance because the burn will be three times the burn of 225 for 5 reps. This is really a test of your will power, inner strength, and determination. This style of training will also promote a leaner more sculpted look instead of a thick, bulky look. Trust me, I’ve tried both!

Having said that, I’m not advocating to never lift heavy. As I stated earlier, heavier weight training does serve a purpose. It is a good idea to incorporate many different weights and rep ranges to avoid hitting plateaus. Whether lifting heavy or lifting light, be smart about it to achieve your maximum desired results. Think outside the box when you are in the gym. There is definitely more than one correct way to lift a weight!

Thanks for giving me a read. Give this a try and let me know how it works for you. Just consider me your individual personal trainer. My aim is to help and see to it that you achieve your fitness goals.  Good Luck! And remember, lift smart!

~Coach Petro

All-Inclusive Holistic Fitness & Wellness Center in Uptown Charlotte.
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