Will Lifting Heavier Weights Get Me Fit Faster?

David Reavy
by David Reavy
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Will Lifting Heavier Weights Get Me Fit Faster?

As a physical therapist, sometimes it’s hard for me to go to the gym without looking around and seeing injuries waiting to happen. In my experience, when there is poor form, there is usually injury to follow. This is especially true when you add weights to the mix. When used the right way, weights can be a great and effective addition to your fitness routine. When used incorrectly, you’re just setting yourself up to get hurt.

If you’ve made the effort to get to the gym, you should be getting the most out of your exercises and, at the very least, not hurting yourself in the process. That said, here are some easy ways to figure out what weight level is right for you.

Go through all of your exercises in front of a mirror with your bodyweight only. Perform each move in a slow, controlled manner, carefully watching your form.

If you can’t correctly perform the exercise without weights, then you definitely shouldn’t try to do it with weights.

If you can, try the move with the lightest weights. If that feels too easy, work your way up until you find a weight that challenges you without compromising your form.

Never sacrifice form for weight. You won’t get optimal results and will most likely create muscular imbalances.

Understand what muscles each exercise is supposed to target, and make sure you are feeling it in the right places.

Here are cues to watch for in three common weighted exercises that most people get wrong:

1. Bicep Curls
Common injuries when done incorrectly: Neck strain and low back pain.
Do: Keep your shoulder blades down and back.
Don’t: Feel your back working, lean too far back, or shrug your shoulders.

2. Weighted Squats
Common injuries when done incorrectly: Knee and back pain.
Do: Keep your back as straight as possible. You should also be able to see your toes over your knees.
Don’t: Lean forward or round your mid-back. If you can’t see your toes over your knees, you are bending too far forward.

3. Bench Press
Common injuries when done incorrectly: Shoulder issues.
Do: Make sure you are lifting equally through your arms.
Don’t: Hike one shoulder higher than the other, and definitely do not bounce the bar off of your chest.

While you might think using the 50-pound weight during your bicep curl will accelerate your progress, you’re actually creating imbalances in your body and heading down a road to injury. Start small and work your way up gradually. You will get the results because your body will be balanced. ​

About the Author

David Reavy
David Reavy

React_logoDavid Reavy is the founder and CEO of React Physical Therapy and creator of the Reavy Method. David’s own experiences with the limitations of traditional physical therapy inspired him to develop the Reavy Method, now recognized by the Illinois Physical Therapy Association as a continuing education course for physical therapists. The Reavy Method creates strength through balance using dynamic assessment, muscle release, and muscle activation. By balancing the body, the Reavy Method not only brings patients back to their previous level of function but also helps them become stronger than ever. David is a board certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy with credentials from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Past and current clients include Matt Forte, Tracy McGrady, and the many clients that come through React Physical Therapy in Chicago, IL every day. Follow React Physical Therapy on Twitter and Facebook.


18 responses to “Will Lifting Heavier Weights Get Me Fit Faster?”

  1. Avatar Brittany says:

    The article doesn’t really answer the question posed in the title. I expected a comparison between light/high reps vs lifting heavy. It was more of a weightlifting 101 read…

  2. Avatar Ross says:

    The article title has no relevance to the content

    • Avatar guest says:

      This article is food for thought. It is not the cup of tea of every Tom dick and Harry. Those who are posting negative criticisms. Go check your faculty of thought first, if you have it.

  3. Avatar T says:

    So much wrong here. Many lifts cannot be accurately simulated without weight – CoG changes. Also, #2 only has one/two thing(s) correct – don’t round the back (aka keep it “straight”) while squatting. The knees over the toes myth was busted years ago, yet it persists.

  4. Avatar T says:

    Oh, hey, my comment from before has been deleted! This blog post is very much wrong – especially #2. We’ll see if this gets deleted again.

  5. Avatar veryangrychair says:

    Never sacrifice form for more weight? I’d ask Skip La Cour about that. And I would also say “Never sacrifice heavy weight for perfect form”. Use good form, and heavy weight – never one or the other.

    The heavier you lift, the more you’ll grow. That’s a fact. That’s science.

  6. Avatar Elissa says:

    Making sure you feel it in the right spot is correct. I don’t see the reason for criticism, he was only trying to help. Everyone has their own opinion on how things “should be done” Smh

  7. Avatar Highest common denominator says:

    this is a terrible article. or a terrible title.

    The title suggests I’m about to hear about different set/rep ranges to either get me cut or get me huge.

    The article sounds like a helicopter mom worrying I’m lifting too heavy at the gym. and old lady who walks on the treadmill with ankle-weights, telling me squatting is bad for my knees and back (it’s not).

    This is worse than bro-science. this is mom-science.

    • Avatar Anya McKenna says:

      I agree. The title does not reflect the article. Although the article itself is quite informative.

      As a marketing exec who spends 70% of my time creating and promoting content, might I suggest titles such as:

      ‘Top tips for preventing injuries whilst hitting PBs’

      ‘3 common weighted exercises that most people get wrong’ (Taken directly from the above.)

      These are just off the top of my head, I’m sure I could come up with something a bit better, but you get the jist!

    • Avatar Tyler Mueller says:

      I disagree with you on this. Yes the article could have used a different title. But weight room injures happen too often because certain individuals don’t know how to lift properly. The person who wrote the article went to school for this, and is working around people every day. The media is putting a bad rep on this as well in my opinion. Young kids see these strong ripped guys on TV, so they decide they are going to go lift extremely hard and heavy weight to look like that individual without knowing the proper techniques to lifting. I think the title gave you the wrong impression, but the article has very useful information in it.

    • Avatar robinbishop34 says:

      For free no – nonsense plans on how to get cut or huge, visit aworkoutroutine dot com

  8. Avatar christina says:

    Just do you what ya can

  9. Avatar Joseph Hernandez says:

    I found the article helpful and informational with a few tweeks in there that could be fixed including the title. The title is telling me the article will inform me about becoming more fit if I lift heavier weights or not but the article itself just gave tips and advice on other things rather then what the actual title said. Just fix the title to something that fits the article and then it’s fine.

  10. Avatar Youbhappy@yahoo.com says:

    I can attest to this article after going from fit to physically compromised from a spinal injury. A year after surgery and I am still in pain beyond swimming and walking. Those who are criticizing and encouraging the public to go for heavy weight without putting form first are irresponsible . If you don’t want to lose twenty years of fitness and start over forever limited like me you need a reality check. No one -even the fittest are invincible. And gains in muscle at the compromise of your spine and joints is just stupid vanity. You deserve a hot healthy body for the long term not just for now. What good is looking great if you can’t do anything with that body?

  11. Avatar protisystem says:

    Nice Post.But more workout is bad for health and body.So take rest more and workout less.

  12. @Brittany and @ Highest common denominator: if I had to answer the question the title suggests, then it’s a NO, lifting heavier does not make you fit faster. The article says real facts but out of the subject. In fact, if someone wants to be fit fast, he will need to rely on a few things before even working out with weights; changing his/her food habits (eating enough glucose, fatty acids and amino acids – serving as the fuel for the workout). Then from experience the best combination would be 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps with heavy weights (until failure) and one last set of 15 with 30% less weight. This way your muscle will not only get stronger but will also physically grow. Again, always being aware of our own limits is really important not to hurt ourselves.
    Hope this helps!


  13. Avatar Thumbs_up says:

    Everything has to go on with your limits. If you never lift before, you have to pass through a process called neuron adaption which is basically the recruitment of motor neurons that you probably never used before. Can last through 3 months for you start to see any difference in you body (hypertrophy).

  14. Avatar Tyler Mueller says:

    This article does a great job in showing the dangers there are when you are lifting. As a high school basketball coach I am always getting on my athletes that form, and reps will make them stronger. Too many people want to lift as much weight as possible,
    and post pictures on the internet to look cool. The problem here is that you aren’t looking cool at all. The only thing you are doing is putting yourself in harm’s way. Walk into your local gym and you will notice too many people try lifting things they can’t do. Lower weight more reps will help you out more than lifting the heaviest possible weight. I think a good idea would be that all students have to take a weight lifting class for a gym credit in high school. Dong this it can teach students the proper forms when lifting, how to properly spot a weight lifter, and over all I think would have a huge impact on reducing weight room injures that didn’t need to happen in the first place.

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