Adding a few heavy lifts in the typical strength rep range of 1-5 can benefit more than just your strength. It can also help increase muscle gains and even burn more fat! Doing some strength work can a be a fun way to change up your normal routine, after all, nothing makes you feel more alive than doing a heavy set of deadlifts!
How Strength Training Can Benefit Hypertrophy (Muscle Building)
Most people recommend the 8-12 rep range for gaining muscle, and rightly so it is most closely associated with the greatest gains in muscle size over the short term. However, including some heavy lifts in your routine in addition to the typical 8-12 rep range work will give you more strength and size gains in the long run than if you just focused on just 8-12 rep work. Heavy strength training has a positive hormonal response. It is associated with a rise in testosterone (a top muscle building hormone) and also intra muscular IGF-1 levels are increased. It is also better for long term hypertrophy to include strength work, because you will be able to lift greater loads over the long run if you are strong. We all know that if you could lift 400 lbs for 10 reps you would be bigger than if you could only lift 300 lbs for 10 reps, but without doing any strength training you would probably never get to the 400 lbs for 10 reps. Finally, studies have shown better results for strength and size gains in nonlinear periodization routines that include multiple rep ranges. As you can see, heavy strength work will clearly benefit your size gains in the long run.
Heavy lifting is also likely to have a greater effect on fat burning. Intuitively we know that the body will need to do more work rebuilding and repairing itself to recover from a heavy set of squats than from a high rep set of cable curls. Doing some heavy strength work will give your body a greater load that it will need to rebuild and recover from. More energy spent repairing itself will mean more calories burned, and likely more fat lost. Additionally, the greater increases in size that you will get from including heavy lifting will mean a higher lean body mass, which will mean a higher metabolism, thus more calories and fat burned. As you can see, heavy lifting has the potential to increase your caloric expenditure and lead to greater fat loss.
How To Implement It
First, you need to be careful. Make sure to properly warm up and use good form on the exercises you do. I recommend using heavy compound exercises like squats and deadlifts as part of a properly periodized routine. You can set it up by starting your typical workout with some heavy lifts in the 5 rep or lower range and then moving into the higher rep stuff. You can also split it up by doing a couple days where you focus on strength and low reps and a couple days per week where you focus on size and mid to high rep ranges.
Chris “Protein” Leach is an ISSA Certified personal trainer, physique competitor, and fitness model. He has dead lifted 600 lbs, squatted 500 lbs, and bench pressed over 315 lbs at a bodyweight of 185. He is available for both in person and online training and can be reached at the links below.