Lifting Weights

The benefits and drawbacks of lifting heavy


As a certified personal trainer, I am sometimes asked for fitness tips or fitness motivational advice. During a dinner with several pilot buddies, I was asked about my thoughts on lifting heavy weights. Of course, I had to use my coach-mind to figure out what that really meant. (Okay, maybe not my coach-mind but more like my type-A personality/pilot brain.) When I asked for clarity, I was told, “You know, weights that you only lift for a few reps.” While I agree that lifting heavy weights often equates to lower reps, lifting some weights for fewer reps doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lifting heavy!

Lifting heavy is a relative term, and by that I mean, relative to you specifically. It has a lot to do with your goals. As aviation professionals, we are constantly on the go or in places that may not favor a solid workout plan. I often suggest to anyone traveling or maintaining a busy lifestyle to incorporate some sort of fitness routine to combat long periods of sitting. One aspect of a fitness routine should include weight training because of its long-term health benefits.

At least, you should incorporate resistance exercises (weights or bands) into your fitness routine. Resistance training will not only help you build muscle and increase strength, but it will help burn calories too. I believe it is often overlooked that resistance training will help in the reduction of body fat. Most people believe that’s accomplished only through cardio. 

Lifting heavier weights will help keep your muscle mass in check (studies have suggested that sedentary adults can lose nearly 10% of muscle mass per decade), but also reduce the onset of bone degeneration (osteoporosis) as we age. Maintaining a certain level of muscle helps reduce aging. Ladies, this is something you should consider too because you aren’t going to “bulk” up just by lifting weights. 

I do lift heavy weights. That means at times I am lifting upwards of 80-95% of my one rep max for a small number of reps, but that doesn’t happen every day. That’s part of the mix I use for a program that works for me. Do what works for you but be wary if you are just starting out or getting back into the gym; limit the voice in your head. When it comes to lifting and trying to lift heavy, your muscles will respond quickly, but that is not necessarily so for your joints. The tendons and ligaments need time to adapt to the increased work they are performing. You may think you’re ready to go all out, but you could hurt yourself by slinging heavy weights too early in your program. 

This is a perfect example of when having a coach or access to a fitness professional can guide you in determining your needs and then develop a plan that works for you. Think about adopting a combination of both resistance and cardio in whatever your fitness routine looks like. 

SOURCEAero Crew News, July 2021
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Eric Ray is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. Eric is also a pilot, whose latest type rating is the Boeing 737. To contact Eric, please email him:


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