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Any benefit to heavy lifting without diet changes?

Hey everyone,

Backstory: My boyfriend started to lift with me about 3 months ago. We are following Stronglifts but have had to make some adjustments due to him having a messed up back. We have missed some workouts so we haven't consistently hit 3x/week. He feels like he hasn't seen any results from lifting with me, no extra energy, he's stalled on lifts, he doesn't feel stronger and hasn't lost weight. He feels like it's a waste of time. He is overweight (about 200lbs - 5'7) but doesn't want to change his diet at this time or track calories. He tries to make small changes like lowering his soda intake and less fast food but that is all he is willing to do at this time. I'm not going to push him into calorie counting or dieting. For reference, he did have me track his food for about two weeks and it looked like his calories averaged a bit higher than maintenance and his protein was around 100-150 grams.

As far as calorie burn goes, he could burn more calories briskly walking for 30-45 minutes than he would during a lifting session. What benefit, if any, is he getting from lifting without changing his diet? Is it worth it to continue to pay for a gym membership for lifting if he isn't going to change his diet?

His lift stats:
Squat; 3 x 5 175lbs
Deadlifts: 1 x 5 145lbs (he had to stop doing these because he has a messed up back)
Bench Press: 3 x 5 150lbs
Rows; 3 x 5 130lbs
Overhead Press: 3 x 5 95lbs


  • JTick
    JTick Posts: 2,131 Member
    Lifting always had benefits. If he's lifting heavy enough while in a surplus, he'll start adding muscle tissue and get STRONG.
  • ILiftHeavyAcrylics
    ILiftHeavyAcrylics Posts: 27,732 Member
    There are still benefits but consistency is extremely important. When I first started I wasn't very consistent at all and I didn't see changes to my body until I buckled down and made sure I was making it to the gym 3 times per week.

    He can recomp while eating at maintenance assuming appropriate protein intake, which means he would build muscle very slowly. If he's in a surplus he'll build a little more.
  • TheStephil
    TheStephil Posts: 858 Member
    Lifting always had benefits. If he's lifting heavy enough while in a surplus, he'll start adding muscle tissue and get STRONG.

    Only if he is getting enough protein which isn't always the case. Also, studies have shown that when you have higher body fat percentage your body is less likely to build muscle mass rather than fat.
  • jchite84
    jchite84 Posts: 467 Member
    Heavy lifting will definitely help his body composition, and more muscle means higher burn while exercising. But, his "lack of progress" might also come from goals that are out of line with reality.

    Questions: 1) Is he lifting properly? You said he plateaued, is he lifting to fatigue? Is he using proper form? If not, he might benefit from dropping back some of the weight and focusing on precise, slow, movements with higher reps. Once he has mastered the basic moves properly then he can start adding weight again. 2) Is he looking for bulk/definition? If so a) this takes a lot of time, dedication, and precision as far as form and technique. b) he will have to eat a calorie surplus with lots of protein.

    Finally, if he is serious about getting in shape and being healthy it takes more than throwing around weights at the gym. Muscle definition mostly comes from cutting back body fat so that the sinew shows through. Lifting is a key component to overall health, but it is not a sufficient condition. It takes additional steps depending on his goals. I would say he needs to focus more on nutrition and maybe some cardio to cut some of the fat and help him improve his lifting performance.

    Finally, if the cost of the gym membership is a factor, head to Sears and buy an weight set and a bench. It will cost more in the beginning, but it will more than pay for itself over time.
  • AllOutof_Bubblegum
    AllOutof_Bubblegum Posts: 3,646 Member
    The benefits are that you will get stronger, and, if eating at a surplus, you will put on muscle. You will not, however, lose weight or inches unless you are eating at a deficit.
  • cmwhite29
    cmwhite29 Posts: 4
    I am a powerlifter so I obviously lift heavy. I do not regularly track my intake but eat healthy so haven't had the need to do so. He would benefit greatly from doing short sessions of high intensity interval training (HIIT) vs steady state, longer sessions. There is a lot of science to support it. It takes 4-6 weeks to accumulate a pound of lean muscle mass. Once this mass accumulates and continues to, the resting metabolic rate will jump. Lifting heavy is by far the best way to go when it comes to lifting.
  • MagnumBurrito
    MagnumBurrito Posts: 1,070 Member
    Lifting is always better than not lifting. He'll keep more muscle even if he's not getting enough protein.
  • AJ_G
    AJ_G Posts: 4,158 Member
    Protein, protein, protein. If he eats enough protein he will have benefits from lifting for sure. In my opinion trying to lose weight without counting calories or addressing diet is like trying to paddle up a river, but it's not impossible.