Bodybuilding is very much a sport of patience and dedication. Anybody who’s tried their hand at bodybuilding in the past will tell you that in order to get the best results from your training, you need to be patient, you need to be driven, you need to be dedicated, and you need to know how your body responds to certain training stimulus. If you think you can grab the nearest set of dumbbells and bust out a few sets of curls and perhaps the odd press here and there, and build an aesthetic, lean, and powerful looking physique you may as well quit right now because in the real world that is simply not how things work. To build muscle, you need to have your diet and nutrition both on point, you need to be following a regular training routine that works all of your major muscle groups, and above all else, you need to be patient and you need to listen to your body and see how your body responds to certain types of training with your own two eyes. Remember, just because something works for one person, that’s no guarantee that it will work for you. Each and every single one of us is unique and different to the last, and as a result different training methods work better on some than others, just in the same way as different approaches to dieting work better for some than others. Some of you may swear by low carb diets when it comes to fat loss, whilst others may experience better results with low-fat. As far as building muscle is concerned however, one of the most frequently asked questions is whether or not heavy lifting is the best form of training for building muscle. Let’s take a look.
How do we build muscle in the first place?
We build muscle as a response to stress being afflicted upon our existing muscle tissue whilst we exercise and workout. Whilst in the gym, we don’t build muscle at all, we actually destroy it which is why we feel so sore afterwards. We build muscle whilst we rest, particularly as we sleep that same night. The body responds to the stress inflicted upon the muscles and responds by trying to rebuild the muscles even bigger and stronger than they were before, to help protect them against any further stress I.E intense workouts.
Heavy lifting and muscle growth
As mentioned, the body builds muscle as a response to stress being inflicted upon the muscles when we lift weight. If you’ve ever tried your hand at heavy lifting, you’ll know immediately that it is not easy, and by training heavy you are most certainly putting your muscles through a great deal of stress and discomfort. For people looking to shock their muscles into new growth, or for “hardgainers”, who are people that find it notoriously difficult to build muscle, heavy lifting is indeed a great way of training. For optimal results, you should go with heavy weights for compound movements such as barbell bench presses, squats, rows, and military presses etc. This is because you will be recruiting several muscle groups simultaneously, so you’re basically getting a heavy, full-body workout, despite the fact that you may only be truly “working” one muscle group.
What is meant by heavy lifting and how should it be performed?
Before we go any further, when you follow a heavy lifting program, you should ensure that the weights you use, whilst still feeling heavy to you, are comfortable enough for you to be able to perform each exercise with perfect form, for several reps. If you pick up a barbell, perform one rep and then have to arch your back and rock your body back and forth to gain extra momentum, the weight is far too heavy and you should go a little lighter. The idea here is muscle growth, not strength, so you don’t want to be following a heavy weight, low rep program like powerlifters and you certainly don’t want to be performing one rep maxes. Instead, you should be looking for weights that allow you to perform around 8 – 10 reps before you begin to struggle. For each exercise, you should also be looking at performing a couple of warm up sets, before moving onto four working sets. If you have a spotter on hand, get help with a couple of forced reps at the end of your exercise, and if you don’t try the rest-pause technique, in which you hit failure, set the weight down for a few seconds, and then perform another rep or two.
Is heavy lifting the only way to build muscle?
No! Absolutely not. Although heavy lifting has been proven to be very effective at stimulating new muscle growth, there are many different forms of training that are also just as beneficial for building muscle for certain individuals. People often say that you need heavy weights to build strength and size, and light weights and high reps to build muscle tone and definition, but that is not true. If you grab a set of light dumbbells and perform 20 repetitions until your arms feel like they’re on fire, your muscles will be under stress and they will respond in the form of muscle growth. Heavy lifting is not the only way to build muscle, but it is an effective way of building muscle, and it’s also ideal for individuals who have been following the same training routine for a number of weeks/months, and perhaps feel like they could do with a change to help them break the plateau. Heavy lifting should still be performed with perfect form, you should aim for around 8 – 12 reps per set, and above all else, you should ensure you mix things up a little to help keep them fresh.