10 Basic Rules for Gaining Muscle – #8 – Go Heavy or Go Home

Building large amounts of muscle is actually a very complex phenomenon. It is the result of placing intense demands on your body and attempting to illicit certain desirable responses, specifically to increase size, strength, endurance, and appearance. In order to do so, you have to maximize the effects of your training, the nutrients you ingest, your body’s  ability to repair and heal itself, and the natural daily responses by your hormones and chemical functions.

Luckily for you, the basics of gaining muscle is not nearly as tough as you might think. All it really takes is  implementing a series of short changes to your diet and workout habits and a little dedication. The following set of rules will demonstrate the most important things you must know to make your workouts and diet more effective and start gaining size and strength.

Rule # 8 – Go Heavy…

You constantly hear about the dangers of lifting too much weight and the surge of injuries that may result – torn muscles, broken bones, sore joints, etc. No one wants to get hurt, but the bottom line is this -if you’re too scared to lift a heavy weight, then don’t bother lifting at all. It really is that simple.

In order to build muscle, you need to work hard. You must tear the muscle tissue in order to rebuild it, so the more strenuous a workout, the more effective it will be. And this is true for anyone and everyone, regardless of age, gender, experience, or goals. (Training hard and lifting heavy is just as essential for losing weight as it is for gaining it – it taxes the Central Nervous System and burns far more calories. As such, resistance training is a much more successful way to burn fat than cardio.)

Don’t even get me started on the people who think that to lose body-fat they need to lift a light weight to more reps. Or that by lifting heavy they will unintentionally ”bulk up” a body part. If that were true it wouldn’t take a series of ten articles to teach the basics of getting bigger – I doubt you will stumble upon it by accident.

If you are throwing up a weight that is not physically demanding, well then you really aren’t doing anything, so don’t waste your time. The muscles in your body can be broken down into two types – slow twitch fibers and fast twitch fibers. Slow twitch are those that are typically associated with running a marathon and are responsible for muscle endurance, whereas fast-twitch are the ones with the greatest capacity for growth. (While the number of fibers is predetermined by genetics, you can change the size of each fiber through training.) The main principle of resistance training is to work your fast-twitch muscle fibers, but in order to do so you must reach a certain level of intensity. Hypertrophy is the act of increasing the size of these muscle cells, but it is dependent on the demands placed on them.

Heavy lifting tears muscle tissue and facilitates significant gains far more effectively than a light weight can. When you tax your body, it is forced to release greater amounts of testosterone and growth hormone in order to recover. Now obviously this is a desirable response, whether you are seeking to gain muscle, lose fat, or both. The hormones are key.

Now the term “heavy” is relative to the individual, of course. What may be heavy for a 120 lb beginner is obviously not too taxing to a 250 lb bodybuilder. Only you will know how high you can go, and likewise, only you will be cheated if you are too scared or lazy to do so. You have to start off light until you have perfected the form and motion of each lift, but at this time you should begin to test your limits. You will NOT gain strength or size if you do not push yourself.

Never be satisfied by a number – if your target rep range is 8-10, then you should be unable to get to 10  reps without a spotter. At the point where you reach this target, then it’s time to move up.  Increase the weight and start over again. If you are stuck at the same weight for more than a few weeks without progress, then you are doing something wrong.

Resistance training is a perpetual, evolving process. If your progress begins to halt, that is a sign that some aspect of your training must change. You can always employ a variety of techniques to ensure that you are getting the most out of each workout – things like forced-reps, partial-reps, drop-sets, and super-sets, all increase the intensity of your lift and ensure that you are fatiguing each muscle.

Don’t get so caught up in a number that you sacrifice your form. Make sure to stick to the proper motion of each rep and keep a steady speed. If it gets to the point where you cannot lift the weight without swinging it, then the weight is too heavy. You should never use momentum to lift a weight, and likewise you should only lift with the muscles that the exercise is designed for. Neglecting either of these will only set yourself up for injury. Not to mention, it lessens the work done by the muscles and reduces the effectiveness.

It makes a noticeable difference to lift with another person – if someone is ready to spot you, you will be far more willing to test your limits and force out a few more reps. Plus, it makes a significant impact mentally – it does wonders for your confidence to know that you can push yourself without fear of failing.


10 Basic Rules for Gaining Muscle – #8 – Go Heavy or Go Home — 17 Comments

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