Do You Need To Lift Heavy To Gain Muscle?
This is a question that usually comes up regarding building muscle: Do you really need to lift heavy to put on size? The answer to that question is no. You do not need to lift excessively heavy weights every single workout to be able to trigger muscle growth. For the longest time, people thought that the heavier you lifted, the more muscle mass you would gain. If you’ve read my article on why muscle grows, it’s through stress and adaptation. You can stress a muscle by either increasing the volume (sets and reps) or increasing the intensity (weight lifted) during your routine.
Far too many times I’ve heard people say that in order for muscles to grow you, have to lift a weight that’s heavy and use low reps. I’m not saying that it isn’t true, because it is. But most of the times, newbies take this way too far into consideration and grab a weight that is too heavy for them to manage thinking that by lifting that heavy weight, it will lead them to produce rapid muscle gains and strength. Sure you might be lifting a really heavy weights for a few reps, but are you successfully taking your muscles to the point of fatigue where your muscle fibers are actually stimulated to grow?
It depends on the form and how heavy, “heavy” really is. Lifting a heavy weight while using improper form can often take away from direct stimulation of the muscle fibers themselves. Think about it, have you ever tried lifting a weight that’s too heavy and ended up using momentum or bringing in other muscles to assist you? 80% of guys in the gym make this mistake and most of them fail to ever adjust and fix it, resulting in very minimal size gains.
Recent studies have shown that you do don’t need to lift heavy to gain muscle. Greater volume (higher reps or sets) using light weights were more effective in stimulating muscle growth. This study was performed over a 3 day period in which leg extensions were performed to complete failure for 3 sets. The first 3 sets were performed to failure using only 30% of the 1 rep max, and the second 3 sets were performed with 90% of the 1 rep max and also to failure. The results showed that the greater volume using light weights were more successful in creating muscle hypertrophy and stimulating growth.
That said, I personally do not train with low intensity and high volume very often. I’d rather not sit there with weights that are too light and do arm curls until muscular failure. Come on guys, we’re in the gym to act like animals and show how much weight we can really lift. Don’t be a lazy ass in the gym that’s scared to push his body to the limits and test his strength. Lighter weights and higher volume might be better for triggering muscle growth, but your ego might be deflated when you’re a big and bulky guy that’s getting out-lifted by a scrawny kid, who focuses on high intensity low volume workouts. But to each his own.
Once in a while I will throw in a high volume, moderate weight day to change it up and give my muscles something new but, I try to balance strength and muscle at the same time and I have always trained with high intensity and low volume more than the other. This is just my preference and it seems to work for me and results in great gains.