Most probably, many of you have heard, at least hundred times, how noxious and unnecessary the big weights are when it comes to building solid muscle mass. On the other hand, there are many gym-goers and professional bodybuilders, who lift significant weights and maintain high-level explosive power.
Where is the truth, then?
Do you need to lift heavy weights when your aim is gaining muscle mass?
In general, no one can answer with a simple Yes or No.
In this article, I will analyze the matter for you since it is absolutely individual. Different approaches and techniques do amazing things for particular people and vice versa. I hope that, after reading this article, you will be able to choose for yourself, if you want to try the incorporated type of training or not.
When using standard sets with 75% – 85% of the maximum weight for 8-12 reps, you are stimulating muscle cells’ Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy. In other words, the cells are becoming bigger in order to store more glycogen. Basically, this is the only way for over-recovery of the glycogen levels in your body. Therefore, this is the main and widespread approach of gaining muscle mass.
Your body increases its strength as a result of Myofibrillar Hypertrophy. It is a process representing muscle cells’ volume increment, for cells directly involved in a particular exercise/movement. In addition – all movements are managed by the Central Nervous System (CNS). Using 85 – 100% of your one-rep-maximum (1RM) in sets with no more than 3 reps, predisposes to increased strength.
What is the strength based on?
Generally, the strength depends on outgoing nerve impulses from the brain to the muscle cells. The more muscle cells, the more nerve impulses can be delivered. This process aims to activate the muscle cells in order to overcome bigger weight.
Another leading factor is the optimization of the so-called neural pathways and the frequency. For normal physical load, aimed in sarcoplasmic hypertrophy the frequency is between 100 and 120 impulses per second. During the myofibrillar hypertrophy oriented session, the frequency can increase up to 180 impulses per second. Basically, this is the reason why the Powerlifters, Weightlifters and other strength athletes have very well-developed CNS.
How to benefit from both approaches?
My advice is to use heavy weights with lower rep count during the first and second exercises for a particular muscle group. These should be basic exercises and not machines. Please find below the recommended exercises and particular technique:
- Bench Press
- Military Press
- Barbell Row
Warm-up properly, then adapt to the exercises by performing 1 or 2 sets of 12-15 reps with no more than 20% of your 1RM.
Perform the first working set with 8 reps. 60% of your 1RM
Do the second working set with 4 reps. 75% of your 1RM
The third working set – 1 up to 3 reps. 85-95% of your 1RM (you can repeat this set several times, but then do not go to fourth and fifth set)
Perform the fourth and the fifth – 6 and 10 reps with approximate weight.
During the rest, 2 to 4 exercises for a muscle group perform the standard 3 to 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
By using this technique, besides gaining strength, you will also accomplish hypertrophy and as a result, muscle gain.
Important – because of the heavyweights, good warm-up and workout with a partner is highly recommended. You can also use some training equipment – lifting belt, knee and wrist wraps, lifting straps etc.