Lift HEAVY. It’s a common trend among many ambitious, aesthetic chasing, testosterone seeping, and muscle-seeking males in today’s gyms.
Search the internet, visit some bodybuilding forums, hop on Instagram or YouTube, and you’ll see these monster of men with leg presses of 700 maybe 800lbs just reppin’ it out or 315 on the bench and they’re throwing it up like it’s a toddler being the ball to a fathers toss.
(THIS is a weightlifter)
The fact of the matter is, is if you are in a regular commercial gym, chances are you aren’t there for powerlifting or weightlifting. You are there to body build. No, you may not be Phil Heath or Arnold or Kai but simply, if you are lifting weights for aesthetic reasons, you are in fact a body builder. You are BUILDING your body. Now to what degree you take it, whether recreational or for sport, that’s solely up to you.
(Left to Right: Serge Nubret, Franco Columbu, & Arnold Schwarzenegger)
I think people feel they need to lift tons of weight to get big. That’s taking an inch and trying to stretch it a mile, truthfully. That isn’t how it’s done.
It’s no secret, in order to build muscle; you must challenge your muscular system through 3 mechanisms of hypertrophy coined by hypertrophy expert, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld:
- Muscle damage1
- Metabolic stress2
- Mechanical tension3
What I will do is give you a quick definition of each so that you can relate it to your own training and understand why weightlifting isn’t exactly bodybuilding and when aesthetics is the goal, it’s the method of bodybuilding you want to follow.
Muscle damage is damaging to muscle tissue, and the level of damage created is worse when a muscle is lengthened (eccentrically) extensively, such as during the lowering portion of an exercise that really stretches the muscle.4
What this is means is simply, time under tension (TUT). When you grab a weight and you consistently see recommendations for 8-10 reps (you can also build in lower and higher rep ranges but more on this in a little) you want to CHALLENGE the muscle within that rep range. Simply put, by rep 8, you should feel that “burn”. It shouldn’t be a cake walkthrough the reps but it shouldn’t feel like you’ve lifted an atlas stone. You are bodybuilding, not weightlifting. An example of this would be in a bicep curl. How many times have you seen people in the gym just throwing up curls and still have spaghetti arms? This may or may not be you so pay attention.
When you curl, you are focusing on what muscle? The biceps. It is NOT a total body exercise. If you find yourself throwing it, it’s too heavy, DROP THE WEIGHT. FOCUS ON THE TIME UNDER TENSION. The concentric part of the curl is elbow flexion. This is when you see the “peak” at the concentric part of the lift. When you eccentrically unload the curl, gravity is pulling the weight down and you are resisting it. You want to resist the downward motion (elbow extension) as the longer you leave it under tension, the more muscle damage you create. This will stimulate growth (with the supporting calorie intake).
Metabolic stress is essentially higher rep training with lower rest periods.5 This, in the easiest way possible to explain is, the “pump”. What we’re doing here is increasing time under tension, decreasing the amount of time we allow the muscle to rest, thus producing anabolic hormone, and increasing muscle cell swelling. You’ll feel like your muscle are going to explode after every set…like Arnold. Who doesn’t want to look like Arnold? An example of this is the ever so awesome “21’s” used for bicep curls or leg extensions. Hitting the muscle at different points of the movement, little to no rest during the set, and maximizing the “pump”.
Mechanical tension is when increased tension requires increased neural drive, and this neural drive activates several pathways to hypertrophy and influences gene expression as well. High-tension, low rep training fails to deliver superior results compared to moderate-tension, moderate rep training popularized by bodybuilders. For this reason, time under tension seems to be more important. According to Bret, “when it comes to hypertrophy, the greater muscle tension the better.”
This is when you put a muscle through an ENTIRE range of motion; 100% full range on the eccentric and concentric portion of the movement. Lets take two exercises: bench press and cable flyes. When I lift, I know that cable flyes are primarily an isolation chest exercise. For this reason, I can induce metabolic stress, hit it for higher rep ranges, decrease rest, and really tear my chest up. That’s great and that’s what you and I would usually go for, right?
I will say, there is a common theme amongst all of these. It’s called control. Control your weight. Control your exercise pattern. Control your set. Control the time under tension. You aren’t in the gym to impress anyone with heavy curls, a bench press that barely comes down half way, or a loaded squat where you go down 1/8th of the way. That looks foolish and you aren’t accomplishing ANYTHING you set out to do, unless it was to look foolish.
As Coach Nick Tumminello states, “For the goal of bodybuilding (i.e. hypertrophy training) the goal is NOT to worry about the weight on the bar or the type of exercises you’re doing, but rather to create a training stimulus that elicits muscle damage, metabolic stress and tension, as these mechanisms are what cause the adaption you’re looking for (i.e. getting bigger).”
To build muscle, you must challenge the muscle. Through the 3 mechanisms of hypertrophy; muscle damage, mechanical tension, and metabolic stress, you can and will achieve these results you want.
“Although there are more similarities than differences between the foundational weight-training approaches (i.e. bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman), each is training for a different goal. And, different training goals require different training approaches. In other words, although we’re all using many of the same exercises (i.e. squats, deadlifts, rows, presses, etc.); it’s HOW you use those exercises that’s different.” – Coach Nick
So look at your recent summer Facebook picture of you shirtless. Look at your legs in your shorts.Chances are you know exactly what you need to work on. Head to the gym, throw on some EDM or hip-hop, warm-up, pick up the weight that challenges your reps but also chose the weight YOU can control. In your mind, you are a bodybuilder. Build the body. Make that muscle-mind connection. Focus.
In due time, you will achieve the physique you want.
1,,2,3 – Contreras, Bret; Davis, Kellie (2013-03-31). Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body (Kindle Locations 922-923). Victory Belt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
4 – Contreras, Bret; Davis, Kellie (2013-03-31). Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body (Kindle Locations 924-925). Victory Belt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
5 – Contreras, Bret; Davis, Kellie (2013-03-31). Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body (Kindle Location 954). Victory Belt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
6 – Contreras, Bret; Davis, Kellie (2013-03-31). Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body (Kindle Locations 978-981). Victory Belt Publishing. Kindle Edition.