Building Muscle – When it comes to weight lifting, there is a lot of misinformation and common questions. Generally, the rule of thumb for weightlifters is: If you want to increase muscle size, lift relatively light weights for a lot of reps. If you want to get strong, lift heavy weights for just a few reps.
However, this is isn’t necessarily the case. You need to do both if you want to see muscle growth without injuring yourself or hitting a plateau. So what is the best way to build muscle when ti comes to weight lifting?
1. Why You Need Both Heavier Weights and More Reps
So why do you need both heavy weights and lighter weights with more reps? Well the simple answer is to avoid fatigue, injury, and a plateau.
Lifting heavy weights with lower reps builds dense, lean muscle—but constantly upping the heaviness will exhaust your body fast. That’s why lifting lighter weights with more reps also deserves it’s time in the spotlight.
See, your nervous system has to adjust to the new fiber activation your muscles endure when you lift weights that are heavier than usual. Using lighter, but still challenging, weights with higher reps puts less strain on your muscle tissue and allows your nervous system to recuperate.
Alternating between heavy and light lifting will help you gradually strengthen and build your muscles. After all, muscle gain doesn’t happen overnight.
2. Heavy Weight Workout
So how often should you alternate between heavy weights and light weights? Well, try spending one week’s worth of workouts lifting weights that are approximately 85 to 90 percent of your maximum lift strength. Some basic exercises you can do are:
- Bench Presses
- Kettlebell Swing
Try and keep the reps between three to six per set so that you work your muscles without overworking them. And in order to avoid burnout, rest for about three minutes between sets.
3. Light Weight Workout
So after you’ve done the heavy weight workout for a week, what’s next? Now you can focus on lighter weights with more reps. Try lifting weights between 70 to 80 percent of your max strength. You can try doing exercises like:
- Plank Rows
- Sumo Squats
- High Knees
- Single Leg Deadlifts
Try to hit 10 to 12 reps per exercise so that your muscles still get a workout but also have time to heal after the heavy lifting. Since you’re not taxing your muscles and nervous system as much, one minute of rest between each set is fine.
The Heavy Weights or More Reps Takeaway
So in the end, you should use both heavy weights and light weights with more reps in order to build muscle. Alternating between these two weight lifting methods will help you avoid fatigue, injury, and hitting a plateau. What really matters when it comes to building muscle is consistency, discipline, and proper form.
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Author: Chris Friesen
Chris Friesen is a gym owner, personal trainer, online fitness coach and former “fat dad” living on 60 beautiful acres of countryside in rural Canada.
He specializes in helping busy parents shed body fat quickly, WITHOUT becoming gym rats OR giving up the foods they love to eat.
In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids, sitting in his hot tub out in the snow with a glass of bourbon, and yelling at his (many) misbehaving barn cats.