How to use heavy weights to build muscle

Posted: February 6, 2014 in fitness, Muscle Building
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Building muscle volume is about hypertrophy training, but when it comes to adding lasting mass some strength training will be required. This is ideally done in the “off season” (while not cutting).

Yet I have found that certain hypertrophy principles make strength training far more effective.

First of all we have to establish that “strength training” is about lifting heavy weights and training the CNS more so than the actual muscles. A common tendency when lifting heavy is to throw proper exercise form out the window which will actually have the opposite of the desired effect.

The same goes for range of motion. I’ve seen a few programs out there that advocate using a small range of motion to accommodate lifting heavier weights… With a little bit of logic we can see why this is not an effective tool; first of all you are training your muscle in an unnatural way, and it is also within the range you are already strongest, so of anything you will build an unbalanced muscle and body.

Instead I find it is best to start with a few sets of 8 or more reps in the full range of motion focusing on really feeling the muscle work. After that increase the weight and lower the reps incrementally. Personally I find that 4-5 reps works best because any heavier and you can’t usually feel the working muscle.

When striving for progress I suggest trying to keep the weights the same but add more reps as the ideal goal would be heavy weights for a lot of reps.

One factor that also has to be considered when lifting heavy weights is frequency; your CNS tends to take longer to recover, so doing a split that involves less frequency (more rest between sessions) tends to actually make you progress quicker. 1 on/1-2 off is a good way to get everything trained and still get enough time off to recover.

To be honest I prefer training 5-6 times per week so this is a challenge for me, but you can’t argue with results. Training every second day added substantial strength and mass to my frame, then I increase the frequency and switch to primarily hypertrophy training when I’m dieting.

So as a little bonus for you, here’s my split I use for mass training (notice that the smaller groups get extra training):
Day 1: chest, shoulders, biceps
Day 2: quads, hams, calves
Day 3: back, rear delts, triceps

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Related: How Heavy Should You Lift?

  1. This is great info. I’ve been doing something very similar to this on my heavy days since December. I’ve started light with higher reps. Then, I’ve gone down to as low as three reps per set with near-maximal weight. I’ll only drop that low with the bench press, squat, or deadlift, mostly because those last two are so intense.

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