Welcome back friends. As is always the case, our goal here is to help you reach yours. To help you along is our topic of the day, heavy resistance training. A few weeks ago we talked about sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and how higher reps served to increase hypertrophy of the sarcoplasm. When it comes to strength and power gains however, the heavier the weight, the greater the trauma. This leads to the greatest potential for growth. Last week we discussed hormones, and how testosterone, human growth hormone, and insulin like growth factor 1 created the appropriate chemical balance to instigate growth. These are both factors that will influence today’s topic.
When we lift weights for the purpose of building maximum muscle, we need to work at an intensity that is greater than 70% of our 1 rep maximum to optimally stimulate growth. It is true that if we work below this percentage growth can still be achieved, but not as effectively as when we lift heavy weight. We have discussed optimal rep ranges, and the truth is that our reps should determine the weight, and not the other way around.
When we lift weights with a higher rep range, it is proven to cause a greater case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Larger hormonal secretions are activated as well, but that does not necessarily translate into the greatest growth. Studies have also shown that a lighter weight will have similar increases in the cross-sectional area of a muscle, but heavy resistance training will result in a higher volume of muscle mass, and strength.
Another interesting point is that when we lift heavy weights the anabolic response is lower than that of a higher rep range. This is odd because even though there is lower hormonal secretion, muscle mass is still greater with the heavier weight being lifted than with the lower weight, even though it had a much higher hormonal production. Again, this relates back to muscle tension being the greatest stimulus for muscle growth, and this occurs with heavy weights.
Muscle tension is crucial for strength gains. When we lift heavy, greater tension by our muscles must be endured, and with that we gain the best possible stimulus for growth. If we are using the highest amount of weight we are able to lift while using the proper technique, our muscles are being pushed to their capacity. When this occurs we are forcing the muscle to adapt or break. This is called a progressive overload. If we are constantly able to apply this method of training then the desired increase in muscle growth will follow.
An area of concern is that sometimes we tend to push themselves beyond our limits. We should be lifting as heavy as physically possible, but we must practice proper technique, otherwise we are limiting our gains also. The heavier the weight, the greater the risk of injury. If you are going to practice lifting heavy weights for lower reps, please be safe and be aware of your surroundings. I would also advise working with a spotter. A spotter may help whenever you are in need, and in doing so will limit the risk of injury.