Lifting light is a good idea for building general strength, fitness and conditioning. The more you lift, the stronger your muscles become. But if you really want to build lots of muscle mass, you have to lift hard and heavy.
It all comes down to the way that muscle growth works. Starting off with light weights is okay. But as you get deeper into your training plan, muscle fibers need more stimulation to invoke adaptation.
Muscle growth works on the principle of progressive overload. You have to be able to increase the amount of pressure muscles are under in order to encourage them to grow and adapt. And that means that, occasionally, you’ll need to go heavy.
Doing this safely and effectively, however, is always the challenge. You can put as many bumper plates on the bar as you like. But if there’s a problem with your form, you’ll wind up injuring yourself, potentially causing permanent damage.
In this post, therefore, we take a look at some of the ways that you can lift harder and heavier without overdoing. It’s all about patients, form, and timing. Remember, people who lift heavy (and in the right way) tend to experience greater improvements in their strength over time.
Get Smart With Your Fuel
Most people looking for strength and size believe that diet is important. And they’re right: what you eat makes a massive difference in your overall progress. But you need to get seriously smart with your fuel and take advantage of all the nutritional tools available to you if you want to progress in tandem with your training.
Try to avoid the trap of eating boring bodybuilder meals. There is really no justification for it, and it is something that can quickly demotivate you and derail your efforts.
It turns out that the range of extremely healthy foods is broad. In fact, virtually any food in its natural state offers profound health benefits. Herbs and spices are both kosher and an excellent way to add extra appeal to your meals.
What’s more, many plants contain compounds that support recovery. Some reduce the onset of muscle soreness while others provide proteins to make your innards more flexible and elastic, reducing the chance of injury.
Use More Tension
We generally see tension as a bad thing. But when it comes to heavy weight training, it’s your best friend. It turns out that when you grip a bar more and clench your fist, you activate more of your nervous system and muscle fibers. This then sends signals to the body that you need to get stronger. Having a strong grip also improves your functional strength. For instance, it allows you to grip heavier deadlift bars.
You can also use tension when training your core. Keeping the abs and back flexor muscles under constant tension activates them more, increasing the overall response to training.
Train More Often
Sometimes you need to hit muscle groups more than once per week. Research shows that some muscles can begin to atrophy in as little as seven days. They begin to lose size, strength and vascularity, meaning that you can wind up back at square one if you’re on a weekly rotation.
Trying to hit muscles every three to four days is probably a better idea, with occasional longer breaks and “rest weeks.” This way, you can ensure that you are progressively overloading muscles and that they keep getting bigger. The biggest gains come on muscles that you overload regularly.
Make Time To Warm Up
Warming up isn’t popular in the bodybuilding and strength training community. Most of us just want to get into the bread and butter of our training. But it actually pays to warm up. That’s because it helps to release the muscles, lengthen them, and improve blood supply to them.
How you warm up depends on the equipment you have available. Hard rollers, foam balls and regular dynamic stretching can all work a treat. When you warm up, you both stretch the muscle and all the fat casing that surrounds it, allowing you to increase your range of motion.
Get Your Form Right
Perhaps the most important part of lifting harder and heavier is to get your form right – something we alluded to in the introduction. When you’re lifting more than 150 pounds, there’s a real risk of injury.
Whatever movement you do, you need to master it at lower weights first. This is particularly important for squats and deadlifts. Making errors on these moves can lead to serious injury.