22 Nov Big Weight Doesn’t Make Big Muscles
One of the most widely propagated gym myths is that lifting heavy weights will make your muscles big.
Despite what all of you meat head dudes believe your gaudy 1 rep max back squat or insanely heavy deadlift does not make you jacked. Ladies – lifting heavy weight is not the reason your legs have a hard time squeezing into your skinny jeans.
Say what ? Here is the science…
Muscles (and pretty much all other parts of our organism) increase in size by a process called hypertrophy (said hyper-tra-phy). Muscle hypertrophy occurs primarily through chronic anaerobic, high-intensity resistance activity, like that which happens during resistance training lifting weights (Brown, McCartney & Sale, 1990; Cureton, Collins, Hill, & McElhannon, 1988; Marieb, 2004; McCall, Byrnes, Dickenson, Pattany, & Fleck, 1996).Resistance training causes neural adaptations which result in changes in muscular endurance, muscular strength and, , eventually, the size of the muscles (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004).
Resistance training causes an increase in the cross-sectional area (CSA) of all muscle fiber types, without an increase in muscle fiber numbers (McCall, et al., 1996).
So all of that science means this – If you are looking to get some size on your guns, it is traditionally recommended to use low to moderate intensity (50-75% 1RM, which means 50 to 75 percent of your 1 rep max) with a very moderate volume (3-6 sets of 10-20 reps, with 8-12 reps being the hypertrophy range) (Charlebois, 2007; Wathen, Baechle & Earle, 2000). However, I have been tracking data from clients for over five years and I believe the best muscle growth is achieved using 70% 1RM (Holm, et al., 2008) for 3-5 sets of 10-12 unbroken reps.
Think of it this way: if you take 50% of your max front squat and do 50 reps unbroken, the size of your leg will get bigger, But if you take 70% of your max front squat and do 5 sets of 10 reps your leg muscles will get EVEN bigger (logical, yeah?).
Up to now, we have talked about making your muscle tissue bigger. Unfortunately, this won’t make you very strong.
WTF? Lifting weights doesn’t make me strong?
Not all lifting is the same. Strength is accomplished by putting heavy weight on the bar and lifting 1 - 5x times.
I know this can get really confusing so here is an analogy that I stole from Dr. Jake at Athlete’s Potential that may clear things up. Imagine you were at Brick Store drinking beer. Your buddy Dave Blanchard gave you an 8 oz cup. That cup can only hold 8 oz of beer. It literally can not hold any more. If you wanted to have more beer, you would have to get a bigger cup. Makes sense, right?
Your muscles are the same way. If you have “8 oz quads”, they can only contain a defined amount of potential force production (i.e. strength). Once those 8oz quads reach their strength limit (i.e the cup is full), the only way to get them to be stronger would be to increase the size of your cup (i.e. make your quads bigger via hypertrophy).The other side of this analogy is a situation where Dave could give you a 40 oz cup and the bartender only fills it with 8 oz of beer. In this case, you are grossly under using your resources. This gives the world the classic Bodybuilder body we all see in the gym – massive muscles that are all show and no go. Obviously this isn’t an issue at CFD but we do have a lot of 8oz quads and only fill them with 4oz of strength. You can and should fill those babies to their max potential by doing some heavy (80% or more for 1-5 reps) squats.In conclusion: if you are a dude looking to get jacked, you should take weight off the bar and do sets of higher reps. If you are a dudette looking to keep your body the way it is but want to be strong, don’t skip heavy days and lay off the 100 push press reps at 65 lb workouts.If you are interested in gaining mass & or developing strength, please fill out the form below. CFD will be launching some new programs in 2018 and we are interested in getting some data on who is interested in what.