Is Lifting Heavy Weight Essential For Constructing Muscle Measurement?

There’s an ongoing debate on how necessary heavy weights are with a purpose to get jacked. As with most traits, public opinion likes to cluster across the extremes. Someday heavy weights are vital and the following they’re totally pointless. Realistically, we have to have a extra nuanced dialog in regards to the deserves and disadvantages to each excessive and low load approaches to hypertrophy. From there we are able to provide you with some simple and sensible suggestions that may be carried out into our coaching.


Mechanisms Of Muscle Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy is a time period used to explain muscle development. Primarily there are three major drivers of muscle hypertrophy. Mechanical rigidity, quantity, and metabolic stress.1 It was beforehand thought that muscle harm was a major contributor to muscle hypertrophy. Though in restricted circumstances it might act as a proxy to muscle development; current analysis exhibits the connection doesn’t look like causal and even reliably correlated.2



Hypertrophy is noticed in people in an overtrained state who’ve accrued copious quantities muscle harm and but, they could even lose LBM (lean physique mass). Conversely, there are a number of situations the place a person experiences minimal delayed onset muscle soreness whereas persevering with to construct muscle mass. I don’t imagine muscle harm must be written off as totally unimportant however as a result of it isn’t a direct mechanism the subject of muscle harm it won’t be coated extensively on this article. My private stance on that is that should you’re by no means sore and concurrently not making any progress it’d imply you must practice more durable. However past that, I don’t imagine it’s a metric to reliably base your coaching selections on.


Mechanical Stress

Mechanical rigidity is the place a stretch is utilized to a muscle below load.1 As a 2011 paper discovered, “It’s believed that mechanical rigidity disturbs the integrity of skeletal muscle, inflicting mechanochemically transduced molecular and mobile responses in myofibers and satellite tv for pc cells.”Three The diploma of mechanical rigidity is dependant on the load and the time below rigidity or the quantity of stretch being utilized to the muscle. Using a mix of those components that preferences a spread by which all are optimized is more likely to produce superior hypertrophic variations.Three


This brings up the necessary subject of train choice. From a sensible standpoint, the train chosen largely dictates load prescriptions. For instance, dumbbell chest flys versus barbell bench press would require dramatically completely different load choice based mostly on the mechanical variations inherent in every motion.Four Since quantity is without doubt one of the major contributors of muscle hypertrophy, there’s a clear profit to preferencing compound workouts which permit for higher quantity load and mechanical rigidity.1, 5


Along with growing the mechanical rigidity utilized to the musculature, lifting heavy masses recruits excessive threshold motor models that may not be accessible at decrease intensities.6 These findings have in some situations result in an over-application of this strategy—lifting too heavy too usually. Nonetheless, since hypertrophy is a posh adaptive response, it isn’t mediated by one single mechanism. Somewhat, mechanical rigidity is solely one side of a concomitant matrix that produces muscle development.1


The fatigue price related to repeated bouts of high-intensity resistance coaching is strong and if left unchecked can result in overtraining.7, Eight, 9 Analysis demonstrates a major profit to the conscious inclusion of heavy masses as a part of a resistance coaching protocol to maximise the hypertrophic response. In an try to forestall overtraining, efficient program design should handle the frequency of high-intensity bouts and the related fatigue.



Quantity refers back to the variety of reps multiplied by variety of units accomplished (quantity = reps x units). As a stand-alone metric, quantity doesn’t present a lot perception into the intricacies of a program. The straightforward purpose being equal volumes could have a wide range of completely different adaptive responses.


For instance, the upper intensities prescribed to individual A extra intently resemble that of a power program. The extra voluminous prescription for individual B extra intently resembles a hypertrophy program. I perceive it is a little bit of an oversimplification, but it surely’s ample to reveal my level. Each volumes are similar, and in each instances, 24 complete reps had been accomplished. Nonetheless, as I discussed beforehand the adaptive response in every case is kind of completely different.


A chart showing the differences between person A and B.


For that reason, it’s widespread to see coaches use quantity load which is calculated by multiplying the full variety of reps by the load.10 Within the desk beneath you may see though quantity and relative depth is similar; quantity load is 20% higher for Particular person A than for Particular person B.



A chart showing the differences between person A and B.


Analysis has constantly proven that increased volumes produce higher hypertrophic positive factors in comparison with decrease quantity interventions.11 That is seemingly resulting from a mix of elevated muscle rigidity, metabolic harm, and hormonal responses to resistance coaching.1 A 2019 paper discovered “muscle hypertrophy follows a dose-response relationship, with more and more higher positive factors achieved with increased coaching volumes.”12 Primarily, extra quantity equates to higher positive factors as long as the athlete can sufficiently recuperate.


This leads into the following merchandise up for dialogue which is MRV often known as most recoverable quantity. It is a time period coined by Dr. Mike Israetel to outline the utmost quantity of quantity a person can maintain earlier than overtraining. This is a crucial idea as a result of as with most issues that work properly, extra is commonly considered higher. Nonetheless, this dose-response relationship to hypertrophy is mediated by your capability to recuperate and proceed subsequent coaching classes of a productive nature.Eight


A 2018 paper titled “Results Of Completely different Intensities Of Resistance Coaching With Equated Quantity Load On Muscle Power And Hypertrophy” discovered that “leg extension train carried out at 30% 1RM till failure equally elevated quadriceps muscle quantity in comparison with high-intensity train (80% 1RM) and was superior to a 30% 1RM non-failure situation.”13 Primarily what this implies is that the depth vary at which we are able to construct muscle is way bigger than was beforehand assumed, roughly 40-80% 1RM.13 These findings additionally “point out that the bottom [resistance training] depth (20% 1RM) was suboptimal for maximizing muscular variations.”13


Though there’s a extensive spectrum of volumes and intensities that may induce productive variations, it’s necessary to be cognizant of the place these tough boundaries exist and never enterprise unnecessarily too far in both path.


Quantity additionally has an inverse relationship with depth.14 What this implies is that as depth will increase, quantity essentially decreases. That is additionally why you may squat 65% for 10 reps however 100% for only one rep and is depicted within the graph beneath.


GPT chart.


A query I generally get is: “If elevated quantity decreases depth, how will you maximize mechanical rigidity and quantity concurrently?” This is a wonderful query, and though you could not actually be capable to maximize each concurrently you may actually come near optimizing them. Mechanical rigidity is not only the load being lifted, it’s additionally accumulative rigidity. This implies despite the fact that you’re not lifting your 1RM, because the reps and units progress, the voluminous coaching session induces vital mechanotransduction.1


Metabolic Stress

Metabolic stress appears to have a big affect on muscular hypertrophy both immediately or not directly. A paper by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld discovered “Metabolic stress manifests because of train that depends on anaerobic glycolysis for ATP manufacturing, which ends up in the next buildup of metabolites similar to lactate, hydrogen ion, inorganic phosphate, creatine, and others.”1 Though decrease masses lifted for top repetitions (15+) will not be ample to maximally recruit excessive threshold motor models, it might induce vital metabolic stress.1 Thus, there seems to be a transparent profit to incorporating increased repetition ranges at decrease masses to make the most of the metabolic stress pathway to hypertrophy.


Sensible implementation of each low and high-intensity protocols differ dramatically. In a 2018 paper by De Souza et al, with a purpose to produce related hypertrophic responses with low masses the topics had been pressured to take every set to muscular failure.13 This presents some very actual limitations to such a coaching because of the related fatigue price.


As an example, taking an isolation train just like the leg extension to failure will create a major hypertrophic response, nonetheless, the fatigue generated will seemingly be manageable. Examine that with a barbell squat taken to failure and the axial loading will lead to extra systemic fatigue which can additionally improve danger of harm.15 The fatigue generated from such a annoying coaching session can also bleed into subsequent coaching classes, doubtlessly having a damaging affect on downstream efficiency. Past that, the psychological price of coaching at this degree of effort is very taxing, and certain not sustainable for lengthy durations. Thus train choice, sequence, undulation, and frequency of implementation must be thought of when designing a program.


De Souza and colleagues additionally discovered that increased intensities not taken to failure are at the very least equally efficient at eliciting a hypertrophic response throughout coaching.13 That is mirrored by the suggestions made by Helms et al for pure bodybuilders the place coaching intensities between 70-80% 1RM make up the vast majority of the depth spectrum utilized.16


This once more boils all the way down to context. When taking a look at a single set, any depth taken to failure will elicit a higher hypertrophic response than not taking the set to failure. This happens as a result of failure maximizes the mix of mechanical rigidity, quantity, and metabolic stress accrued through the set.1 Nonetheless, there’s a robust correlation between the incidence of overtraining when an athlete exceeds their load/quantity thresholds.17 Thus, coaching to failure as a major technique of program design is ill-advised and more likely to lead to harm and overtraining.


Endocrine Response To Resistance Coaching

Resistance coaching ends in a cascade of endocrine responses that assist facilitate the synthesis of muscle mass. A number of questions nonetheless exist relating to the long run significance of acute alterations in hormones post-exercise. One paper discovered “Greater volumes of complete work produce considerably higher will increase in circulating anabolic hormones through the restoration part following train.” 18 Ahtiainen et al tried to find out the hormonal response to heavy resistance coaching with equated quantity. The one distinction in protocol between management teams was group A was instructed to do Four units at 12RM, the place group B adopted the identical protocol however with a weight they may solely full Eight reps, and the remaining reps can be pressured reps.


After measuring serum testosterone, free testosterone, cortisol, development hormone, and blood lactate; each teams confirmed vital will increase in focus post-training.19 Nonetheless, the pressured rep group had the next focus upon measurement than the 12RM group. There’s additionally proof suggesting that coaching age of the athlete influences hormonal response to coaching. One paper discovered that skilled topics demonstrated decrease responsiveness in hormone values (complete testosterone, free testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone, cortisol, and intercourse hormone-binding globulin) submit resistance train.20 Due to this fact, we are able to speculate that the endocrine response to resistance coaching is probably going attenuated over time.20 This may increasingly at the very least partly clarify the requirement of upper volumes in skilled athletes to stimulate myogenesis.
Insulin-like development factor-1 (IGF-1) is a hormone that, together with development hormone (GH), helps promote regular bone and tissue development and improvement. Though the mechanism by which mechanical load modulates IGF-1 expression is unclear, there may be rising proof in assist of this remark.21


The picture beneath is a visible represents of a dose-response relationship between quantity, load, and endocrine response to resistance coaching (ie. higher masses and volumes leading to a bigger acute elevation). As talked about beforehand, it’s nonetheless unclear how acute elevations in anabolic hormone concentrations affect long run outcomes. Nonetheless, if the acute elevations in anabolic surroundings ensuing from resistance coaching are frequent sufficient and at a big sufficient magnitude, it might be cheap to imagine they’d be mirrored in downstream positive factors.Endocrine response chart.

Since there may be plenty of conjecture with regard to the connection between long run outcomes and acute elevations in anabolic hormones, I’d not spend a lot time trying to change your biochemistry. Merely concentrate on the variables which have been properly established to trigger muscle development and let your physique kind the remainder out by itself.


Coaching Frequency and Fatigue Administration

All progress in coaching relies on sufficient restoration, permitting for subsequent bouts of coaching that over time yield a constructive adaptive response. The repeated bout impact is a sports activities science idea that describes the our bodies adaptive response to stressors leading to elevated resiliency.22 There’s a restrict to the speed of our adaptive capability and exceeding this restrict can predispose you to harm and decreased efficiency.9 Fatigue administration, due to this fact, is a elementary tenant of each efficient coaching protocol. The SRA (stimulus restoration adaptation) curve charts the adaptive course of to resistance coaching and is depicted within the picture beneath.


Performance flow chart.


There are three details to spotlight right here. The primary is that train generates fatigue, the magnitude of which is decided by a number of components however primarily quantity and cargo. The second level is that should you wait too lengthy earlier than introducing one other coaching stimulus adaptive dissolution happens. This implies you regress as a result of subsequent coaching exposures had been both insufficiently overloading, insufficiently frequent, non-specific or a mix of those. The third level is as you accumulate fatigue by way of overloading coaching classes your capability to specific athletic efficiency declines quickly.


Understanding this, frequency of coaching performs a major function within the correct utility of varied loading methods. As an example, should you had been to do 10×10 squats to failure, you could not be capable to practice legs for a complete week. So, when wanting on the magnitude of the stimulus produced in a vacuum it’s big which is constructive. However the truth that you may’t practice legs for a complete week seemingly makes the chance price of this technique a poor trade-off. Most often frequencies increased than 1x per week are required to actually optimize muscle development. Thus, a phasic construction and efficient program design may help forestall the exacerbation of a single pathway, handle fatigue, and in addition potentiate future positive factors.


Sensible Takeaways And Suggestions

With regard to the compound lifts, the vast majority of your hypertrophy positive factors will seemingly come from the next suggestions:


Reps: 6-15 Units: Four-Eight Depth: 60-80% Relaxation: 2-Three minutes


Nonetheless, this doesn’t exclude the implementation of low load coaching taken close to or to absolute muscle failure. It merely implies that it must be utilized intelligently. For the reason that physiological and psychological fatigue generated from taking units to absolute muscular failure is critical as properly and an all-around horrible expertise I’d use it sparsely. Its implementation would seemingly be best for smaller muscle teams or workouts which are restricted within the quantity of load that may be lifted (ie. bicep curls, tricep press downs, calf press, DB shoulder press, and many others).


Implementing a phasic construction that emphasizes particular adaptive pathways may be very efficient. The best construction can be based mostly on every part potentiating subsequent phases. Thus one potential strategy could possibly be a linear periodization mannequin the place quantity begins excessive and declines over time as depth rises. An instance of which is beneath:


Section 1: Metabolic (excessive quantity, low load) Section 2: Quantity (reasonable quantity, reasonable load) Section Three: Mechanical Stress (reasonable quantity, reasonable to excessive masses)


Under is an instance of an identical exercise tailored to every part to present you an thought of what your coaching would possibly appear to be:


Phases of training chart.


As you may see from the pattern exercises, every part could look comparatively related. This brings me to an necessary level—complicated coaching isn’t synonymous with efficient coaching. The fundamentals are what produce the majority of your outcomes anyway, and regardless of how superb it might be to seek out “hacks” that yield higher progress it usually doesn’t work that means in observe. Your finest wager is to make use of the entire spectrum of reps, units, and depth ranges whereas nonetheless sustaining the majority of your work inside the tips talked about above.

The usage of techniques similar to big units, rest-pause units, supersets, damaging units, and many others may be helpful in eliciting metabolic stress. These may be carried out at your desecration, however I’d advocate both utilizing them on multi-joint machine-based workouts or isolation workouts with free weight or machines. It will assist restrict the quantity of fatigue you may generate from such a coaching whereas nonetheless producing a major stimulus.


Hopefully, this clears up a few of the confusion and provides some sensible utility for implementing numerous loading methods into your hypertrophy program. Elevate massive.



1. “The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Utility”, The Journal of Power & Conditioning Analysis”, LWW.

2. Flann, Kyle L, et al. “Muscle Injury and Muscle Reworking: No Ache, No Acquire?” The Journal of Experimental Biology, U.S. Nationwide Library of Medication, 15 Feb. 2011.

Three. “The Use of Specialised Coaching Methods to Maximize”, Power & Conditioning Journal.” LWW.

Four. “A Biomechanical Comparability of the Conventional Squat”, The Journal of Power & Conditioning Analysis. LWW.

5. Krieger, James. “Single vs. A number of Units of Resistance Train for Muscle Hypertrophy: A Meta-Evaluation”, Journal of Power and Conditioning Analysis, 1 Apr. 2010.

6. “Coaching-Induced Adjustments in Neural Operate : Train and Sport Sciences Critiques”, LWW.


Eight. “The Health-Fatigue Mannequin Revisited: Implications for… ” Power & Conditioning Journal, LWW.

9. BANISTER, Eric, et al. “Dose/Response Results of Train Modeled from Coaching : Bodily and Biochemical Measures”, The Annals of Physiological Anthropology, Japan Society of Physiological Anthropology, Eight Feb. 2008.

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11. Krieger, James. “Single vs. A number of Units of Resistance Train for Muscle Hypertrophy: A Meta-Evaluation”, Journal of Power and Conditioning Analysis, 1 Apr. 2010.

12. Schoenfeld, Brad J, et al. “Resistance Coaching Quantity Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy however Not Power in Skilled Males”, Medication and Science in Sports activities and Train, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Jan. 2019.

13. Lasevicius, Thiago, et al. “Results of Completely different Intensities of Resistance Coaching with Equated Quantity Load on Muscle Power and Hypertrophy”, European Journal of Sport Science, vol. 18, no. 6, 2018, pp. 772–780.

14. “The Science and Observe of Periodization: A Transient Overview : Power & Conditioning Journal”, LWW.

15. “The Impact of Fatigue on Multijoint Kinematics and Load… : Backbone”. LWW.

16. Helms, E R, et al. “Suggestions for Pure Bodybuilding Contest Preparation: Resistance and Cardiovascular Coaching”, The Journal of Sports activities Medication and Bodily Health, U.S. Nationwide Library of Medication, Mar. 2015.

17. Foster, Carl. “Monitoring Coaching in Athletes with Reference to Overtraining Syndrome”, Medication & Science in Sports activities & Train, 1 July 1998.

18. Gotshalk, L A, et al. “Hormonal Responses of Multiset versus Single-Set Heavy-Resistance Train Protocols”, Canadian Journal of Utilized Physiology = Revue Canadienne De Physiologie Appliquee, U.S. Nationwide Library of Medication, June 1997.

19. Ahtiainen, Juha P, et al. “Acute Hormonal Responses to Heavy Resistance Train in Power Athletes versus Nonathletes”, Canadian Journal of Utilized Physiology = Revue Canadienne De Physiologie Appliquee, U.S. Nationwide Library of Medication, Oct. 2004.

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