Do Bodybuilders Use Light Weights or Heavy Weights
The only reason why a bodybuilder stops building muscle is because the person is no longer able to coerce the body to adapt to the stress it gets put under. After you been training with weights for more than just a year or two, your body starts to grow wiser and you start realizing that you can't lift with any force you like.
There is little that devours any reasonable progress any faster than "middle ground" training. This middle ground is when you train using exactly the same sets or reps using the same intensity. If you always train in the 8, 10, and 12 rep range, then your muscle growth is sitting in no-gain's land.
To examine the question further on whether to use light or heavy weights when you're trying to build muscle, we first need to examine The Neural-Metabolic Continuum which is just a fancy term describing whether your training works your muscles or your central nervous system (CNS).
If your objective is more metabolic (i.e. hypertrophic) gains, then your average squatting program would look like this: 4 X 10 repetitions using a 3-seconds tempo down, with no pause at the bottom and 1 second up. You should use 60-90 seconds rest between each set.
However, if your objective was more neural (CNS strength gains) your training would look like this:
5 X 3 repetitions using as fast as possible a tempo and resting 3-5 minutes' rest between each set.
It's important to spend time at both ends of this set and rep spectrum (and not just stay in the middle) if you want to maximize your development and your muscle growth. When talking about high reps to build muscle we are talking between 8-12 reps and sometimes going as low as only 6 reps per set.
Some folks call training like this "structural hypertrophy" allowing the higher rep sets to be to focus primarily on only the muscles themselves. By slowing the rep movement down, you're able to do less total sets for each exercise. Because you're increasing time under tension, you will get gains in strength that just come along for a ride, but your increase in muscular growth is going to outpace your increases in strength.
The point is that if you only train in this rep range for an extended period of time, training in that 8-12 rep zone will ultimately be limiting the amount of the intensity you'll be able to use. Doing sets within the 15, 20, or more reps in each set should be the exception to your training rather than the rule.
Low rep training has a place too, in gaining muscle and strength and all low rep zone training can be can be defined as any set between 1 rep using near-maximal effort and doing 5 reps in a set. Although this type of training is more for Olympic lifting or powerlifting, it will increase your high-threshold motor units, but you have to push some very serious weight!
This type of training will focus on your nervous system, making it more efficient. When you switch back to normal training after training sets of 10 to 3 sets of 1-5 reps, you'll coerce your body deep into unfamiliar territory, shocking your stressors. When you train with heavy weights using low rep ranges it will require more "tightness" so you can increase your focus, recruiting more muscle fibers and more motor units, and your body then starts to get better at turning off its antagonists (opposing muscle groups) as well.
This type of training will result in a different body composition compared to someone who trains using only high reps. Powerlifters may lack a bit of muscle size and definition but they will have jaw-dropping strength. With high reps promoting hypertrophy and your low reps facilitating your strength increases, in theory, the two both rep schemes will get your strength and your muscular development like you were a Greek god.
Science can now prove to us that when we do both high-rep and the low-rep range training we'll maximize muscle development. High rep training will build more muscle and improve your connective tissue strength. It will also give your body some respite from low-rep set training, too. Low-rep sets will build neuromuscular and your CNS efficiency, high reps develop muscle size.
High rep training is 8-12 repetitions in each set
Low rep training is 4-8 repetitions in each set
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