Woman makes a front squat Photo: Flamingo Pictures (Shutterstock)

Lift Heavy To Build Muscle: This is advice you’ve probably seen in a million places. But how difficult is “difficult” and how do you know whether your training is qualified?

There is no specific number of pounds that are “heavy” for everyone. What is hard for a young girl picking up a dumbbell for the first time is much less than what is hard for a strong professional. (If you want to compare your elevators with other people, e.g. Symmetrical strength can show where you stand – but please just look at these compositions for fun.)

“Heavy” workout is an abbreviation for strength training that is in a low rep range and gets heavier over time. This is the type of workout that will give you the greatest gains in strength and muscle size.

Exercising this way isn’t the only way to build muscle, but it is very effective. So let’s look at what counts as heavy training and what is not.

How many reps do you do?

For strength training, you typically do 1-5 Repetitions in every sentence. Training for hypertrophy (larger muscles) is often in the 8 to 12 range.

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The truth is that there isn’t much of a difference in results between the two; Getting stronger gives you bigger muscles and as you get bigger you get stronger. I would say as long as you are doing 12 reps or less you are in a reasonable range to say you are working out hard.

Once you do a lot more than that – 15, 20, 50 reps – you’re training your muscular endurance more than strength. You can build some strength this way, but it doesn’t really count as heavy workout.

How heavy does the set feel?

Okay, let’s say you’re doing a set of 8 squats. That might count, but only if you load the squats so far that it is difficult to do 8 of them.

With some exercises and goals, you may strive for failure – literally, until you can’t do another repetition. An example would be if you could do 8 bicep curls and not create a ninth.

But you can also get close to failure without going there. For example, doing squats can do a set of 8 with a weight that you can push out 10 or 11 reps of if you’ve really pushed yourself. That still counts as heavy training.

What doesn’t count if you do eight reps of cup squats with a light dumbbell because it’s the only dumbbell you have or because you’re intimidated into gaining weight. Heavy lifting is when you are doing the appropriate rep range with a weight that is challenging within that range.

Do you gain weight over time?

The only way to keep the lift challenging as you get stronger is to keep adding the weight.

To use our cup squat example, squatting with a 20 pound dumbbell may have been a challenge when you first tried it. But a week or two later, you can probably do the same eight repetitions with a 25-pound dumbbell. In brief, doing front squats with a barbell may make more sense to make adding more weight easier. You lift heavily.

But if you’re doing the same sets of 8 squats over and over with the same 20-pound dumbbell, you’re not efficiently challenging yourself to build muscle or strength – you’re just doing an exercise that just keeps getting easier. This is still good for you because it’s still movement, but it no longer fits the description of heavy lifting.

Do you rest between sets?

This is where a lot of people make mistakes, especially when exercising at home or worried about burning calories while exercising. We don’t lift heavy for calorie burning during exercise; We do heavy lifting to build muscle and we hold the cardio for another day.

Illustration for article titled What Does It Mean To Lift Hard?

If you are constantly working to keep your heart rate high and have little to no time to rest between exercises, you are not exercising heavily. It is more likely that you are doing circuit training. Crossfit-Metod-WODs often fall into this category, as do many home exercise videos that bill themselves as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). They’re usually not true HIIT, but that’s a joke for another time.

Failure to rest means you won’t approach each elevator when you’re fresh. When you reduce rest periods, the workouts feel more difficult, but you also work with less weight. That is, they usually don’t fit our definition. While they can help you gain strength or muscle size, they are nowhere near as efficient as heavy lifting.

If you take a few minutes off between exercises, you will lift heavily. A typical range is 2 to 4 minutes between exercises that work smaller or fewer muscles (like curling or clenching) and 3 to 5 minutes or more between sets of large compound exercises (like squats or deadlifts). You can lift heavily with adequate rest.