Less is More: The Key to Building Muscle

Everyone that lifts weight has one of two goals: burn fat or build muscle. There are different paths that will help you to reach both goals, but the harder one, by far, is building muscle. It takes A LOT of work to pack on pounds of muscle. It’s not just hours spent at the gym every day, but it includes the proper diet, maxing out on protein, living a healthy lifestyle, and so much more.

But what if there was an easier way to build muscle? What if you could pack on the muscle without all the heavy lifting? Perhaps it’s time to lighten the load and increase the reps. You’d be surprised by how effective it can be!

Why to Lift Less, But More Times

In an article posted on Men’s Fitness, strength coach and L.A.-based author Jason Ferruggia talks about the difference between lifting light and lifting heavy. According to him, the strength gains are EXACTLY the same, but there’s a much lower risk of injury.

Now that may go against everything you’ve learned over your years of working out and training hard. Most coaches and athletes know that lifting heavy is the key to building strength, and lifting light will lead to an increase in endurance.

But think about what that means “building strength”. When you see people lifting very heavy, you’ll find that they are usually the kind of person going for MASSIVE muscles. They’re training for serious bulk, rather than the more practical functional strength the average person needs. How many people need to be able to bench press 500 pounds? Probably not many!

When you lift light, you build endurance, but that doesn’t mean your muscles aren’t growing. In fact, your muscles will grow stronger over the course of your lighter weight training. If you do 3 sets of 20 reps with 40 pounds today and the same number of sets and reps using 50 pounds in two weeks, you’ve just increased your strength. It’s not raw brute force, but it’s a more functional form of muscular power that will help you to carry out your activities of daily life more easily.

Can you see the difference? Yes, lifting heavy weights will be the key to building brute strength, but the more functional form of strength is developed by lifting less for more reps. You don’t need to focus on lifting 80 to 90% of your Max Weight, but you can shoot for a more practical 65 to 70%. That way, you’ll still increase your strength, but it will be strength that will enable you to take out the trash, carry heavy boxes, or play with your kids.

Does training heavy still have a place in your life? Absolutely! Endurance training alone will help to burn fat and tone up your muscles, but you should still include heavy lifting in order to increase muscle mass. You may not want to drop to sets of 4 to 6–the sort of weight training used for serious mass gains–but sets of 10 to 15 reps will help you to develop stamina and increase muscle mass.

Switch up your workout program every month. Focus on one month of heavy lifting, and the next on endurance training. Don’t let your body grow accustomed to the load or the exercises, but keep it guessing. You may find that switching it up between the two types of workouts can be the key to developing serious strength in all areas of your life, not just when it comes to lifting weights at the gym!

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