How Heavy Should I Lift to Build Muscle

Time to go down in the muck. We understand you're only here for the muscle. So let's skip the basics and directly address the pertinent query: How much weight should I lift?

The answer will vary depending on your goals and the kind of lifting programme that will work best for you. It is advised that you begin by lifting weights that are less than 60% of your one rep maximum (1RM) if you are a beginner (one rep max). This will make the transition to strength training simpler and help avoid early-process injuries from doing too much.

On your cross-training days, you probably believe that the more weight you lift, the more powerful you'll become. You can question whether your workouts are effective if you don't like to load up the barbell.

Good news: New research suggests that gaining muscle may not necessitate workouts comparable to those performed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. No matter how much weight you are lifting, you will notice benefits as long as you push yourself to failure.

23 previously untrained women (ages 18 to 27) participated in the 12-week study, which was published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. They were divided into two groups at random and instructed to lift at 30 per cent of their one-rep maximum (low load) and 80 per cent of their one-rep maximum, respectively (high load).

Your body will burn more body fat

The theory behind why lifting weights burns more fat than many other workout techniques is that as you gain more muscle, your body will continue to burn fat all day long. (Read all about the science behind how building muscle aids in calorie and fat burning.)

According to Jacque Crockford, C.S.C.S., a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise, lifting weights can improve your lean body mass, which raises the total number of calories you burn throughout the day. developing muscle while burning extra calories following a workout? The only surefire method to obtain the body you want is to do it.

A 2017 study published in the journal Obesity found that combining a low-calorie diet with weight training led to more fat reduction than combining a low-calorie diet with walking workouts in overweight or obese individuals (age 60 and over). The amount of weight lost by the people who chose to walk instead of lift weights was comparable, but a sizable amount of that reduction was made up of lean body mass. Adults who engaged in strength training lost fat while maintaining muscle mass.

This shows that strength training, as opposed to cardio, is more effective at assisting people in losing belly fat. Aerobic activity burns both fat and muscle, whereas weight lifting nearly solely burns fat.

Participants completed either 30 or 80 per cent of their one-rep maximums for the four exercises leg extension, seated military press, leg curl, and lat pulldown—three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions—on weeks 1, 5, and 12. They performed two sets of each exercise to failure during weeks 2 through 4 and 6 through 7. They also performed three sets of each exercise to failure from weeks 8 through 11.

All exercises were performed between 30 and 80 per cent of their maximum one-rep capacity. Fewer reps were completed by the high load group until they reached failure than the low load group.

The outcomes? Participants improved their upper- and lower-body strength equally—and significantly—regardless of the group, they were put into. The one rep maximum for each exercise increased from week one to week twelve as follows:

  • Leg extension: a typical 24 per cent improvement in strength
  • Military press when seated: average strength gain of 14%
  • Leg curl: a typical 26 per cent improvement in strength
  • Lat pulldown: an average of 13 per cent strength increase

Additionally, there were no variations in the two groups' physical composition.

Is Weight Lifting An Automatic Path To Big, Bulky Muscles?

"When individuals speak to having 'bulky' muscle, they typically mean having more muscle than they like or want or, more frequently, someone who has a muscular build but also has a sizable amount of body fat.

According to Chris "Protein" Leach, an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Weight Loss and Nutrition Specialist, it is very feasible to design a training and exercise programme that does not lead to any of these.

Since greater weights result in more signals being sent from the brain to muscles, lifting weights places a significant amount of stress on the neurological system rather than just the muscles. Therefore, lifting huge weights on its own won't make you bigger; rather, it will just make you stronger.

Dinyer says that when you lift heavier weights to failure, you still build muscle. This is because of the specificity of the training weight and mechanical tension, which is the tension that the heavier weight puts on the muscle. This causes more muscle fibres to be recruited during the lift.

"Despite the fact that there are fewer repetitions performed and the sets are shorter in length, this subjects more of the muscle to the training stimulus. Additionally, she added, "Mechanical tension may increase the quantity of proteins needed for muscle growth.

The good news is that you may lift less weight and still achieve good results, but you must still exert effort—failing is an important step. When you can no longer perform another rep with good form, you are at failure.

The weight you select doesn't really matter as long as you are lifting until failure. In fact, going lighter than you initially thought you should ultimately result in you being stronger over time.

For those who want to get stronger but don't like lifting hard or prefer a muscular endurance approach to training, Dinyer suggested that resistance training to failure with lighter loads is a realistic choice.

How diet affects health

Bulking up depends on calories, which is why bodybuilders and weightlifters are so concerned about their diets. According to Leach, one of the most important aspects is the total amount of food consumed, or at the very least, calorie consumption.

The majority of persons who have excessive body fat—which is solely a product of their nutrition—and who exercise weights are those that the general public describes as looking "bulky."

Diet is the reason why many men experience a size plateau and why women don't experience the desired slimming effects. Simply told, you will gain weight if you consume more calories than you expend. You need a diet to go along with your exercise in the gym if you want to start becoming bigger.

You will particularly lose belly fat.

While it's true that you can't spot decrease because your body has predetermined locations where it wants to store fat due to a variety of circumstances, a University of Alabama study discovered that women who lifted weights reduced more intra-abdominal fat (deep belly fat) than those who only did exercise.

It's possible that burning more belly fat when lifting weights will also help you lose weight overall. The advantages of weightlifting don't end there, either. Along with helping you develop a more defined muscular body, it lowers your risk of developing diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and several types of cancer. (Also, lifting heavy weights activates your core, providing you with an automatic abs exercise.)

Although it may have a reputation for causing women to "bulk up," this is untrue. Leaner you will be since more of your weight is made up of muscle than fat. According to Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., founder of Women's Strength Nation, "In fact, body weight frequently increases with strength training, but dress size decreases by one or two sizes.

Additionally, it's challenging for ladies to achieve bodybuilder size. Jen Sinkler, an Olympic lifting coach, kettlebell teacher, and author of Lift Weights Faster, claims that women are only able to gain muscle to a lesser extent than males since they produce between 5 and 10% less testosterone. You would essentially need to live in the weight room in order to gain significant size. (For further evidence, see What Really Occurs When Women Lift Heavy Weights.)

Your Muscles Will Appear More Clearly


Admire the well-defined, slender muscles of super-fit women? According to gym scientist and author Jason Karp, women should lift more weight if they want more definition because their low testosterone levels prevent them from building bigger muscles. Therefore, lifting greater weight may help women become more defined. (Seriously. Here's why you can lift huge weights without getting bulky.)

More evidence may be found in this video featuring Annie Thorisdottir, a two-time Reebok CrossFit Games champion who has a fantastic physique and isn't scared to lift large objects.

Men versus Women

Ladies, don't be terrified of the weight room! Strength training has wonderful health benefits for both sexes in addition to improving physical beauty. Many women avoid the weight room or believe they require a whole different training than a man.

Men and women store fat in various places, so it makes sense that the focus of women's workouts will differ, but it doesn't mean that women should only use modest weights to avoid bulking up.

(Pro tip: Leach remarked that he frequently receives requests from ladies who want their lower bodies to be overall toned and shaped; he suggests a programme that mostly targets the lower body.)

Aside from focus areas, there are no differences between the sexes. Both men and women should use heavier weights, exercise in good form, and maintain a healthy diet.

Women who are anxious about gaining weight from heavy lifting should know that they almost surely won't bulk up as males do because of hormones.

Lifting weights does not necessarily result in increased muscle growth because women's levels of testosterone are lower than those of men (aka gains). The differential in testosterone means that men will gain weight considerably more quickly.

Strength training will help you tone, but you'll have greater difficulty reducing that last bit of fat if you're a woman because of hormones.

Compared to cardio, you'll burn more calories

Just sitting on your butt reading this, you're burning calories — if you lift weights, that is.

One hour of exercise may burn more calories than an hour of weightlifting, but research in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research revealed that women who lifted weights burnt an additional 100 calories on average over the course of the following 24 hours.

Another study indicated that young women's basal metabolic rate increased by 4.2 per cent for 16 hours after a 100-minute strength training session, burning an additional 60 calories. The study was published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Metabolism.

According to a study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the effect of this weight-lifting benefit is amplified when the load is increased.

In comparison to women who performed more repetitions with smaller weights, those who lifted heavier weights for fewer reps (85 per cent of their maximum load for 8 reps) burnt nearly twice as many calories in the two hours after their activity (45 per cent of their max load for 15 reps). (Coming up: Busting 7 Common Muscle Myths.)

Why? Your resting metabolic rate, or how many calories you burn while simply breathing and living, is greatly influenced by your muscle mass. According to Perkins, your body uses more energy the more muscle you have. You'll burn more calories while doing everything you do, according to Perkins, including brushing your teeth, sleeping, and checking Instagram.

Getting Lean and Toned

It's not simple to get a lean, toned figure, but the recipe is simpler than we sometimes think: lift heavy, practise cardio, and eat well. Yes, we did say to lift heavily.

It's a big fallacy that doing more repetitions with lesser weights would help you tone up. Light weights and high repetitions will, in reality, have little to no impact on body composition. Walking the dog or carrying groceries will likely cause a bigger physiological reaction than 20 minutes of pumping three-pound dumbbells, claims Leach.

To be effective, sets must be performed at a few reps above maximal capacity. In other words, you should feel as though there aren't many if any, more things you can do.

Lifting weights is the key to success in this situation since you must be strong in order to be thin. If you feel like you're too fat, your food or the amount of cardio you do are probably the problems.

Your bones will become stronger

Weight lifting teaches your bones as well as your muscles. For instance, when you curl, the bones in your arm are pulled by your muscles. According to Perkins, the cells in such bones respond by generating new bone cells. Your bones get stronger and denser over time.

Consistency is crucial in this case since vigorous weightlifting over time, especially in the high-risk category of postmenopausal women, not only maintains bone mass but also promotes the growth of new bone. (Spoiler alert: yoga also strengthens bones.)

Not Mass, But Strength

Focus on strength if you want to look toned. Cardio will help (and it's healthy for your heart), but continuing to increase your cardio routine won't make up for a bad diet and it won't form your muscles the way lifting does.

If you want to attain your goals, you need to spend that time in the weight room since a lean body is simply one that is strong and has little body fat.

Gaining Strength

Increasing your weight load is essential if you want to grow your strength. Lifting lesser weights for more repetitions is beneficial for developing muscle endurance. You'll be astounded at how quickly your strength will increase if you combine heavy weights with compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and rows. (See what constitutes truly heavy lifting and how frequently you should engage in it.)

This particular advantage of weightlifting has a significant payback. Simple tasks like carrying groceries or lifting a child will be made easier, and you'll also feel like an unstoppable force of nature.

Your self-confidence will increase

Using some major iron doesn't simply give individuals power in movies. The largest advantage of weightlifting, above and beyond any aesthetic benefits, maybe the significant rise in self-esteem that comes with lifting bigger weights and, as a result, developing strength. Your strength will be evident in both your positive attitude and your toned, slim body. (View 18 Ways Lifting Weights Will Change Your Life.)

According to Sinkler, "Strength has a funny way of leaking into all parts of your life, in the gym and out." Your confidence increases as you push yourself to accomplish goals you never imagined were achievable. Weight lifting gives you confidence, she claims.

Should I add weight frequently?

Lift extra weight when you can do more reps than your target rep range with good form and without tiredness. Progressive loading is necessary for muscle and strength growth. If you can easily complete 12 or more reps with a weight, increase it by 5-10 pounds. Progressive overload can also be achieved by increasing sets, reps, rest time, or workout pace or angle.

What weight should I lift for each exercise?

Each exercise's weight depends on your strength, experience, technique, and aim. Use a percentage of your one-rep max (1RM) to decide how much weight you should lift. If your bench press 1RM is 200 pounds and you want to train in the 7-12 rep range, use 70%, or 140 pounds. You should be able to accomplish 7-12 140-pound reps before failing. Online calculators or formulae can estimate your 1RM based on your performance.

How many sets and reps should I do for each muscle group?

The number of sets and reps you should do for each muscle group depends on your goal, experience, and frequency. A general guideline is to do 3-4 sets of 7-12 reps for each muscle group, once or twice a week. You can adjust this based on your individual needs and preferences.

How much protein should I eat to build muscle?

The amount of protein you should eat to build muscle depends on your body weight, activity level, and goal. A general recommendation is to eat 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. You can get protein from animal or plant sources, such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, soy, beans, nuts, or seeds.

How to avoid overtraining and burnout?

Overtraining and burnout can slow muscle gain and harm your health. Avoid them:

  • Follow a well-designed training programme for your objective, ability, and capacity.
  • Adjust your training intensity, volume, and frequency to your body.
  • Deload weeks or active rest days every 4-6 weeks lessen muscular and nervous system stress and tiredness.
  • Sleep, water, nutrition, and recovery enhance muscle growth and repair.
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Enjoy weightlifting and muscular building.

Frequenly Asked Questions about training muscles

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