One mistake that almost everyone makes when they are starting out is using too much weight and not working the muscle optimally. Almost everyday i see people at the gym throwing heavy weights around just to impress their friends, or because they have the mentality of ” If i can lift this much, it means that im getting stronger..”. Doing this is going to give you slow progress at best and will likely result in an injury. I am speaking from experience. There is a reason why you see professional 230+ pound bodybuilders using lighter weights than you when they are seriously trying to put more size on. There are times for heavy weights and a time for light weights for putting on size and definition. Lets go over the right way to build muscle.
First of all, lifting heavy is not bad, but it must be done right. Lets use the example of doing a bicep curl. What you do not want to do is grab the heaviest dumbells you can lift and swing them up with momentum. The right weight for your heavy sets is such tha tyou can perform at least 8 repetitions with good form. The key is good form – no swinging or throwing up weights after a few reps. If you can do about 5 or 6 with good form but for the last 2 you need tos wing or use momentum – thats how you know the weight is too heavy. Please note – 8 reps is not some magic number. Just a reference. Sometimes you may want to do 5 or 6 reps max. Sometimes you may want to do only 3 or 4. Generally 8 is a godo number for hypertrophy (muscle growth) so we will stick to it.
Secondly, lifting light is also good. From my experience, lightening up the weight after a few heavy sets and doing rep ranges of 12-20 reps is what builds a lot of muscle size. This strategy can be used on any muscle group or body part you are trying to bring up. As long as it is challenging and you feel the deep burn, which you most definitely will after 20 reps of anything with strict form, you will grow. This goes back to the idea of your muscles getting used to what you are doing and adapting. Always going heavy will always seem just as difficult, but for your muscles which are used to the heavy weights, growth will come slowly. It is only when you shock them and go for high reps and low rest time will they feel like they have to work overtime just to perform all of those repetitions correctly, forcing them to grow and become bigger and stronger to be able to handle that kind of new stress.
Lets talk about form. What is good form? For our bicep curl, good form is when you start with your hand extended down and slowly bring the weight up with just your muscle. Not jerking your shoulders and moving your elbows. Your elbows are staying in one place the whole time while your forearm goes up and down. This is really the way to build any muscle on your body. Slow and controlled movements with a big stretch and a big squeeze from top to bottom. This is probably much harder than what you are used to, but I guarantee you that your biceps will be burning and you will be stimulating them to grow. Remember, the whole point of working out is to make the lifts harder for your muscles to perform, not easier.
After all, do you go to the gym to show off or to build muscle? If you want to build muscle – then you now know the right way to do so. Think about which muscle you are working on and focus on getting a full stretch – for the bicep example this is when your arm is pointed down, stretching out the bicep. How do you know if your bicep is fully stretched? If the opposite muscle, in this case the tricep on the back of your arm starts to flex, you are now fully stretched. Next you need to contract your muscle. For our bicep example this is the top position where you are squeezing your bicep and your tricep is now stretched. The squeeze and stretch are equally important and something you should aim to do every time you are lifting.