If your workout doesn’t challenge you, it’s not going to change you.
How to Get Strong
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “no pain, no gain.” It’s a cliché. But that’s because there’s truth in it. Perhaps the single-most important thing to understand about building muscle is that your muscles will not grow unless you give them a good reason. Regardless of what exercise you do, or what routine you use, it’s imperative that you push your muscles to the point of exhaustion.
“Resistance training is about training hard – if you don’t push yourself, you won’t see much benefit,” said Dr. Schoenfeld. “That doesn’t mean you need to train until that vein in the side of your head is bulging like a serpent. But you do need to come pretty close to all out failure on each set.”
Here are two different ways to determine the amount of weight you should lift.
- Figure out the heaviest amount of weight you can lift one time. This is your so-called 1-Repetition Maximum, or “1-Rep Max.” After you figure it out, use a weight that’s at least 80 percent of your 1-Rep Max and aim for 8 to 12 repetitions on each set (with the exception of your initial warm-up set, which should be fairly light).
- Figure out your 1-Rep Max. Then use weights that are between 30 to 50 percent of your 1-Rep Max and aim to do up to 25 repetitions in each set. A study by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario in 2016 found that people who used this approach gained just as much muscle and strength as a group that did a more traditional weightlifting routine with heavier weights and fewer repetitions
The bottom line is that the number of reps you do is less important than the extent to which you exhaust your muscles. You should do as many reps with proper form as it takes to reach momentary failure, which is the point where you stimulate your muscles to grow and adapt. “You want to do as many repetitions with good form of the exercise as you can,” said James Steele, an associate professor of sport and exercise science at Southampton Solent University in England. “It doesn’t matter whether you do five reps or 20 reps, but it should mean that the last repetition you attempt you can’t complete.”
The last rep that you can muster with proper form, Dr. Westcott said, “is the key stimulus for building muscle and building strength.”
Another way I like to think about it is this: If your workout doesn’t challenge you, it’s not going to change you.