Getting “Bigger” Does Not Always Mean You Are Getting Stronger
To make a quick clarification, a lot of the guys you see in the gym are big and strong. But the way I define “big” is likely to be completely different than what you would think. There are quite a few big guys who throw up some pretty heavy weights on a regular basis. The problem they normally succumb to is being slightly chubby with no real muscle definition. They are big enough to fill a shirt but overall definition is not impressive one bit. On the other side of the spectrum you have ripped guys who are considered “smaller” within the eyes of the bodybuilding world but are lifting just as much if not heavier weights than the “bigger” guys. I also know some people who actually have very big muscles, but are actually not that strong at all. So how can this be?
Low Weight High Reps vs Low Reps High Weight=Two Different Looks
Few people even understand that muscle tone and muscle mass are completely different and also do not look the same. Rusty Moore explained the concept with a very good analogy. Training for mass is like filling up a water balloon. The balloon is visually bigger but soft to the touch. The balloon will also look even softer the more the balloon is filled. Muscle tone on the other hand would directly relate to increasing the thickness of the rubber on the balloon. Muscle thickness is typically known as density.
*I don’t typically like to show men without a shirt on this site but I need for you to see the difference between muscle tone and muscle mass.
Reps And Rest Distinguishes The Two
Strength Reps: If you are aiming at gaining strength then you need to lift heavy weights. Low reps high weight means lifting heavy weights in the 2-4 rep range but avoid lifting to failure. This type of training is aimed at making sure you are not gassing out with each set. Pick a heavy weight that you know you can lift a few times but try and make sure you are at least one rep or two short from maxing out. For example, if there is a weight that you know you can only lift for 6 reps, then stopping at 4 reps would be perfect. You can even have a slight pause or break with each rep so your nervous system is caught up. Lifting in this fashion will give your muscles a rock hard look. Since you are keeping a rep or two in the tank, you will want to do about 5-6 sets.
Strength Rest: Allowing enough rest from each set is key. Give yourself around 2 minutes of rest to make sure you have ample time to recover. Remember, you are not lifting to failure or exhausting your muscles while trying to gain strength. Let’s recap with what the strength routine would look like. Lifting heavy weights for 2-5 reps, 5-6 sets, with around 2 minutes of rest between each set.
Note: Another tip for accelerating muscle tone is to work them often. Since you are not lifting to failure, you will find that you aren’t as sore the next day. Don’t worry about overtraining, very few people will ever reach that category. Consistently gaining strength while keeping your body fat low will definitely give you a great looking body.
I’m sorry I couldn’t help myself. I had to include this video because its hilarious.
It doesn’t relate to the post…well I guess it does because one guy is lifting ahaha
Mass Reps: If you are strictly wanting to gain mass and don’t care about muscle tone, then training to failure will be your friend. Low weight high reps training to failure is best in this fashion. This may damage a lot of ego’s while training for mass. Struggling with light weights over time isn’t really the average gym goers cup of tea, but get over it. The 12-15 rep range will exhaust and slightly damage the muscle. Wearing out the muscles with each set is causing cumulative fatigue. What this means is that you may be able to do 12-15 reps the first set but only 8-10 reps the next set, then only 5-6 reps for the third set. Since you are doing higher reps for fatigue you will only need 3-4 sets.
Mass Rest: The amount of rest for mass is much different than training for strength. To keep the mindset of muscle fatigue, you will only rest around 30-45 seconds between each set. This is another big reason why you will have to use a lot lighter weight to consistently reach the 12-15 rep scheme. So your routine will look a little like this: 12-15 reps for 3-4 sets with 30-45 second rest.
Note: Once again, lifting strictly for mass will increase the size of the muscle but will appear rounder and softer. Lifting for strength won’t give you large muscles but will definitely give a hard and dense look. So whatever your goal, whether it is for size or density,you can train accordingly.Just keep in mind: 1) low weight high reps for mass. 2) Low reps high weight for strength