Do you lift weights or stimulate the muscle?
I should maybe re-phrase the question:
Do you lift EFFICIENTLY or INEFFICIENTLY?
How many times do we see it when we go in to our local gym the big man shouting at himself and chest pumping his mate before he is about to 45 degree leg press all the weight discs in the gym leaving you just a bar and a set of dumbbells to workout with.
He lifts the weight off the rack and begins to descend the weight about the quarter of the way down before driving it up viscously for 10-12 reps. He then makes the biggest noise as he racks the weight up, jumps out of the seat and hi-fives his mate because he has a new PB.
Now lets just assume for argument sake this guys goal is to create muscle.
When it comes to creating muscle mass for the body and at certain areas of the body there are various areas to explore however for the purposes of this blog I just want to explore exercises and how people execute and perform them.
There is always one stand out question I want to ask each individual and client of mine so they can start to understand why and therefore get a better appreciation of the exercises they perform day in day out.
ARE YOU LIFTING THE WEIGHT or are you STIMULATING THE MUSCLE?
Now when it comes to ‘lifting the weight’ on any exercise for me that straightaway says ‘get the weight from position A to B as quick as possible’. For example a power lifter getting the bar in a bench press from his/her chest to full arm extension as quick as possible. That is his/her goal and they have accomplished it.
When it comes to stimulating the muscle (growth) however it is a whole different ball game. You don’t just have to get the weight from A to B. You have to do it in a fashion, which is the most INEFFICENT for the body!!! That’s right INEFFICIENT not EFFICIENT. Efficient is what the power lifter has to do in order to be able to lift more weight. Muscle mass isn’t based on the amount of weight you lift but how you lift that weight.
Now on the surface these two statements look the same however using the guy on the leg press as an example would you class what he is doing as making that exercise as inefficient for him as possible?
Is he going through adequate range in order to stimulate the muscle maximally and therefore create adaptation?
Is he bringing other muscles in to play which is affecting his ability to contract the quadriceps?
Is he consciously thinking about contracting the muscle fibres of the quadriceps?
Is he creating enough tension to help recruit a higher amount of muscle fibres?
Does he have the ability to do all the above?
How could we make that exercise more INEFFICENT?
So what variables could we change straight away to make this exercise more INEFFICIENT for him so we are able to help him recruit more muscle fibres of the quadriceps and therefore increase the chances of them increasing in size.
- The first thing I would look at would be is he able to adequately contract the target muscle doing simple body weight movements?
It sounds stupid but your ability to contract and isolate musculature you want to target can be the difference between no growth and massive growth potential.
- Secondly the aspect of the lift that would stand out would be the range of the movement.
It is pretty obvious there is more range to be had from him in order to make the exercise more inefficient. Also is he coming up to full extension (giving the quadriceps muscle a break) or is he maintaining a slight bend in the knee at the top of the movement and therefore creating more tension through the quadriceps?
- Thirdly off the back of range would be is he bringing other muscles in to play because he is not able to control the increased range down with the same weight and therefore is he affecting his ability to isolate the quadriceps.
If he were unable to control the weight with the increased range, which I would say is likely the next step, would be to drop his ego and then the weight until he is able to control every centimeter of the exercise for the given range.
From dropping the weight that should require less involvement from antagonistic muscles and therefore more isolation on the quadriceps.
- What is his intent?
Is he placing all of his attention and focus on contracting the quadriceps? Is he thinking about ways to make the exercise more inefficient?
If you goal is to create muscle mass start to think about ways you can make exercises you perform more inefficient for you and the muscle part targeted. Play around with the variables (tempo, grip etc) but ultimately get your though process away from lifting as much weight on the bar as possible and more towards stimulating the muscle as much as possible.