T Nation

Do You Need to Lift Heavy to Build Muscle?

#1

Hey Chris, hope you’re doing well. I have a question about hypertrophy training: If all I want is to gain maximum size, do you ever need to lift below say 8 reps? Do you ever need to max out, I don’t care about strength. Also, I’m wondering if you have a program that is for pure muscle growth?
Thanks

#2

Maxing out is not required to build muscle. In fact, unless you are a competitive strength athlete, maxing out is not necessary for anybody regardless of the goal. And for most it is not that beneficial.

To answer your question; there are many pathways to stimulate muscle growth. 5 mains ones that I can think of: muscle damage, mTOR activation, lactate accumulation, growth factors release, muscle fiber fatigue. Out of these 5 only muscle damage is really relient on progressive overload and fairly heavy weights (even then, going below 8 reps is not totally necessary).

To answer your question directly NO you don’t NEED to lift heavy to build muscle. In fact lifting very heavy (1-3 reps/set) isn’t that great for maximum muscular development. It still works, but it is not optimal.

Provided that the level of effort you can build muscle with anything from 5 reps per set to 20+ reps per set. From a Time Under Tension of 20 seconds up to 90 seconds (or even more).

However you will have to gradually increase the weights you are lifting so that your work sets remain demanding in the rep/duration zone you picked.

For example if you do DB press with 60lbs DBs for 10 reps and at the end you know you would have a hard time getting an 11th rep, that set will be effective at stimulating growth.

After a while the 10 reps with 60lbs DBs might become easy… now at the end of your set it feels like you could have gotten 3 more reps. In that case, the set wasn’t very effective for stimulating growth. So you will likely have to move up to 65 or 70lbs DBs, OR move up to 12 reps with the 60s to keep stimulating growth.

The point is that you will likely have to lift “heavier” to keep stimulating muscle growth, but it doesn’t mean that you will have to lift “heavy”.