The title of this article itself is great advice. It’s probably the one thing that most lifters forget, which results in a loss of meaningful progress.
Listen…this is bodybuilding. The clue is in the name – to build the body. If you want your muscles to get bigger, they need to be trained in a very specific way.
Some people can make some size gains with “strength training”, crossfit, olympic weight lifting, and so on, but those modes of training are NOT hypertrophy-specific.
Ask yourself what your goal in this game is. Got your answer? Good. If it’s size gains, if it’s aesthetics, read this…it’s important.
We talk about “lifting”. We call ourselves “weight lifters”. But really our goal is “muscle stimulation”.
Stimulating a muscle to grow is all about “HIGH QUALITY MUSCULAR CONTRACTIONS”. You hear that? I hope you are really getting this.Stimulating a muscle to grow is about QUALITY CONTRACTIONS, not lifting the heaviest weight Click To Tweet
When you train, are you simply “moving weight” or really “feeling the muscle”? It makes all the difference in the world, my friend. You must…
FEEL THE MUSCLE, NOT THE WEIGHT
You can FORCE a muscle to grow. In fact, that’s the ONLY way to make it grow – to give it no choice!
If a guy or girl is dumbbell curling 30kg and making a mess of it because it’s too heavy for him, he will stimulate ZERO growth. His ego might be inflated, but his muscles never will be.
If he dropped the weight to 20kg and did proper full range, constant tension, slow negative reps, he’d start to grow again (more on “constant tension” here). Without exaggeration, he would probably double his gains (if not more).
MESSAGE: Leave your damn ego at the gym door!
It’s not about what other people are lifting. It has NOTHING to do with that. Your body is YOUR body.
The numbers only matter relative to YOU. If you could only bench 60kg, but that is with 10 high-quality reps, great! You then seek to make progress from there. Stop looking at the guys benching over 120kg. Heck they might even have flat pecs!
Knock out really high quality sets and consider the numbers as secondary.
Now, check this out. Here’s a video of Kai Greene (official site) talking about this very issue and HAMMERING home the point well!
P.S. If you want to use the same workout as I do to build muscle (with the kind of form I am talking about in this article), just pop in your email and click the button below.
You don’t have to go to your email to click a confirm link or anything like that; the download will appear immediately after you enter your email. Enjoy them gains! 🙂
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Kai touches on what I was saying above about “moving weight” vs “feeling the muscle”. He says,
“Your primary goal is not to lift weights, you’re not a weight lifter. I’ll never be a weight lifter…for the people out there who don’t know the difference, a bodybuilder is primarily concerned with contracting his muscles. He contracts his muscles against greater and greater resistance [over time] and by doing that he is able stimulate hypertrophy [growth]. A ‘weight lifter’ is just concerned about moving weight so he can boast to you about how much he curls, how much he benches…”
Another great video is by Rich Piana (official site) where his main message is…“It’s NOT About The Numbers.” Check it out…
“Numbers will ruin you if you get caught up in the number game. All that matters is how you execute the exercise – squeezing, stretching, getting a good pump.”
Then talking about a guy doing heavy bench presses for low reps, he goes on to say,
“You feel good. You’re like ‘yeah’. But as far as chest development? You haven’t done a damn thing. You got nothing accomplished, nothing! Waste of time.”
It’s true. I know so-called “strength trainers” (and I’m sure you’ve seen some on the web) who’ve been training for over a decade…with very little to show for it. They look like someone who’s been training for a few months. All those years and they got nothing accomplished!Click here to see why feeling the muscle not the weight produces better gains Click To Tweet
I’ll finished with this…
The numbers are important in so far as your personal numbers should be incrementally increasing over the years…but HEAVY ASS weights for low reps where you feel ZERO tension on the intended muscle throughout the full range of motion are useless for building muscle. You’re wasting your time and getting nowhere…and you’ll probably end up injured.
Build your muscles, not your ego.
Now you know how to do your sets correctly, it’s time to put it all into one free training package and really start building muscle. Download Targeted Hypertrophy Training and start growing. It’s 100% free. No catches…
NOTE: I have 6 x FREE additional advanced strategies that will crank up your intensity levels. To access them immediately and put use them in your next workout, just pop in your email and click the button.
You don’t have to go to your email to click a confirm link or anything like that; the required info will appear immediately after you enter your details. Enjoy them gains! 🙂
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Train with Intensity!
Here’s how I get ripped. And this is how I “cheat clean” on my diet 🙂
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I totally get why this is important but I haven’t been doing it. Now I actually can’t wait to get into the gym and start training this way! Watch out!
Great! I really enjoyed this. Very helpful once again Mark! 😀
Like I always say it’s not what the weight is, it’s what the weight does that counts. Remember bodybuilding is contracting muscle against pressure namely the weight. For the vast majority of exercises you pull and push from your elbows, in other words you upper arm moves the weight not your wrist and forearm.
Try this as an exercise to help engage your chest. Stand as if doing a bench press with your arms at a 45 dregree angle put one hand on your pec and with your free arm move your elbow as to simulate a one arm bench press (do this standing up with no weights) you should feel your pec engageing and contracting. Now do the same thing but lead with your wrist and you won’t feel half as much contraction. Think of your forearms and wrists as staibalisers not prime movers. I hope this helps some of you out.
I’m going to start saying this to my training buddy:
“You’re a bodybuilder, not a weightlifter, so do your reps correctly!”
Ermmm… I might have been doing just that 🙁 I though I been doing good as I keep increasing weight that I can lift tho dont remeber when last time I felt my muscles. Tonight will defo start training with bit less but more precise and slower reps. 😀
Thanks for great advice!
Do this already and is great for older guys. Less strain on joints. Would like to incorporate this method with “occlusion training bands” . You know where to buy them? Have tried amazon ( do not ship to Canada ) and eBay with no luck. Help!!!
I have to say I think it’s quite sad the way you put down “strength trainers” like there’s something wrong with training specifically for real world strength as opposed to size for the sake of size. What’s more I can’t believe you think that a weight lifter who brags about how much he can bench is any more egotistical than a bodybuilder who spends half his gym time standing in front of the mirror, gazing in wonder at his newly developed traps and pumping out rep after rep just so he can add a couple of millimetres to his big juicy biceps.
I appreciate that everything you teach comes from a bodybuilding perspective but I don’t understand why anyone would want to have big, flashy muscles and not be able to do anything with them. Sure, they look good and make you feel like a champ on the beach but when someone half your size is lifting more weight than you in the gym it kinda begs the question, “What are these muscles for?”
Wouldn’t it be preferable to train for strength AND size?
Just my two cents on the matter.
brill advice from muscle hack thank you keep up good work
Rich Piana needs to clean up his mouth! Disgusting when every other word is “f” and “mf”
Great article for a reminder of how and when my own results started to happen. I still have reminders written on the walls of my garage to lift with intensity and to train smart! I have 5 years worth of lifting records to show improvements. Awesome to see
@Steven Maddison. I have no beef whatsoever with strength training. My beef is with *some* strength trainers making false promises about making size gains with those training modalities. Unless you’re a freak, it’s not going to happen.
Furthermore, they claim low reps are better for building muscle and that you don’t need to do isolation exercises lol. All this rubbish needs to be called out and put straight lest people actually end up believing it.
Plus, if my arms are twice the size of a strength trainers, why aren’t my arms functional? Here’s a good article on “dys”functional training https://www.exercisefraud.com/dysfunctionaltraining.html
On THT training, we do also take time to prioritize strength by dropping the rep range to 6-8. This periodization back and forth allows for “chronic hypertrophy”. More on that here https://musclehack.com/reps-and-sets/
Very timely post. I read this before this morning’s workout and was able to bust through some plateaus. I had been mentally saying “I have to lift this heavy weight” instead of “feel the muscle, feel the work”. Changing my mindset from the labor of lifting weight to a mindset of feeling my muscles and the work they are doing made a huge difference. Thanks!
Excellent article Mark. An eyeopener.
The tip by Dai is wonderful. It helps experience the difference.
So a big thanks to both of you.
@Mark. It depends on your definition of “functional”. In this case I am referring to the function of physical strength and my point is if one guy can lift as much as another guy whose muscles are twice as large, then what’s the point in having those big muscles?
I have been worried since I have read that the 6 eggs that I included in my diet ,on nutrition data it says (423% of daily recommended chalesterol intake based on a 2000 calorie diet).i hve read your article on “saturated fat” but it about chalesterol conent.should I lower my egg intake.should I be worried?
And I follow “slow negative part of rep” thing from I first read it in tht4.i feel the muscle not the weight.another great read!
First off, awesome article man. My question is how do you feel about Rich talking about doing it right but moving up the weight each set when he was talking benching…or any exercise for that matter?
@Steve Maddison. The point would be to have big muscles. To train primarily for hypertrophy, for the aesthetics of it. Like I say at the beginning of the article, “Ask yourself what your goal in this game is. If it’s size gains, if it’s aesthetics, read this…it’s important.” So that’s the target audience for a post like this.
However, I’ll say this – you can’t get bigger without getting stronger. If a huge guy wants to increase the weight and lower the reps it wouldn’t be long before he’s stronger than the strength guys, in my opinion. The reason it would take some time is that his body would need to adapt neurally to the new style. But once that’s done, we’d see who’s really stronger. But anyway, that’s not my interest, and that’s why I call my system Targeted Hypertrophy Training.
@Abhishek. You should watch Cereal Killers. It would take a book to answer your question, but no. There’s nothing wrong with dietary cholesterol.
@Jay. No I don’t agree with that. I agree with reverse-pyramid training. Train in the same rep range. Start with as heavy as you can in the first set and the weights necessarily decreasing in each set. More here https://musclehack.com/reverse-pyramid-training-start-at-max-strength/
Thank you for posting this article. It is great! my question is on how to deal with lower rep ranges of bench presses and squats. Should one still focus on feeling the intended muscles when the person performs these two within 1-4 rep range considering the fact that there are other higher rep ranges of the exercises in the workout routine? should the person lower the weight in 1-4 rep range of the so called exercises to feel the muscle or should they press as hard as they can on the lower rep ranges to fire up CNS and then focus on feeling the muscles when they are subsequently doing higher rep ranges of the exercises? thanks.
ok mark,i am gonna watch cereal killer aninfd you have also shared that i guess somewhere,i will find that.
love the genuine infoisrmation you prove and that too just not say this thing is way but also provide scientific studies to prove it.keep up the good work bud !! (Y)
any increase in muscle size is directly proportional to increase in strength as you have to continuously use the concept of “progerresive overload”,that will mean your strength is also increasing,until your strength wont increase muscle mass wont increase.
I like your site and the useful information it provides but less face it, these 2 could do anything like and still grow due to amount of chemicals they heave taken. Any solid program coupled with a decent diet and some consistency should give us mere mortals some good returns
@Rezox. First, apart from deadlifts, I don’t think you should be training at a 1-4 rep range. But if so, it should still be worked by feeling the muscle. You won’t be stimulating anything by throwing a weight around. You’ll still be pushing as had as you can, however, for the positive part of the rep.
@Steve. True, those guys have great genetics and are on gear, but it doesn’t follow that all of their advice regarding training is therefore wrong. On this issue, they’re very much correct. Imagine the opposite advice, focus on the numbers, don’t focus on stimulating the muscle you are actually trying to build, it’s simply about what weight you can say you lift. No-one (I hope) would buy that. However, we all fall prey to this, myself included. So it’s good for a reminder to always check our form.
I noticed this awhile back but didn’t really think about it but there were many training in the same gym as me older and younger and lifting a hell of alot more weight than me, i was never worried what people would think about the weights i lifted, they were much lighter, although their weights were much heavier, their form was sloppy and they weren’t as built as me and when you saw me training, you would think by my facial expressions and heavy breathing that I was lifting heavier than them. I wasn’t.. not by a long stretch, i was simply contracting the muscle harder. You need to be lifting for awhile before you can really focus on doing this. I remember someone said to me…when you flex your bicep hard to impress the girlfriend, this is what you should be doing when you are curling with a weight, the weight doesnt have to be heavy, pick that weight up and curl it and flex HARD, like you were posing for a hot girl watching, i got into the habit of doing this and saw faster gains on my arms than before, soon i was doing it with all body parts. So I have to say that I agree with this article 100%.
Mark, Thank you so much for this article and videos. I have recently gotten back into training after a very long layoff. I am 50 years old now and I have been training the past 12 weeks, like I used to train. The heaviest weight I can lift for 8 reps. While I have definetely seen my body starting to transform, I have been suffering with severe joint pain. Elbows, knees even my lower back. I was just recently thinking about trying to lower the weight and go for higher reps but I’ve been hesitant because i was always taught you have to lift big to get big. It’s not that easy at age 50. This article was like a Godsend for me. I have decided to take a week off to try and let my body completely heal. After that, I will be back at it, but this time, I will be training with this new philosophy. Thank you again. This was poerfect timing for me. I was affraid I would have to give up on training because of the pain it’s been causing me, but now, I have a new perspective that I’m energized and excited about.
@Joe. That’s awesome buddy. You’ll love it. And you’ll feel your muscles working, not your joints. Let me know how you get on, here or on Facebook or Twitter.
do we assume same calories for foods wheather they are cooked or uncooked?
@abishek. After you cook something, there are still the same amount of cals, if that is what you mean.
But if you mean does 50g uncooked rice have the same cals as 50g of cooked rice, no. Uncooked will weigh much more after cooking. You have to refer to labels or sites like fitday.
Not to nitpick but you need to check your math. If a guy had “zero” growth, and then dropped weight and did set properly “double his gains” would still be zero.
But I get the point. In THT you made this point and it has helped me tremendously to quit worrying about how I look to others – (or what NUMBER) I’m hitting on the Universal – to keep constant tension in good form.
Great reminder Mark, I’ve fallen victim to going too heavy too quickly and not getting the total range of motion felt sometimes. Just getting too excited over the past year and realized I had to lessen the weight to get proper stimulation. Oops! But hey its excellent to check yourself regularly and adjust for max benefit. Cheers buddy great stuff.
@The CHI Sports Fan. Great that implemented this advice. Makes a huge difference!
@Jason. Yep. I call that “re-setting” and we all have to do it from time to time when we’ve went too heavy.
Sometimes it helps to borrow some mentality from the biggest guys.
They don’t give a sh*t if a bunch of GOMAD squatters (who are always injured) laugh at their 10 kilo bicep curls, and who attribute anything other than mad quad gainz to steroids. They just do their curls (amongst many other things) and enjoy their pumps and gains.
Everyone says “Ah, but they no doubt did something like [insert strength program here] when the started out”. Hogwash! The biggest guys in my gym would not know a popular 3×5 routine if you printed it out and put it in front of them!
Like Mark M, I’m not anti-strength training at all. I think it has a very valid place in bodybuilding, as it’s a way to get strong enough to subject longer TUT on the muscles with a heavier weight than you could previously…
But people need to get some perspective. Bodybuilding — that is, working the muscles hard but under full control — is the BEST way to lift throughout most of your life, in terms of avoiding injuries and anguish. Especially if you’ve already got strong off a standard linear progression and are ready to stick an inch or two around your arms.
@James. Very good points, my man 🙂