In a study from Yokohama University in Japan, one group of athletes was asked to do low-intensity muscle contractions 3600 times in a row. Others were asked to lift very heavy weights 12 times. There was some muscle damage in the people who contracted their muscles 3600 consecutive times, but this damage was far less than from lifting a very heavy weight 12 times in a row. This shows you that lifting a heavy weight causes much more muscle damage than lifting light weights continuously for a long time. And this means that you will become far stronger from lifting very heavy weights a few times than from lifting light weights many times.
When you lift a heavy weight to the point where your muscles start to burn, you are causing considerable muscle damage. Then you feel sore on the next morning and perhaps for several days. When the soreness goes away, your muscle has healed and is stronger than it was before you damaged it. Since you get more damage from lifting heavy weights a few times than from lifting light weights many times, you get a greater gain in strength from lifting heavier.
If you want to become very strong, first check with your doctor to make sure that you have no health problems that will be aggravated by hard exercise. Then spend several weeks lifting weights lightly. After you have been lifting lightly for at least a couple of months, you can start training. Pick five or six exercises and find the heaviest weight for each that you can lift ten times in a row. You should struggle to finish the last four or five lifts of a set of ten. The soreness means that you are tearing your muscle fibers. Then add a few pounds and ask your friends to lift the weight so you can lower it slowly six times. Then add a few more pounds and lower this weight for a set of three. If you feel that the weight is too great or that you are losing control of the weight, ask your friends to take the weights from you immediately.
This type of lifting will cause a great deal of pain while you lower the weight and a lot of pain the next morning. As long as you don't injure yourself, this is good because you need muscle damage to become stronger, and pain and soreness are signs of muscle damage. Do not lift for a couple of days, so you can allow your muscles time to heal. When they are no longer sore, do an easy workout of lifting weights that are so light that you do not have to struggle and you feel comfortable. Try to do three sets of 10 for each exercise. Two days later repeat the same easy workout. Seven to ten days after your hard workout, try another heavy workout, but only if the soreness has gone completely from your muscles. Each week, try to do a hard workout, take two days off, then do easy workouts every other day and when the soreness is gone, attempt to lift heavy again. You will be amazed how strong you will become. This type of training is very hard on your body, so you can be hurt by it and should not attempt such workouts if you have heart or blood pressure problems.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise June, 2002
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