Lifting for Size
So the question is how you go about lifting in such a way that you are going to create those necessary triggers for growth.
And the answer is that you should use isolation movements and drop sets. Not sure what they are? Read on!
An isolation movement is any movement in the gym that involves lifting weights using only one joint. So an example of an isolation movement would be a bicep curl because only the elbow moves. On the other hand, the squat is a multi-joint exercise and so we call it a compound exercise.Isolation movements are currently not in vogue with the hipster/paleo crowd but they remain the very best way to create tears and build up metabolites. That’s because they let you focus on just one muscle until it is completely exhausted. Conversely, when you reach failure in the squats, it will likely be the combination of muscles that can no longer lift the weight – with no one muscle group being completely exhausted. Isolation movements also allow you to lift heavier and for longer, without risking injury.
(That said, compound movements have their benefits too – because they involve more muscles for example they increase the amount of metabolites you produce on the whole. For that reason, it doesn’t hurt to start a workout with some squats or bench presses before moving on to your isolation work.)
So once you’re focussing on just one muscle group with a lat pull down, a bicep curl, a dumbbell row or a pec fly, you then need to make sure that you’re creating both tears and the build-up of metabolites. But there’s a problem here. That’s because creating microtears means you need to use a very heavy weight for a lower number of repetitions. You give up when you can’t do any more reps and because the weight is so heavy, this will likely have caused some muscle damage in the process. But to build up metabolites, you need to ‘occlude’ the muscle. In other words, you need to redirect a lot of blood and nutrients to it where they’ll pool and collect – and the best way to do this is with a slightly lighter weight curled for higher repetitions.
Try it: it’s the former that gives you DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – the painful muscles you get the next day) and the latter that leads to the best pump in the gym.
And that’s where the drop set comes in. This basically means you’re going to train by starting out with very heavy weights and doing just a few repetitions. But then, when you reach failure and can’t do any more, that’s when you’re going to drop those weights, move down the rack and pick up the next heaviest. You’ll find that by dropping the weight slightly, you’re now able to pump out a few more repetitions. And then you drop down again. And again. And by the end, you’ll be barely able to lift the lightest weight in the gym and your arms will feel crippled!
But this works like magic. That’s because you’re constantly challenging yourself and pushing through failure but also because you’re managing to lift the heaviest weights possible while still doing a large volume of work. Remember: there’s no pause in between the drops. Drop three or four times, then rest for one minute and then start again!
That said, this is just one intensity techniques and there are others too. These include things like doing pre-exhaust sets, or pyramid sets. Either way, the key is to try and feel the burn and the pump – if you don’t get that feeling, then you aren’t training hard enough.!