Science Says This is the Key to Building Muscle and Bodybuilding

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Building muscle requires several key ingredients. First and foremost, your body needs raw materials with which muscle building becomes possible — that is, you’re eating a protein-heavy diet. You need to plan on sleeping at least six hours a night, if not more. And of course, you need to subscribe to a weight lifting program, and one that if followed meticulously, will having you looking like a bodybuilding champion with enough effort.

A lot of people struggle with just getting to bed on time, or sticking to a proper diet. Others have a hard time getting themselves to the gym and doing their workout. But if you’re freaked out about weight lifting, or feel that you won’t be able to put up some big numbers, a new study should help ease your mind.

Building Muscle

This is the Key to Building Muscle and Bodybuilding

The research, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, came to a fairly surprising conclusion about building muscle and strength: You can see just as much progress lifting smaller loads than you can lifting heavier ones. Simply put — and as The Cheat Sheet has explained before — you can build muscle, get stronger, and see the gains you’re hoping for by doing more with less. It’s as simple as doing a greater number of reps to make up the difference.

More reps: Key to building muscle while weight lifting

Building Muscle

A man building muscle by lifting less weight | iStock

If you can get in a serious workout with lighter loads, it does free you up a bit in the gym. You can work without a spotter, for example, or if your equipment options are limited, use dumbbells instead of barbells. If you don’t have access to a fully-stocked weight room — with plates, bumpers, the whole nine yards — scientists are saying you can still hit your expected trajectories.

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“We reported, using a unilateral resistance training (RT) model, that training with high or low loads (mass per repetition) resulted in similar muscle hypertrophy and strength improvements in RT-naïve subjects,” the research team from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, wrote. “Here we aimed to determine whether the same was true in men with previous RT experience using a whole-body RT program and whether post-exercise systemic hormone concentrations were related to changes in hypertrophy and strength.”

In the end, the researchers concluded you can use lighter weight loads to reach the same results you get with lifting heavier loads. You just need to wear your muscles out to the point of fatigue, which is where you have broken down the old fibers so that your body can replace them with new, stronger tissues.

That’s where the magic of muscle-building happens, given that you’re getting enough rest and nutrients.

A successful bodybuilding method

Building Muscle

Dumbbells as a part of a muscle building weight lifting workout | iStock

If you plan on really seeing some muscle growth and reaching your goals, you don’t need to worry about adding as much weight as possible, or even having certain types of equipment to get you there. You really just need to go for additional reps or work certain muscles until they’re shaking and faltering during your set. It’s the fatiguing of the muscles that is the ultimate goal, and heavier weight loads really only serve to fatigue muscles faster than lighter ones.

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So, if you’re working with lighter weights, adding additional sets or reps until you reach the fatigue or breaking point should land you right where you need to be.

But, it’s important to keep in mind the muscle-building process only works if you’re covering all of your bases. As mentioned, your body needs the materials to rebuild itself after you’ve fatigued your muscles to the point of failure during a workout. It needs nutrients to recover. If you’re not eating enough calories, or aren’t getting enough protein, you’re going to run into problems.

The same goes for sleep — when you sleep, your muscles are actually engaged in rebuilding, and your body is recovering from the previous workout. If you don’t give yourself time to rest, and for that process to fully complete itself,  you’re only going to set yourself back.

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