Top of the AM to you! :* I am terribly excited to publish this article, and I hope you are able to learn something from it. O:)
Let’s take a look at the importance of training with heavy weight, regardless of your goal to either cut excess body fat while maintaining current tissue and conditioning, or to make gains and add muscle mass.
The first concept to understand is that there are three different things you can do with your body as far as training and diet are concerned. You have caloric maintenance, caloric surplus, or caloric defecit.
At maintenance levels, you are both consuming and training at a level where you neither gain nor lose. Essentially, your “in & out” cancel one another out - you are not making significant changes.
At caloric surplus levels, you consume more calories than you are actually burning; therefore, you are gaining size one way or another and giving your body the capability to add muscle mass.
At caloric defecit level, (which is absolutely necessary to cut or lose excess body weight), you are either consuming lesser or else using extra energy. This is what happens in the cutting phase.
When it comes to having a caloric defecit, it gets to be a sticky area as far as how low below maintenance you want to go. I am not going to address bodybuilding in great detail because the structure of the diet is exceptional to the sport. We get to be very low, generally below the maintenance level at some point. It is very brief, but that is not something I would apply to all who are looking to cut. Generally, I would stick with 20% below maintenance and not go much lower than that for the average person. You do not want to cut too much at a time as far as calories and body fat are concerned - you risk your body not adapting too well, binging, and ultimately rebounding. It is not a good situation! I have been there myself and you can also get as far as metabolic damage, which is oftentimes irreversible. Be sure not to consume too little!
Let’s talk about lifting heavy at all times…. basically the difference in when you are cutting body fat and in when you are trying to build muscle is going to be HOW you train. When you have a caloric defecit while cutting, you will not magically add muscle mass just because you lift heavy. Remember what I said about the caloric surplus - you NEED that in order to make gains, either fat OR muscle. To clear it up…do not worry about getting huge by using heavy weights, period. I hear this phrase all the time- “use heavy weight and low reps to add size, and low weight and high reps to tone and cut fat”, that is simply not the case.
When you have the defecit and are using lower weight and NOT taking advantage of all the muscle fibres and accessory tissue. Your body does not care that you want to be lean. Your body does not care that you want a 700# deadlift (unfortunately). All your body is concerned with is survival, so what happens when you are “cutting” and using light weight over and over, this is what your body starts thinking: “Alright, so….we are not really getting a lot of energy because of the low calories, and you are still training but I see you are not using your muscles much….so, I am just going to eat it!” ….seriously.
Your body is going to start breaking down muscle tissue for energy because your body is smart - it knows you are not using the muscle you have built in the past to do anything. Light weight is nothing. You might as well be curling Q-Tips. Your body is going to tap into that rich muscle tissue for energy when you are in that defecit - and you will lose some fat too!, but you will not get that look and physique you are hoping for. This can also happen with too much cardio. This leads to overtraining - when you want to cut excess fat or add mass, you have to train smart. Overtraining is not training smart.
When you do too much and rest too little, you are cutting into recovery and not allowing your muscles to rebuild at all. Sometimes people call cardio “the killer of muscle” (now I am not necessarily endorsing this, although it can very easily become the case when the line is crossed), so you can make your decision on your own for that. Me personally, weight training is a million times more valuable than cardio for any goal but you can find your own balance.
On track with weight training - when you are lifting to cut, pick a weight that is going to be really heavy for you - you can perform with, say, maybe 8 times and no more. On that 7th and 8th rep you should really be fighting for it - this is how you will MAINTAIN. You will do this for all your sets and each time you train on that cutting phase (no increasing). In doing this, you are keeping your muscles engaged which will help boost your metabolism and keep burning fat. You may have muscle underneath your excess fat now and not even know it! Once you start to cut the fat, it is great….I love it and think it is awesome.
The difference here and in adding size is going to be using lesser volume and lesser frequency. For volume, you will decrease you number of reps and/or sets. For frequency, you will decrease the amount of times you train a particular muscle group within a week or how much time you spend each session. For example, right now I am adding size to my deltoids and glutes/hamstrings - so I am loaded up with carbs and will train each of those 2x a week, given 3 days between each session to allow proper rest and recovery. When cuttings, let’s stick with 1 day per group each week.
When you are looking to add size, you are going to use what is called the Progressive Overload Principle. I love this! You will not fail with this if you use it correctly. I like to pick about 6-10 for my rep range. You will start at the low end of that range (6 in this case) and you will pick a weight that you can absolutely only do 6 times for that particular movement. I mean to say, you are going to get 5 reps out and on that 6th rep it is going to be blood and tears and puke to get that last rep. ;) Each time you return to that movement the following session*, you can try to add another rep, working your way up to the high end of that range you set earlier. Once you get to that high end (10 in this case), you start over at the bottom of the rep range with a heavier weight.
*Keep in mind you are not going to add weight every week - I mean that would rule but that would also mean you could squat the planet within the next couple of years HAHA….I guess we can dream.
You could also use the Progressive Overload Principle by just continuing to add weight throughout your sessions (keep the same weight each time until your next training session). It is going to be small weight at a time….5#, 7#, it is not going to be a lot each time you add. It takes time - it is called PROGRESSIVE for a reason.
If you do not choose to use this method and you are trying to add size, I do not care if you have a raw bench press of 400# - if you do that over and over for twenty years, you will NOT get bigger or stronger. You HAVE to increase tension, you have to increase demands and expectations, and ultimately you will HAVE to increase weight. Read that again….
You HAVE to increase tension.
You have to increase demands and expectations.
Ultimately, you will HAVE to increase weight.
It has to be heavy at all times. There is no other way to train. You have to be using heavy weight to get the results you want when maintaining or adding size, period.
Diet is crucial, but you already knew that. Back to the concept of calories, you can lose weight (and I say WEIGHT because it will be muscle, fat, fluid, etc. not just fat) on these crazy diets like eating Poptarts all the time ….as long as you have a caloric defecit. A caloric defecit is technically all you need to lose weight. *waits for somebody to chime in and start raising hell to “prove me wrong”*
Seriously though, that is the key. Drinking more water, having a clean diet with enough fiber and balanced macros, exercise, etc. are just the details and it will dot the i’s and cross the t’s on cutting fat, but at the end of the day if there is no defecit, there will be no losses.
The important thing is to have proper nutrition - no crazy diet where you “NEVER have carbs” or “NEVER have fats” or something. Now, you can do caloric cycling but that is a whole other beast we can talk about another time. The key here is proper nutrition while having a defecit.
Pre-training, I like to have complex carbohydrates (oatmeal or brown rice for this lady) and I have a whole food protein source as well about an hour prior. The complex carbohydrates and slow-digesting, giving you a boost of energy that will sustain over time as you exert energy. This also helps to reduce glycogen depletion as much as possible as well as reduce muscle breakdown.
Post-training, guess what you want? Carbohydrates and protein again! - in this case, you want to have some simple carbohydrates. I am not saying to eat a bunch of cookies and chocolate bars, but you can have some sugars as they are fast-digesting. Immediately following training, your body is wide open and ready to recover. Take advantage of your body being ready to digest and process these nutrients as well as your muscles ready to suck it all up for growth so the real building can begin. If you prefer to not have sugars in such a raw way, you could have some high glycemic foods such as rice or potato.
Do not be afraid of the big weights, never overtrain or try to compensate with extra training/cardio if you make a “mistake” on your diet - growth and progression does not work that way.
Thank you for reading! Take care :*