I just wanted to make a quick statement:
The only way to transform is to lift heavy.
If you want any chance at building a physique, you must do your heavy squats, bench presses and deadlifts.
There simply is no other way to transform your body, so if you don’t like lifting heavy or you don’t have access to a squat rack, barbells and enough plates to give you a hernia, don’t even bother training.
OK, that was just a joke, although that joke is not far from some peoples’ reality.
I can’t believe the amount of times I’ve had skinny-fat guys tell me they did training routines similar to Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5×5, gained a ton of strength, yet made close to no changes to their physiques.
I was one of these guys not too long ago.
I thought that strength training was the one and only way to gain muscle if you’re skinny-fat.
I found out the hard way that this isn’t the case and now I’ll explain why.
Muscle growth occurs when you stimulate your muscles.
Your muscles are best stimulated when the following things are present:
- Each set has a time-under-tension of 40-60 seconds.
- Each rep takes about 5 seconds to perform (2 second positive rep phase, 3 second negative rep phase).
- Each set is taken close to muscular failure, to complete muscular failure or beyond muscular failure. (This depends on how many sets you do and how often you train that muscle group).
From this basic knowledge we can derive that each set should consist of 8-12 reps that take about 5 seconds to complete to achieve a time-under-tension of 40-60 seconds.
Now contrast that with your typical “lift heavy program” where you do 5 reps.
When you lift heavy, there’s no way you’re going to do “perfect form” reps each time you train and chances are that you won’t reach a time-under-tension of 40 seconds.
In other words, lifting heavy weights in the 3-6 rep range is not optimal for muscle growth.
These two men are extremely strong and are among the best in the world at teaching you on how to gain strength, but they don’t have the physique to go for it.
These two guys train 100% bodyweight training and have much more muscular and full looking physiques than the two strength authors.
Because bodyweight exercises don’t put anywhere near as much stress on the Central Nervous System as heavy barbell lifts, and that enables you to do more and more often.
(The Central Nervous System takes a lot longer to recover than your muscles).
Therefore, bodyweight exercises can be trained more frequently, with a higher amount of reps, shorter rest time between sets and with a lot more sets.
These are all the conditions that you need to grow your muscles and get a full-looking physique.
Besides that, lifting heavy puts you at a much higher risk of getting injured compared to doing calisthenics, using machines and light-moderate weights.
This is especially true for those of you who are not used to train hard and often (most skinny-fat guys), and those of you who have poor genetics for training.
Besides that, if you’re a couch potato who has poor posture, poor mobility and you can’t do a good set of 12-15 pull ups, you have no reason to start doing heavy barbell squats and deadlifts.
What you need to do first is work on your posture, address basic mobility issues such as tight hips and hamstrings and master basic bodyweight exercises such as push ups and pull ups.
Be proud but stay hungry,
Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer