Have you ever been told that simply adding weight to the bar or machine, aka “progressive overload” is the holy grail of muscle building?
Building muscle takes a lot more than just adding more weight to the bar, and to be completely truthful, more often than not, adding weight to the bar will result in LESS stimulus to the muscle you’re trying to work.
Sound a bit ridiculous?
Well, if youre an exercise geek like me, you know its absolutely not ridiculous and is often the absolute truth.
There are many more factors to consider that stimulate growth and strength adaptation than the amount of weight.
You can hear my full explanation of truth and pitfalls of only focusing on “progressive overload” in the video below.
Still don’t believe me that moving more weight isn’t the answer to “gains”?
In a recent experiment published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, they tested the mechanical damage induced by using partial ROM vs full ROM for an exercise. They found that muscle damage and soreness was significantly greater in the subjects using full ROM, even though they used up to 40% LESS WEIGHT than the partial ROM group.
Muscles respond to three primary types of growth stimulus; mechanical damage, tension, and metabolic stress.
For now, we are going to focus on mechanical damage. I’ll leave the other two for another time.
If you want to build muscle as fast as possible (since you’re reading this I’m going to assume that you do), you must stimulate as many muscle fibers as possible. Creating tension and mechanical damage along a muscle’s full contractile range is imperative to maximizing growth long-term.
This reinforces one of the 6 Essentials of Exercise; stimulate all points of the strength curve.
Moral of the story, load is important but NOT at the expense of proper execution and tension on the working muscle.
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Baroni, BM., Pompermayer, MG., Cini, A., Peruzzolo, AS., Radaelli, R., Brusco, CM., Pinto, RS. (2016). Full range of motion induces greater muscle damage than partial range of motion in elbow flexion exercise with free weights. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001562