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Lifting Explosively: Why You Should Worry About Lifting Too Heavy, Too Fast

  Mar 29th, 2013

Explosive LiftingIf you’re serious about packing slabs of muscle on your frame you’re going to have to work hard at lifting heavier weights.


There’s just no way around it. Muscles require progressive overload to grow. If you don’t get this concept right you might as well give up trying to get jacked because it just isn’t going to happen for you.


Like anything else, though, there are inherent risks to taking this concept too far, too fast.


In our quest to get bigger and stronger it can be tempting to stack a few more plates on the bar when we really aren’t ready for it. I get when there’s a smokin’ hot girl working out in your vicinity you’re going to want to impress her with feats of strength.


But, I can promise you that leaving the gym with a cranked back and staying small and scrawny isn’t going to help you get any dates. So don’t be stupid.


Perhaps instead you should try an approach that’s used far less often and has a much higher success ratio like… I don’t know… Maybe asking her out for dinner or coffee.


Hot gym members aside, the desire to build muscle leads far too many to become impatient and they wind up doing things that are downright idiotic. You can’t fix stupid and some people are beyond help.


I’m sure you know someone that fits this description, but since you’re reading this incredible blog of mine there’s no way possible that you could fall into this category.


Still, just to be certain, I want to save you from any number of debilitating injuries and experiencing the frustrations that come along with lifting too heavy, too fast.


Let’s get at it.


Lifting Should Be Explosive

Probably the easiest self test you can use to determine if you’re using too much resistance is your ability to be explosive. Explosiveness is easier to feel than it is to explain, but if your reps are slow and grinding from the start of your first rep until you complete your final rep, you’re using too much weight.


You should be able to perform every one of your reps with explosiveness. Once you’re grinding (even slightly) to finish a rep, it’s time to end the set.


Trying to continue on after that is going to compromise your form and wreak havoc on your CNS.


I’ve been a proponent of training to complete failure in the past, but I’ve been convinced that explosive, sub-maximal training is a better short-term and long-term approach. It will save you from injury and your muscle gains will be better.


I would’ve argued against this approach until I was blue in the face just a few months back, but I’ve put it to the test and have been converted.


“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” – Muhammad Ali


I’ll be writing more on the concept of sub-maximal training in the near future. I realize this a small shift in philosophy for me and can tell you that I didn’t come to this conclusion hastily.


My philosophies on nutrition are also shifting. I still need to put my new nutritional lifestyle to the test for a few more weeks, but my initial results are very promising.


Actually, I’m looking for a few dedicated men and women to test my new training and nutritional philosophies. If you’re interested, shoot me an email at to let me know.


I’ve digressed a bit. Let’s get back on topic and look at the next way to make sure you’re not lifting too heavy.


Do a Form Check

Explosive Lifting - Compromised FormWhile the explosiveness you’re able to exert is the best self-test for lifting too heavy, the form you’re using (or lack thereof) is the best visual indicator that you’ve gotten a little overzealous with the iron.


If you have to twirk and distort your body to complete any of your reps, it’s obvious you’re lifting beyond your means. Even seemingly small compromises in your form can hinder your growth by taking the emphasis off of the muscles you’re intending to work and shifting it elsewhere.


When doing barbell bent-over rows, for instance, you should be able to hold the bar at the top of the movement for 1-2 seconds. If you can’t, you’re using too much weight.


Again, if you’re doing slow, grinding reps, your form is already compromised – even if you don’t realize it. Drop the weight a little, maintain proper form and stay explosive.


Trust me. You’ll build more muscle in less time.


Lifting too heavy, too fast – and training to complete failure – may seem like the right strategy for packing on muscle as fast as possible, but it just doesn’t work that way for the reasons I’ve explained above.


One prominent reason for this is the fact that fast twitch muscle fibers are designed to grow larger and will respond much better and faster than the slow twitch variety. Lifting in an explosive manner will engage the fast twitch muscles, allowing you to take advantage of their fast-growing capabilities.


Most people train with a slow and constant motion, placing their focus on time under tension. This largely neglects the fast twitch fibers, which is one of several reasons why so many people spend years of their lives training and you’d never know it.


If you’ve been training for more than a year it should be noticeable that you train. If it isn’t, you’re doing something wrong. Lifting too heavy and lacking explosiveness is likely a large part of the problem.


The benefit of training explosively to target the fast twitch fibers is often overlooked (it was by me for far too long), but growing maximally requires more than just training heavy. It requires training with explosiveness.


As an extreme example, compare the bodies of sprinters and marathon runners. Sprinters predominantly train their body with explosive movements that target the fast twitch fibers, while marathon runners train with the kind of slow, constant pace that most people lift with.


Explosive Lifting - Sprinter vs Runner


See the difference?


Lifting too heavy will only dampen your explosiveness, lead to over training, hinder your muscle gains, slow your ability to get stronger and put you at risk for injury.


In short, you should use as much weight as you can, while maintaining your explosiveness and without compromising your form.


The goal is to train optimally, not maximally. Despite what you may have heard, the two are not necessarily correlated.



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