Some people (mainly girls) worry that they will get too big if they lift weights. For the athlete in a sport with weight classes, that’s a problem. So does weight lifting make you bulky?
The short answer is no, hell no. Just ask anyone who actually want’s to bulk. There’s almost no way for that to happen unintentionally. For one, you have to eat A LOT to bulk. Secondly, you usually have to use a lot of lifting volume, at a moderate intensity to hypertrophy the muscle tissues any significant amount.
Volume vs. Intensity
If you don’t understand what I just said, let me define volume and intensity for you. Volume, by the simplest definition, is how many times you perform a set. Intensity is how heavy the set is. I know a lot of fat loss programs out there have people confused about what intensity is, since those programs use High “Intensity” Interval Training (HIIT), but in clinical terminology, using a high intensity means you can only perform a few reps at a time. It doesn’t actually refer to your mental intensity.
What Makes You Bigger and What Makes You Stronger
So lets first look at how you should lift in order to get bigger. We’ll answer the question, “Does weight lifting make you bulky?” That way, you’ll know you’re not in danger of bulking when you don’t want to. The easiest and maybe most effective method to bulk is called German Volume Training. In a nutshell, it’s 10 sets of 10 reps with a weight where you can do a little more that 10 reps/set. That’s a total of 100 reps/exercise at a moderate intensity, around 70% of you 1 rep max. There’s some debate over what the minimum intensity is, but 70% is a good number for us to use here. There’s also the Time Under Tension factor, but we don’t need to get into that here.
So does weight lifting make you bulky? The real answer is if you lift with a high volume, using a moderate intensity, you can bulk up. If you keep the volume low, doing typically no more than 5 sets per exercise, you’ll put on little to know muscle mass.
A typical high intensity protocol that will make you stronger, while putting little to no weight on you would be something like 8 sets of 3, for a total of 24 reps/exercise at an intensity of about 90% of your 1 rep max.
So hypertrophy of the muscles fibers, for the most part, occurs in the moderate intensity level (about 70-80%). When at that level, you can grow the muscles the most efficiently, and more volume means more growth. Higher intensity (around 90%) gives you mostly strength gains. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, chances are, you would like some advice on relative strength training. You may like my post “Increase Your 1 Rep Max-Why and How.”
Where DBZ Went wrong
So if you’re a fan of DragonballZ (if not, you can skip the nerd part), you’ve seen the characters training with a lot of body weight exerciser and sometimes small weight implements. They do lots and lots of reps (volume). Given as much as Goku eats, he should be as big as a house. Sure, Saiyajin (Sayin) genetics are different, so I guess that works for him, but unfortunately we’re humans, and we don’t all get a strength boost every time we get beat up.
If you’re a fighter, you should not emulate Goku’s example, at least not in his strength training, unless you want to move up a few weight classes. If you want super human strength and speed, then go HEAVY. You might gain a small amount of weight as you hypertrophy the type IIx fibers a little, but it’s nothing you can’t cut, and it’s weight that will serve you well.
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