People say to get big that you need to ‘Go heavy’. There are tons of slogans on this idea like ‘Go heavy go home’ or ‘Lift big to get big’. But nobody really goes into the specifics of what this means which can leave a lot of inexperienced lifters confused and doing the wrong thing when they are at the gym.
It has happened to plenty of us, successful bodybuilders included. You hear people tell stories about early lifting days when they would do ridiculous workouts and eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches in efforts to get bigger.
So let’s skip outlining a specific exercise program complete with sets and reps and instead focus on the ideology behind going heavy.
Basically you are trying to lift the heaviest weights you can in an exercise, period. But what a lot of people end up trying to do is lift the heaviest weights anyone can in a weird attempt to impress people at the gym with how strong they are. Honestly, nobody cares how much you lift. I never try and lift more than someone else in the gym just to accomplish that feat. My goal is to build my body and I don’t really care what anyone else is doing.
You want to get in there and lift the weights your body can handle in a low rep range that causes your muscles to work as hard as they possibly can. You aren’t trying to lift Joe Schmoe’s weights. You aren’t trying to impress the cute girl on the treadmill.
Intensity & Effort
Both these words need to be employed when you are going heavy. You should be going all out, balls to the walls, hard on your final set with your heaviest weight. The intensity and focus must be there for that set so you give it everything you can, and then you give it some more. Your last set should not be easy at all otherwise it was just a warm-up set.
If you finish that last set after doing 6 reps but you could have done more then you are limiting yourself. It should be as many reps as you can get followed by straining and pushing as hard as you can to get one or two more. Far too many people push out a hard last rep but really don’t strain themselves to go for broke. Your body responds to being overloaded so push it as far as you can with that last set! Push hard for 10 to 15 seconds if you have to but get that final rep!
Form & Function
Even when you go heavy you should never ever sacrifice form. Honestly guys who grunt and groan to lift tons of weight in bad form get laughed at behind their back. We know they aren’t doing much too really workout their bodies and are begging for an injury. But some people can’t seem to learn to check that ego at the door.
Proper form ensures you are working the target muscle or muscles. Yes, cheating a little has its’ place in a routine. I will fully admit that when I am struggling to push past a partial rep when my muscles are giving it everything they have my form suffers a little bit. But, that is at the end of the ride not the entire duration. You really only cheat yourself by using constant cheating on an exercise. In my case, the muscle ends up getting extra work after I cheat that last rep up because I do a slow negative on the way back down for a finishing burn and added punishment.
Going heavy is a good practice if you want to get bigger and stronger. But heavy for me is different than heavy for you which is different for heavy for a World’s Strongest Man competitor. You need to focus on your own workout and lifting within the framework of what your body can handle if you want to increase that threshold properly and safely.