Sometimes we have to remember to leave our ego at the door before walking into the gym. We need to remind ourselves that we are not defined by weight. We are not defined by the weight on the scale or the weights (pounds) we lift. Even I sometimes get caught up in how much I can lift and I get disappointed in myself when I can't lift that much weight the following month, week, or year. Then I remind myself, it's not about the weight I'm lifting it's about the focus I have on my form, making sure each and every rep count.
Lifting is way more than just the number on the dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell.
lifting correctly & safely while concentrating on every single fiber in your body working to make that movement truly count is what lifting is all about. I've learned this year through my "prep" slash, prep for life that lifting is truly amazing when you appreciate the burn. I find myself craving for my muscles to be on fire, and when they are, that's when you give an extra 15% more and you realize you are stronger than you ever thought was possible. That's when the magic happens!
Do you LIFT HEAVY OR DO YOU LIFT WITH MORE VOLUME?
Low Reps & Heavy Weights
Incorporating higher intensity training (low reps, heavier weights) to your routine will not make you "bulky" but lifting heavy weights can actually help you get a lean body faster. Low reps with heavier weights are the traditional method for building muscle mass. lifting heavy weights (70-75% of your one-rep max) activates your fast twitch muscle fibers, which develops strength and promotes muscle growth. The downfall of just training with low reps and high weight is that your muscles will have a lot of power but they will get fatigued faster. If your muscles aren't under tension long enough they won't promote muscle growth the proper way.
So, most people who want to build muscle tend to use a more moderate approach (8-12 reps at 70-75% of your one-rep max). This allows enough weight and reps to build strength, power, and also extending the sets a little longer to promote more muscle growth.
High Reps & Low Weights
Extending your rep range (adding more volume) and lifting at a high range with lower weights (high reps, lower weights) incorporates reps of 15+ per set (at a 50-60% of your one-rep max). This will work your slow twitch muscles fibers. Your slow twitch muscle fibers have less power than your fast twitch but are all endurance-based and will fatigue at a much slower rate.
When you lift higher reps at the lower weight you still build muscle but a different type of muscle. You are building endurance and strength. The longer you lift (with higher volume) will allow you to burn more calories and will help you lean out and give a greater afterburn.
Mix it up. You know my favorite quote...TRAIN THE SAME, REMAIN THE SAME. My thoughts, try changing up your rep scheme and see what happens. You shouldn't rely on one method exclusively. Long term success comes from altering your workouts and tweaking them every few weeks.
Just remember, don't go too far. If you ever come to a point where you can't lift any more weight, or can't lift the weight long enough to be effective your form gets lost and you put yourself at risk for injury. If you can't control the movement you are lifting too heavy. Concentrate on form and endurance and eventually, you'll hit those heavy weights again/soon (I am proof of this). Slow and steady wins the race.
Try to find the joy in lifting if you haven't done so already. Enjoy the burn and focus your energy into getting to that point. Sure, seeing my physique change is great (leaning out, getting muscles defined), but the best part of this whole process for me has been seeing my strength increase. Going from 45lb bench press to 135lb bench press, etc...
That's why when I step on stage it's not about the trophy or the abs. For me, it's about knowing I gained so much more than just what the eye can see. Going on stage will never truly highlight my strength or my power.
“The resistance that you fight physically in the gym and the resistance that you fight in life can only build a strong character.” Arnold Schwarzenegger