Q: I remember working muscles twice a week, and we used the heavy/light method. Do you ever do that? Do you think it helps the muscle-building process?
A: I remember those days. It relieved gym boredom, but was it necessary for best gains?
It probably depends on the extent of damage on heavy day. But if you’re training for muscle growth, it’s really unnecessary—and perhaps even detrimental…
Here’s Mr. America Doug Brignole’s take on it…
No need to alternate between ‘heavy days’ and ‘light days.’ No need for high reps at one workout, and low reps at the next. Those beliefs have been refuted with studies showing that a muscle grows as well with higher reps (lighter weight) as with lower reps (heavier weight).
The caveat is how light? The answer is 30 reps generally speaking. A 30-rep set to failure usually constitutes using a weight that is approximately 40% of one’s 1RM. A recent study shows that using a weight that’s lighter than that produces much less muscle growth. But sets performed with a weight that is between 40% 1RM and 80% 1RM (i.e., sets of 6) produced equal amounts of muscle growth.
HOWEVER, I’ve never experienced as much muscle growth with sets of 6 as I have with sets of 12, 15, 20 and 30 reps. Not even close.
The study Doug is referring to is one I’ve discussed here before that was featured in the European Journal of Sports Science (Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., a scientist I reference throughout the new ebook, is one of the researchers)…
Notice that the higher-rep sets built muscle as well as or better than heavy lower-rep sets.
I’ve mentioned that Doug is getting spectacular muscle gains at 62 by doing four sets on each ideal exercise twice a week…
He adds weight on each set, so his reps are 30, 20, 15, 10. Rest between sets is anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes.
He often does a set for another muscle during that rest. For example, he will do his ideal triceps exercise during his rest for biceps.
Every workout follows that protocol—no heavy/light or high-rep day/low-rep day. It’s not necessary.
My training is similar, but I use the same weight on all sets for each ideal exercise with 20, 12, 8 reps. Reps drop due to short rests between. Then I follow with an add-on exercise for stretch or continuous tension, 10, 8 reps.
I have no heavy day or light day—but I do have a stretch-move-first workout that I rotate in every so often, which is outlined and explained in the new ebook.
Stretch loading can be a significant growth accelerator, according to research. So-called hardgainers like me need every layer of muscle size we can get.
New: Get the ideal exercise for each muscle, the best add-on moves for ultimate mass, complete 35-minute workouts, exercise start/finish photos, and details on building muscle fast and efficiently in Old Man, Young Muscle.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
Former Editor in Chief, Iron Man Magazine
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