5 Reasons You Must Lift Heavy Ass Weights

May 9, 2016 | 61 Comments

A few days ago I finally hit a personal record on weighted chin ups at 140 pounds for 4 reps (actually, 5 reps but the last rep was kind messy) at a bodyweight of 183 pounds.

So total, I’m pulling a raw 323 pounds. Most lat pull down machines only go up to 200 pounds.

Side note: For those interested, I’m using the Brute Belt which is hands down the best dip belt on the market. It’s slightly more pricey, but it’s arguably the highest quality belt on the market and if I’m going to be using it for years to come, you may as well invest in the best. This was after being stuck at 120 pound weighted chin up since I haven’t invested in a weighted belt yet. I spend the last 3 months of my life simply sticking 120 pound dumbbells between my legs. And let me tell you, sticking 120 pounds between your legs isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world.

Most beginners or most people who follow mainstream fitness advice in magazines, and even bodybuilders tend to promote lifting in the mid-high rep range (8-12+ reps). This is fine for getting the “pump” and building mass but it does very little for real world strength gains.

Look, I love lifting heavy.

I think it’s one of best things in the world, right after pie.

There are so many reasons for you to focus on heavy lifting (3-5 reps).

Here are the top 5 that came to my head while I took a shower last night.

Reason #1: Improved residual muscle tone

Christian Bale Body

Lifting heavy improves your residual muscle tone.

In other words, you look better without flexing or anything like that.

Have you ever noticed how when you do ‘pump’ training in the 10-12 rep range, your muscles look big and swollen after the gym and for the next 1-2 day but then return to their normal size afterwards?

This is called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, an increase in fluid (sarcoplasm) in muscle cells that results in big puffy muscles that look good for a few days but don’t result in long term muscle fiber growth. In other words, when you try to contract your muscles (or flex) it doesn’t look that impressive.

On the other hand by lifting heavy (3-5 reps), myofibillar hypertrophy occurs which is the actual growth of the muscle fibers which allows you to contract the muscle harder, thus giving you better “muscle tone” even without flexing.

Reason #2: Cut your workout load by 21.69%

How did I come up with the number 21.69%?

I completely made it up.

But you will be able to cut down your workout load by a pretty decent amount once you start training heavier.

The fact is, training heavier recruits more muscle fibers and increases the amount of tension placed on the muscle.

This means that you don’t need to do a dozen different exercises for each body part anymore.

Instead just focus on a handful of exercises and focus on getting freakishly strong at them.

I love to tell clients to focus on getting insanely strong at weighted chin ups if they want a big back and to forget about everything else. If you’re the type of guy who likes to do 5 different exercises for his back so your can “hit it from all angles” but still don’t have a big back, then try focusing on just weighted chin ups and progressing on those. You may pleasantly surprised with the results.

Reason #3: You maintain you muscle much easier

If your training plan revolves around the 8-12 rep range, you’ll probably find your muscles becoming soft if you ever decide to take a week off from training.

This rarely happens when you focus on lifting heavy.

Hell, you can even get away with working out only 2x per week if your routine is smartly laid out.

Reason #4: You train with more intensity

Heavy lifting is not for pussies.

Anyone can lift 5 pound dumbbells for 50+ reps but try doing a chin up with 75% of your bodyweight attached for 5 reps.

It requires focus.

It requires the right mind set.

It requires you to actually track your progress in the gym (which surprisingly very few guys do). Most guys just “wing it.”

If you lack any of these qualities, you won’t last long in this game.

Yes, lifting super heavy is not necessarily easy but that’s the point. Anything worthwhile doing is not easy.

Reason #5: It’s perfect if you want a Hollywood physique

If you want a lean and muscular body like Daniel Craig, Chris Pratt, or Ryan Reynolds, the quickest, most optimal way to do it is by lifting heavy 75% of the time. The other 25% can consist of more high rep pump training stuff.

Everyone thinks you need to train 5+ days per week to get a ripped Hollywood physique, but if you just followed the heavy lifting principles on my site and focused on creating a calorie deficit to lose fat, you’ll be so much further along than everyone else.

Next month (Jan 2015), I’ll be releasing my first premium course, Superhero Shredding which will lay out the entire step-by-step blueprint on how to build a lean and muscular Hollywood body. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

Edit Jan 12th: It’s out!

Are you lifting heavy or are you lifting nothing but high rep pump stuff? Let me know in the comments below.

P.S. I’m on Instagram now. Apparently you’re not hip and cool if you’re not on Instagram so I had no choice. Follow me plz.

61 Comments - Leave Your Thoughts

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  1. On my 2nd upper body training day , I do pull ups before other exercises like shoulder press etc..I’m doing 13-9-7-6 reps (35 reps total with body weight)..how would you advise on this ? like should I start pull ups with added weights now on wards ? and how the reps and sets should ideally be ? (whether same amount of reps in each set , don’t go more than 10 reps in a set kinda things?)

    1. yes you should be adding weight. I like to do it reverse pyramid style, so start at 5 reps, then lower the weight by 10% and do 6 reps, then lower by 10% again and do 7-8 reps.

  2. Hey Keith I’m losing weight quickly thanks to your tips. But got a quick question, maybe I’m just over thinking.,.. You mentioned you have to lift heavy to lose weight but I also saw you can’t build muscle and lose weight at the same time what am I missing? BTW lost 12 lbs in two weeks THANKS!!!

  3. I train 8-15 reps. Just had 3 weeks off and guess what I don’t look soft at all. Actually the opposite. Training heavy has its perks but there’s a lot more wear and tear on the joints which you can’t fix when your older. One thing frank Zane always said if he could change his training routine it was that he wouldn’t have gone as heavy now because now at the ripe age of 72 the joints which were worked with heavy moments a lot aren’t in the best shape. In conclusion it’s best to train all rep ranges though.

    1. 8 reps definitely isn’t “light”.

      I find the biggest problems guys run into is when the majority of their training is in the 10+ rep range.

      And yes, you should train in all rep ranges.

      1. But some guys do train and find success in the 10+ rep range. (Ullises for example) it’s just going to depend on genetics and the muscle fiber ratio at each respected muscle group for how well an Individual will react to it

          1. Natty or not he got a DNA test which stated his body would respond best with higher reps. (DNAfit.com)

          2. sorry man i’m not hedging my bets on the whole dna pseudo science testing and nobody should.

  4. Well. Because it’s not letting reply under my first comment I’ve started a new one. DNA testing is not a pseudoscience with our knowledge of the human genes now we know which gene variations code for different traits. This science is now being utilized in sports. After determining an individual’s specific gene one is able to understand how that can effect the different aspects of athletic performance. In this scenario how well the body responds to higher rep training.

    1. Yes but do you have any idea how insanely complex human genetics is?

      If you’re going to let a mouth swab run by companies with next to zero regulation determine how you should eat, train, and live then we’re probably done here.

  5. Nice article Keith.. 🙂 every fucking body I meet at the gym just follow the perception of getting pump sensation. Total bs I say.. I focus on heavy ass weight on basic compound lifts- big 3, military.. And I got insanely big in a short time. I used to hate my skinny fat genetics but I’m getting more and more beastly day by day. My workout routine is based on meat and potatoes training.. So focus is to add weight every workout and low reps.. And then some assistant works- front squat, wide grip, close grip bench, db bench(different angles), rows(bb and db), lats work(chins pull ups or pull downs), arnold press for 6-8 reps. Following that some curls, skullcrushers, pullovers, calfs, shrugs, laterals, forearms etc for 10-15 reps.. Though they are not of priority as much the big 4.. And that works..

    1. Thanks man.

      THere’s a time and place for pump training but most guys focus too much on it, initially.

      Yup the approach you outlined works amazingly well.

  6. Great article.
    It is very important to lift heavy weights as it increases the muscle volume faster. If you wish to build muscle or maintain the current muscle it is important to lift as heavy. An important point to note here is the form, where you should not be compromising on your form just to lift heavy.

  7. Hey Keith! Love all the shit you have on your site, really amazing quality stuff. I have a question regarding dumbbells, I currently work out at home using powerblocks and a pullup tower for weighted chins, I find that I feel a bit more…comfortable using a 6-8 rep range with DBs as opposed to 4-6. Does this still qualify as “heavy” in your eyes? I tend to not up the weight until I can hit 3 sets of 8 on each exercise, otherwise progression with DBs is just too damn fast. I’ve been doing this for a while and have seen pretty good results even though I know you like 4 days a bit more than 3;

    Workout A
    Weighted Chin Ups RPT : 5 6 8
    Incline DB Press: 3×6-8
    Seated DB Press: 3×6-8
    Bulgarian SS: 3×8
    Incline DB Curl: 3×8
    Lateral Raises Rest Pause

    Workout B
    Weighted Pull Ups RPT: 5 6 8
    Incline DB Press: 3×6-8
    Low Incline Neutral Grip DB Press: 3×6-8(chest really needs work, will rotate with seated DB press most likely)
    Reverse Lunges 3×8
    Overhead DB Extensions 3×8
    Face Pulls 3×8-12 (rotate monthly with overhead shrugs)
    Calf Raises Rest Pause

  8. Hi Keith,
    I work upper body twice a week with 4 sets of 5 for compounds on Monday and 4 sets of 10 on a Friday with lower on a Wednesday. Is this a good balance or would I be better changing Friday so that it’s also mainly 4 sets of 5?

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