In order for us to put on good quality muscle, we MUST be willing to train hard enough for that to happen. Often times, when the burn really kicks in during a set of weights, people’s first reaction is to stop and put the weight down, or rack it back up because it’s uncomfortable. Or some just won’t use a heavy enough load in the first place. This is a big mistake.
Now, I’m not saying every time we are working out we have to push ourself to the absolute limits, but it is crucial to be able to take yourself to a point where we only have 1 or 2 reps left in the tank. One of my favourite sayings is “Stimulate, don’t annihilate.” This is simply referring to creating enough stimulation to the muscle for the body to force a change, an adaptation (muscle gain).
Strength training is built around the intent to get stronger (i.e) to increase the amount of weight you can lift on a steady, on-going basis. To train for strength, you need to work with heavy loads (80–95% of your 1RM) and need to avoid hitting failure, except for key points in time during your routine. Working at these heavy loads means that you will typically spend time in the 4-6 rep range per set.
Training for MUSCLE GROWTH is actually less complicated, because hypertrophy, as I mentioned earlier, is all about causing muscle adaptation and eating enough food. The more important factor for muscle hypertrophy is time spent under tension/load. When you train with very heavy loads like 85–95% of 1 RM, you typically don’t spend too much time under the bar (you will be in the 4-6 rep range).
You’d be much better off choosing lighter weights (65–75% of 1RM) and working in the 8–12 rep range – not because 8 and 12 are some magical numbers from a hidden universe, but because 8-12 reps with heavy weight ensures that you spend a decent amount of time under load. You will feel much more of a burn in the muscle itself this way, even though your load wouldn’t be as heavy as the 4-6 rep range.
When training with these loads, it is typically ‘slightly’ safer to go to failure, but it’s still not advisable. You are better off doing each set until you have 1-2 reps left in the tank. This will allow you to continue on subsequent sets and accumulate enough total volume / time under load to grow your muscle.
The ability to deal with discomfort – or become comfortable being uncomfortable – will do a lot more for you than just help you build muscle and perform better.
It builds mental toughness… and this is invaluable!
When you’re able to enter a situation where you feel uncomfortable, and stay focused and present instead of feeling sorry for yourself and quitting, you become stronger and more confident. You build trust in yourself and your ability to accomplish difficult tasks that most people wouldn’t be able to. Giving in and giving up will only train your mind to be weak in other areas of your life as well.
So when you feel the burn, EMBRACE IT! Tell yourself you love it! You should actually seek it! If you really want your body shape to change, the uncomfortable burn needs to become your new best friend!