How to Lift Weights Without Getting Bulky
What does a picture of lightning have to do with gaining strength without size?
Strength is largely a result of electrical neurological impulses.
- Weak electrical impulses = weak muscle contractions.
- Strong electrical impulses = strong muscle contractions.
(Here is the link to part 1 of this article.)
Have you ever seen a skinny teenager with skinny stick-legs dunk a basketball?
That kid has the neurological equivalent of a lightning bolt shooting down to the muscles of his lower body…delivering a fast powerful contraction.
Compare that to an inactive 35 year old guy who can’t jump over a mud puddle.
…which is the neurological equivalent of the power delivered by an AA battery.
Muscle size and fiber type comes into play as well.
I’ll talk about that in a second…
…but first I have to share a song that captures the large image above of the lightning bolt striking next to the highway.
This song invokes a feeling of driving on a dark, rainy night.
“You can holler, you can wail, you can blow what’s left of my right mind. You can swing, you can flail, you can blow what’s left of my right mind…I don’t mind.” – The Kills
That guitar riff is just too good!
Anyway, back to the muscles and stuff…
For the most part, a larger muscle has more strength potential.
The thing is, most of us aren’t maximizing our current muscle size.
We are only delivering weak, AA battery level impulses, to our muscles.
Weak impulses = weak contractions = weak, flabby muscles.
Want firm muscles with definition?
You need to repeatedly generate strong contractions to the target muscles.
Bruce Leeroy from The Last Dragon used this to get “The Glow”.
↑ Click Me for Bruce’s Corny (and Awesome) Theme Song from 1985
How do you generate strong muscle contractions?
The best way is by lifting a heavy weight.
Won’t heavy weights build large muscles?
This is a common concern for men and women who don’t want to increase muscle size…runway and fashion models for instance.
The thing that builds up a muscle is moderate-to-heavy weight…lifted to failure (or really close to failure).
You can increase muscle size with 3 reps…and you can increase muscle size with 15 reps.
If you are struggling or failing on that last rep, your body will compensate by increasing the size of the muscle group over time.
So the “high reps” for definition and “low reps” for size isn’t necessarily accurate.
This bro philosophy isn’t necessarily accurate either…
“To get big simply lift heavy, eat tons of protein, then rest and repeat.”
Speaking of bros…
It’s about time for some “Bro Repellent”.
I’m pretty sure 9 out of 10 bros hate Depeche Mode.
(So this should do the trick.)
Depeche Mode…irritating bros for over 30 years!
To avoid size, simply cut your sets well short of failure…and if you want size, then aim for failure and fatigue.
Control failure and fatigue and you will control the world!
Okay, so that is obviously an exaggeration.
…but you are much more likely to hit your fitness goals if you understand how lifting to failure vs lifting short of failure works.
Let’s talk about “High Voltage Lifting”.
I’m going to have to do an entire 3 to 4 part post to discuss “true muscle tone”…but here’s just a few brief points.
- When lifting a heavy weight, more motor units in a muscle will fire…compared to lifting a lighter weight.
- Heavier weights require more “voltage” to the muscles being worked…in order to recruit enough motor units to successfully lift the weight.
- Repeatedly exposing a muscle to this heavier, high-voltage lifting will improve neurological efficiency in that muscle over time.
- As a muscle becomes more efficient, the neurological pathways improve and increase over time.
- True muscle tone is a result of a “partially contracted muscle in a relaxed state”…created by improving neurological pathways to that muscle.
What does a strength-based muscle defining workout look like?
In part 3, I’ll map out a few “strength without size” workouts.
I will also give you things to tweak when you need to add size.
And as always…
…weeding out the bros with outstanding tunes.
(Don’t hate my blog just because it’s classy…it was born this way.)