Anyone who trains regularly and sticks to a meal plan that works for their individual body is already on a solid path to building muscle and getting the rig they’ve always wanted. But, besides a vainglorious attitude, there could be a key tactic that’s separating you from the other people in the gym: lifting enough weight and training hard enough to properly stimulate the muscles in order to see them grow.
It might sound obvious, but it could be something many overlook and, instead of really pushing themselves – or perhaps choosing to stick to lighter weight so as to avoid injury, which is perfectly acceptable – they’re only going to make minimal gains instead of massive ones.
This advice was recently brought to the fore by fitness expert Paul Sklar, who, taking to TikTok, posted a video of himself performing a rather simple workout. Speaking over the top, however, Paul asks, “Are you really training hard enough to change your body? Building muscle requires stimulus.”
He goes on to talk through his workout, adding, “Grab the heaviest kettlebell or dumbbell you can, rep it 10 times and finish it off with 10 shoulder halos in each direction. Rest 90-seconds. Repeat 5 times.”
Building muscle does require stimulation. But, as Muscle and Strength adds (and in contrary to Paul’s workout suggestion) this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be lifting as heavy a weight as you possibly can.
“If you’re training hard, there should be points where you’re pushing your threshold, and looking for PR’s in many forms other than weight lifted; that includes using better form, better tempo, more range of motion, or performing more repetitions,” Muscle and Strength states.
In other words: if you’re lifting a heavy weight, but it’s so heavy that it causes you to neglect your form, you’re possibly going to cause yourself an injury, and you’re not going to give the muscle being trained the greatest amount of stimulation possible.
We recently discussed a similar point to this, citing ‘The Quadfather’ Tom Platz as saying barbell back squats are the greatest leg exercise to kill your chicken legs for good. He added that performing squats properly is going to be far more beneficial than performing them haphazardly with incorrect form.
Paul Sklar himself has also previously opined on the use of lighter weights as being just as, if not more beneficial than lifting big, because doing so can allow you to hone in on the mind-muscle connection. This refers to you properly understanding what is happening to the muscle throughout the duration of the movement.
But, of course, once you’ve employed mind-muscle connection training and using the correct form to build strength, you will then need to start employing progressive overload to place greater strain on the muscle in order to see it grow. This means starting to introduce heavier weight, or to at least increase the number of repetitions or sets you perform.
The workout Paul provided in his TikTok video is a prime example of where you can safely introduce heavier weight to help build greater overall strength. Posting the same video to Instagram (without the voice over) Paul admits that “not everyone has a heavy, 203lbs/92kg kettlebell,” – which he happens to be able to lift without any trouble – “so, find the heaviest one (or dumbbell) you can and rip or rep 5 sets of 10.”
Paul uses his kettlebell to perform sumo deadlifts. To perform a sumo deadlift, spread your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, hinge at the hips, push your bum out and grab the kettlebell with both hands. Push through your heels to lift the kettlebell up until you’re in a standing position.
While he says you can use a dumbbell to perform this movement, if you can get your hands on a kettlebell, then you will find it easier to perform, mechanically speaking.
He follows the sumo deadlifts with shoulder halos using a plate weight, a great exercise for thoracic mobility and overall shoulder health. For this exercise, he uses a 45lb/20kg plate, but you should go as heavy as you can. To perform, hold the plate above your head, ensuring your body is in a stable position before performing the halo movement.
Using only your shoulders, move the plate weight around your head, being sure to keep it as close to your head as possible. Avoid moving your head or neck to make the movement easier, instead, keep them in a neutral position. Perform 10 halos in one direction before performing another 10 in the opposite direction.
Paul signs off with, “If the gains don’t appear immediately, wait longer.”
You may find you need to overcome some mental battles in order to push yourself and train hard in the gym, despite Paul’s workout suggestion. For this, we’d love to point you in the direction of the modern-day Mr Motivator, David Goggins, who recently documented how he overcame his toughest challenge yet (which we’d wager trumps your hesitance to lift an extra few kilos).
Get after it and make those gains.