First time lifting heavy in 2 YEARS! Do you lose strength if you don't lift heavy?
The most common way to build strength and develop a great physique is to follow the traditional progressive overload principle.
We believe in the progressive overload but not how it is generally done.
The progressive overload principle basically states that you progress by adding weight or by performing the hardest progression of the bodyweight exercise.
The problem with this is that the weight is actually the least important factor and so is the hardest progression of the bodyweight exercise. Sure, it works up to a certain point but this approach comes with a host of problems.
The biggest problem is over-prioritizing the weight and thinking that the weight is the proper indicator of strength development. We touched on this in the skill vs. strength article.
People who focus on weight and the progressions as the standards of progress often do it at the expense of their form, control and tension.
Even when they think they are using a "good form" it's still far from the best. Moreover, the heavier people lift, the worse the form will get.
Training becomes an art of cheating - not the art of developing the human body.
For most people, the primary goal of training is to develop the body - is it not? The primary goal is not to lift the most weight possible.
Yet, people focus on the weight thinking the weight will make them strong when in reality it's the quality of the training that will strengthen the body.
What strengthens the body is the proper stimulus of the muscles. The better you can stimulate the muscles during an exercise, the better results you will get.
This is the proper way to progress: you progress by improving the stimulation of the muscles by focusing on form, control, tension, pure articulation of the joint and correct body mechanics. Not weight.
Instead of weight, this is what you should primarily focus on to progress:
This way you will avoid creating imbalances, maximize the development of the target area and create strength that has the greatest crossover to sports, martial arts, dance and all other physical activities.
The purpose of any exercise is to stimulate the targeted muscles and that's all there is to it, unless you are in a competition with someone else.
That is actually the root problem - people are focused on competing with themselves and others. When you always compete, you will lose. Mind your own business and you will win.
Control and tension matter because that's how you strengthen the muscle. If there isn't much tension, the muscle gets poorly worked. When you lift heavy by cheating with the body, your target muscles are getting poorly stimulated.
Many times when people do different exercises, the target muscles are worked maybe at 1/4 or 1/2 of their full capacity and the tension isn't constant. The better you can stimulate a muscle, the better the muscle responds to your training!
Your body doesn't care how much you lift, the stimulus of the exercise is literally the only thing your body cares about.
Due to the better precision and form, a lighter weight almost always produces more resistance to the muscle than a heavier weight.
Precision Dumbbell Row
In the video you see heavy dumbbell rows which are done with a form a lot of people would consider good. However, it is still not the proper form.
The art of cheating can be taken to the extreme where it almost looks like the real deal but it's still cheating - just in a more subtle way.
The common ways to cheat with the dumbbell row:
The purpose of the dumbbell row is to primarily develop the lats and upper back. Secondarily, the arms.
Why would you use your hips, core, swinging and unrelated body mechanics to generate force? This makes no sense.
These listed points aren't even exaggerated. This is the common standard.
If you have been making these mistakes - it's not your fault. The level of mainstream fitness simply isn't good.
Learn the Art of Training
The problem with the fitness industry is that everyone is totally focused on almost everything else except the ART OF TRAINING.
Different trainers mostly worry about the intensity, volume, frequency, optimal nutrition, supplements, sleep, recovery etc.
They try to improve everything else except the quality of their training. These other things matter but they are secondary to your training when it comes to reaping the results.
Fitness is an art first, a science second. Everyone is focusing on the science of training as their priority. When you master the art, you will realize where the majority of your results come from.
All the old school strongmen and martial artists were all about the training. These guys knew where the value came from.
Whether it is developing the body, practicing martial arts, learning dance or playing sports - the practice is the single most important thing you need to become the master of.
Instead of focusing on the heaviest weight, we would pick a weight that is probably four times lighter. We would use the precision principle to fully stimulate the targeted area.
This dumbbell row is just one example among many. Mistakes are made with every single exercise out there, bodyweight or weight exercise, because it takes time to learn the art of training.
However, learning the precision principle and the correct form doesn't take more than a couple of minutes per exercise but the results will be worth it.
A lot of people don't spend any time on mastering the form - they see a fitness influencer performing bro curls and try to emulate that. It works in the beginning but it's not a sustainable way to make progress and the person will quickly hit a wall.
After training for a while, a lot of people hit this wall and barely make any progress after that. They talk about hitting their natural limit and think they need illegal drugs to reach their goals.
The reason why they have hit a plateau is that they have been doing the same thing over and over again while hoping for a different result. This is Einstein's definition of madness.
Change your training and you will change your results. You will be surprised how well that works.
Train hard, stay safe.