Wouldn't it be great if you could just plug in some numbers and easily figure out how many weights you need to lift, a certain amount of times to get to your ideal growth! Unfortunately our bodies are not one workout fits all. Our bodies grow and adapt to workouts different ways.
Many people turn to the age old way of thinking that if you want your muscles to increase in size than you could lift lighter weights and increase your repetitions. If you want to get stronger than you would need to lift heavier weights and less repetitions. Now while this rule can work, there are other ways to accomplish those goals.
Lifting to failure means lifting to the point of exhaustion, to muscle fatigue. Although this way of lifting can work, it can also cause injury or burnout. Instead of lifting to the point where your body is straining and shaking, take your lift only until two or three lifts until you would fail. Make sure your form doesn't suffer while doing this approach.
One of the newer findings is that in order to grow muscle it equates to the total work volume. As long as you are doing enough volume to keep pushing yourself, you will grow. So you could choose the lighter weights and up your repetitions to match the guy or gal standing next to you pushing the 40s (for example) for less repetitions and still make the same progress in gains. The lighter weights and higher reps could be the way to go for those just starting out or those with a lingering or recovering injury.
Another way to grow is to challenge yourself. Once you feel as though your body is adapting to whatever workout you are doing it might be time to change it up. You've hit a middle ground, you are no longer progressing, not feeling that pumped and killed a workout feeling. If you wanted to keep your same workout, you could just switch up your routine. For example for a few weeks you could focus on less weight, lower sets and higher reps. The next few weeks after that you could then focus on heavier weight, more sets and lower reps. You could even bounce between the two every other day. Another way to change things up is to recruit more of your muscle fiber by working out with time under tension. An example of this for squats would be 4 sets of 10 with 3 seconds going down, no pause and back up for 1 second.
Bottom line, there is tons of research going on in the fitness world. We are not a one set, one rep fits all society. Our bodies react differently to different programs and stressors. With all things we grow through challenges. The best thing we can do while trying to grow is to keep our bodies guessing whats next, to be comfortable with stepping outside of our routine. We can not always give 110%, if you do, eventually you will burn out or fall off of the wagon completely. Work hard, work smart, change up that routine, push yourself and you will see growth!
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