Muscle layoff

There was an interesting question asked in the “Malegrams” section of the August 2007 issue of Men’s Health:

Q: How long can I go without lifting weights before my muscles disappear?

Answer (provided by trainer Mike Mejia): Contrary to popular belief, your muscles don’t turn to mush as soon as you stop lifting. In fact, a recent study of recreational weight lifters found that 6 weeks of inactivity resulted in only a slight decrease in power (10) percent after 2 weeks) and virtually no drop-off in size or strength. You could go the whole summer without pumping iron – as long as you’re keeping fit with activities such as swimming or tennis. These sports help retain muscle mass and offer the perfect physical and mental break from the tedium of the gym. Come fall, you can return to the gum refreshed and ready to take your workouts to the next level.

Interesting. Obviously if your goal is to put on a ton of size, you don’t want to go an entire summer without so much as looking at a weight. But those who get sick of the rigors of a gym routine can find solace – at least from Mr. Mejia and his research – that if you partake in sports and other physical activities, you won’t resemble Calista Flockhart by August.

Lift. Heavy. Weights.

One of my closest friends – and amateur bodybuilder – often stresses that it doesn’t get any more complicated than just lifting heavy. He always says, “ Like Dave Draper always says, “Train hard, eat clean, and be happy”.

You can sugar coat it any way you like, but at the end of the day if you’re not challenging yourself in the gym, you can’t expect to reap the benefits. Not only that, if you’re still hitting the same 3×8 with the 30lbs on dumbbell curls you were last year, don’t look in the mirror and wonder why you’re struggling to fill out the sleeves of that Hollister t-shirt your girlfriend bought you last Christmas. The only way to expect muscular gains is by challenging your muscles to handle greater and greater loads. The only way to do that is by fighting each and every session to increase the weights you’re using.

Anyone who thinks that light weights and high reps are the keys to getting ripped is kidding himself. You want to get huge? Lift heavy weights. You want to get ripped? Lift heavy weights. What’s the main difference? Nutrition. Feel free to cycle your training and throw in some moderate to light work to give the central nervous system a break, but the meat and potatoes needs to be heavy and demanding. So join the battle on the rubber mats the next time you’re training and blast it. Start leaving the gym with the knowledge that you defeated the iron – it did not defeat you. As the days fall away and those small victories start to add up, the time will come when you’ll reach the mountaintop only to set new goals and dreams far beyond anything you ever thought you could accomplish. Now that’s hard work and there isn’t anything finer.

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