“Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy ass weight. But I will!”
Ask any bodybuilding fan who spontaneously uttered those words in his training DVD, and he’ll probably be able to tell you that was Eight-time Mr. Olympia winner Ronnie Coleman. If you’ve seen his DVD, you know that Ronnie trained like perhaps no man in bodybuilding history. It was heavy, it was intense – but it was still bodybuilding training. He employed the use of extremely heavy weights – all of the time – in order to grow his muscles to levels unseen at the pro level before or since then. Ronnie simply used more weight than anyone in the room for 6 to 10 repetitions, and he did this consistently for over 20 years.
First, it should be noted that heavy training is NOT powerlifting. You have no need to use 1, 2, or 3 rep sets. If you can’t complete six reps, then you’re using too much weight. But at the same time, if you can complete 12 or more repetitions, it’s time to add some weight to the bar! You train using a standard bodybuilding set/rep scheme. That would be something like 12 to 16 sets, with each set consisting of 6 to 10 repetitions. You use the same movements as a standard routine, for the most part. You want to use free weights whenever possible. Deadlifts and T-bar rowing go a long way toward building new muscle mass. At the same time, exercises which work the same muscle group – such as hyperextensions and lat pulldowns – do not help instill growth nearly as much. The bodybuilder using heavy training to focus on mass should always make free weight training his first, second, and third option for any body part. Cables and machines should be used last when the muscle group has already seen enough muscle fiber damage!
One cannot forget that this style of heavy weight training – the cause of Ronnie’s success all those years – was also the cause of his downfall. At age 41, after over two decades of training in this extremely heavy manner, Ronnie finally succumbed to injuries to his lats and triceps. He took time to heal, and came back the next year, but the damage was already clearly done. Ronnie won 4th place at the 2007 Mr. Olympia show, and quickly retired. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Ronnie used extremely heavy weight training to reign at the top of the bodybuilding world for almost a decade, but it inevitably was the cause for his career to end.
When you’re training with extremely heavy weights with the goal of new mass, you may want to include a product such as glutamine to your regimen to eliminate some joint soreness and pain. Eat a great deal of food, as your body will certainly be able to utilize the extra calories and protein grams. Finally, sleep more. It may seem like only a small change switching to heavier free weights, but it’s a major shock to your central nervous system. Sleeping more will help you to grow.