Bodybuilders are known for having a TON of muscle- but they are often overshadowed by their much stronger brothers, Powerlifters.
You see, bodybuilding is a sport that is graded on aesthetics- NOT how much you can lift. So, this leads many of us wondering- do bodybuilders lift heavy?
Well, yes! Bodybuilders DO lift heavy. While they aren’t as strong as their estranged powerlifting brothers, they still have to lift heavy sometimes to put on some of that bigger muscle mass. While most bodybuilding programs focus on 8 rep ranges with generally lower weight than powerlifters, they still lift much more than your average joe, and are very strong!
Put it like this. Powerlifters may do 1 rep of 800 lbs over and over on the deadlift. But, bodybuilders will do 1 rep of 700 lbs, and then 8 reps of 500 lbs. It’s still a lot, but the bodybuilders are focusing more on muscle growth itself, whilst powerlifters focus on pure strength.
Let’s cover this more in-depth, and explain why exactly bodybuilders lift heavy.
You Can’t Grow Muscle Without Lifting Heavy (Progressive Overload)
The thing is, you can’t grow muscle without lifting heavy.
In the gym, you don’t NEED to put the HEAVIEST weight you can on to grow muscle. That’s not what I’m saying.
My point is, you need to lift at least heavy enough for your muscles to get sore. You need to reach ‘progressive overload’.
Progressive overload is the idea that your body won’t grow muscle without a need to.
You see, your body evolved over billions of years to become super efficient at what it does. Imagine if our ancestors just started piling on muscle for no reason- it’s high calorie, it wastes a lot of energy, and back then (honestly until the last 100 years) we did not have an abundance or reliable source of food.
That means if our body had a ton of muscle that caused us to lose energy, again, WITHOUT ANY RELIABLE FOOD- we would die and fail as a species.
So, our body is really against the idea of growing a ton of muscle unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Read: Are Bodybuilders Strong?
Nowadays, things are different since we have such a reliable source of food and calories, but that doesn’t mean our evolution has caught up to that.
Because of this, you do need to eventually lift heavier weights. This is because if you keep lifting the same weight every time you go to the gym, your body reasons that you have no reason to gain more muscle that would just require you to burn more calories every day.
As I said, our bodies are very efficient. And this is a good thing, if you really think about it.
So, even though a lot of bodybuilding isn’t all about lifting as heavy as our powerlifting brothers, we still have to push weight that is heavier than we are used to to get that muscle.
Bodybuilding Is About Aesthetics, But You Can’t Get Those Aesthetics Without ‘Overloading’ Muscles
As we all know, bodybuilding is about aesthetics.
That means, you aren’t judged on how much weight you can lift at a bodybuilding competition. You are judged on how you look.
But, to get those incredible aesthetics, you still need to ‘overload’ the muscles.
A big misconception in the bodybuilding world is that bodybuilders overload their muscles with high reps, and low weight.
While that mantra is repeated time and time again, it should more correctly say ‘high reps, and low weight (in relation to the person lifting)’. Basically, that person’s “low weight” might be 50 lbs, not the typical 5 pounds that comes to mind.
That’s why a lot of complicated bodybuilding and powerlifting sheets come with all of these percentages that say like: “8REP, LOW 70%”. Basically, it’s saying that the “low weight” is 70% of your one-rep max weight.
So, if you deadlift 1,000 pounds, your “low weight” is truly 700 lbs. Doesn’t sound that ‘low’- does it?
Bodybuilders Use Low Weight In Higher Reps to ‘Overload’ Their Muscles
Now that we understand that the ‘low weight’ isn’t necessarily always “low”, we need to understand that they are still using it to overload their muscles with higher reps.
For instance, a bodybuilder can do 1 rep of 1,000 pounds on the deadlift. Now, let’s assume they do 12 reps of 700 lbs. Those 12 reps are seriously going to overload the muscles and force growth.
Even though the weight is lighter, it is still be used to seriously overload the muscle.
Bodybuilders Usually Can’t Use Very Small Weights To Grow Muscle
Now, let’s assume that same bodybuilder from above that deadlifts 1,000 pounds deadlifted 135 pounds.
It just wouldn’t do anything. The weight isn’t there. Even if the bodybuilder did a ton of reps or something- it’s likely he won’t see any muscle growth from that weight.
This is why, even though bodybuilders usually use high rep/pyramid schemes to work out, they still need the higher weights.
If they use a much lighter weight (like 5 lbs), it just doesn’t overload the muscle, no matter how many reps they ultimately end up doing.
Now, some bodybuilders have hacked this a little bit by doing things like feeder workouts. However, feeder workouts take advantage of the progressive overload system in our body, but at the same time MUST be used in conjunction with normal weight training or no results will really be seen.
Feeder workouts are used ‘supplementarily’ rather than ‘primarily’. There’s no way around a tough workout.
Point is: Even though bodybuilders use higher reps and lower weights, those ‘low weights’ are actually much heavier than most people can even lift in the first place. They still need something heavy to overload their muscles.
Conclusion of Do Bodybuilders Lift Heavy?
Well, there it is. So, bodybuilders do lift heavy! Even though they might not be as strong as powerlifters, or focus on lifting the heaviest weight they can- they still have to lift heavy to grow muscle in the first place.
This is because our bodies are stubborn and won’t grow muscle unless we ABSOLUTELY need that muscle!
Thank you for reading!