Lifting Heavy Weights Can Be Lethal
Lifting Heavy Weights Can Be Lethal

Lifting heavy weights is a proven method to build more muscle. It’s the reason we go to a gym where we can find machines and devices that are purpose-built for lifting. The heavy weights we lift provide an artificial load for our muscles to basically trick them and our brain into believing we need to do hard work regularly so new muscle must be created. Even if we really sit behind a desk all day or drive a vehicle or otherwise don’t really need that muscle for our everyday work of lifting heavy weights.

Lifting Heavy Weights is Stress

But there is an aspect to this that we must accept. It’s very hard to lift heavy weights and that puts stress on many systems of the body, from the muscles to the connective tissue to the organs that need to clear the waste products out of our body when we are done lifting. By definition it requires an enormous amount of exertion relative to how much we usually stress ourselves. The truth is it is actually a lethal level of stress. It is literally possible to work a human to death over a period of time and these absolute peak levels of exertion would speed the process.

It is also true however, that lifting heavy weights and building muscle has an enormous number of healthful benefits. I’ve talked about these before, they are well-known and include improved hormone levels, stronger joints, higher bone density, better self-image and much more. So there is also no question that resistance training is beneficial.

Vitamin A

Many things share this same paradox. Virtually every medicine we take and nutrients from water to vitamins can also be taken to toxic levels of consumption. Too little vitamin A and you can get very ill, too much and your bones get weak and brittle, lethargy takes hold and you’re very sick.

So how much vitamin A should you take? How much iron? How much blood pressure medicine? The smart answer – the only answer, in my view – is to take just the amount you need to ensure your health and fitness but no more. After all, why take more of a potentially lethal substance than is absolutely necessary?

Minimum Effective Dosage

From the very beginning of my interest in lifting weights and building muscle I have been fixated on what is called the “minimum effective dose” in the world of medicine. That’s exactly why, over a period of nearly twenty years we have experimented to determine how little exercise is necessary when lifting heavy weights to build muscle. The answer so far? A five-second static hold will stimulate substantial muscle growth in all the large skeletal muscle groups. Thousand of people have proven this in hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of Static Contraction workouts.

Knowing that, what would be the argument for adding more stress to the body and the systems that support the body when lifting heavy weights? Why push farther toward the level of detrimental dosages? Why heap extra stresses on your tendons, ligaments, joints, muscles and supporting organs once the effective dosage of lifting heavy weights has been reached? I have never been persuaded that there is a good argument to exceed the minimum effective dosage.

If you are lifting heavy weights to build muscle, for goodness sake, train smart.

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  • Tom Strong

    Hi Pete,

    Another great post! I’ll comment on this more after I post in Greg’s Success Stories thread April 5th; two months will be up and I told him I would post two months from Feb 5th.

  • John Stephan

    Thanks Pete,

    You touched on an area that is generally ignored in bodybuilding and strength training circles and that is one of recovery ability. While we all recognize that high intensity training must be a prerequisite to building new muscle very few mention that high intensity training is very demanding on your recovery ability.

    Proponents of multiple sets do not understand that once the muscle is stimulated for growth there is no need to further stimulate as even one set is considered a negative toward recovery but you cant have a workout with less than one set. To perform another set followed by another and another etc. creates deep inroads in your ability to recover and leads to the pandemic condition of over-training. You will inevitably find yourself in a rut and the only way out is to stop training and rest.
    Maximize the muscle contraction by imposing a stress that it has never before experienced and get out of the gym and allow yourself to first recover and then grow.
    There is no shorter more effective and efficient manner to build muscle and strength than SCT. Period
    Great post Pete, keep up the good work.

  • Wow! awesome!

    lift heavy and go home =)

  • Donnie Hunt

    Another very good article Pete! Safe, heavy, brief, infrequent!

  • From one individual, who has trained with weights and done cardio for 45 years, with the conventional mindset that “more is better” and “no pain, no gain”, I’m delighted to read these articles! My current state of breakdown, surgeries and rehabs is due to overload training and contact sports, taken to an extreme level. After trying a modified version SCT, highly personalized to avoid further damage to joints, tendons and ligaments, I have been amazed at how much stronger I’ve gotten in such a short period of time! Count me as one of the true believers!

  • Rifas

    Yes that’s true Pete heavy stress muscles.

  • Will

    Just out of curiosity,if your static contraction system use the MOST effective exercises,like say they are like 100 % effective in stimulating the muscles involved,,what about a routine that uses any other exercises that are 80/90% effective just to avoid getting bored? Kind of a backup routine?Just trying to add variety to the system.

  • Bored? After 25 seconds? Twice a month? Haha. But seriously, you could add any exercises you want, just don’t expect them to work as well. Knowing that, boredom better be a huge problem in order to make it worth the trade-off.

  • Hi Pete,

    It’s true. Many trainees greatly underestimate the burden intensive weight training puts on their bodies. For example: bench pressing 500 pounds in a static hold is the equivalent to lifting a third generation Dodge Viper V10 engine – that is a lot of iron! These kinds of heavy weights don’t only stress the joints, muscles and connective tissues, but stress the entire central nervous system.

    This should naturally lead us to ask: how can you expect to build any muscle before you are fully recovered? The simple answer is, you can’t. Before a single ounce of muscle can be built, the body must first replenish itself. This takes time.

    Finding the balance between optimal training and optimal recovery is how you make strength and muscle gains. If you are lifting heavy weights to build muscle – and you must – there are no shortcuts.

    Thanks for the great post, Pete.