Why Lifting Light Weights Is Better Than Lifting Heavy (Is classic strength training for suckers?)

| December 14, 2018 by Truth Seeker |

source: https://pixabay.com/en/people-guy-dark-window-top-2606445/

“Here you go, motherfucker,” I said to myself, grabbed the bar and got serious.

The weight felt chained to the floor, but I kept pushing. The barbell started moving with the enthusiasm of a sleeping cow. I could sense that my back position was compromised, but I didn’t let go. Once the bar was below my knees, it flew up. “Easy”. I locked the barbell and let it fall under control.

I knew that people were looking at me, the skinny boy deadlifting bending barbells, in-between their moronic knee raises and political talk.


A fat man came to me and said – “Your back looked like it belongs on a camel.”

I expected admiration but got criticism.

“What does this Oreo addict know? Why is he even talking to me? This lard-ball shouldn’t be allowed to speak at all,” I said to myself while looking at him with the most anti-social grimace I could make.

I went home and played the video on my old camera.

He was right. My form was atrocious. Disgusting. Once I was under the shower, my spine started screaming at me. I felt like a loser. Worse. I was a loser. Who does that to himself?

I stopped lifting for months. I lost all motivation. “Why bother?”

After a long break, I worked up to the same weight but with much better form. Guess, what? My back complained even louder despite the better technique.

In short, I did the wrong thing and got pain. Then, I did right thing and got pain again.

This will happen to you too. You will eventually arrive at weights that will somehow always manage to drain you. At every bodyweight, there are hard limits. When you are close to them, it takes a monumental amount of work to reach beyond while avoiding joint pain. The weight becomes so stressful on your structure that you may get injured even when you do everything right.

This led me to a simple realization – strength training is for egomaniacs and suckers. If you have a base, all else is an egoistical pursuit of peaks that will never fill the void. More money does not make you happier when you are already rich. So, what is the goal? To reach that point and stay there.

The Real Driving Force Behind Heavy Lifting

My motivation was simple – I wanted to get big as hell. I also wanted to enjoy other people’s admiration. I wanted the insects to look at me and feel bad about how good I am. I wanted the demon of humiliation to wrap around their steroid-loaded hearts.

Whether you admit it or not, you had/have the same motif. People will drop lies like “I do it for health.” but that is nonsense. The ancient dudes in the gym recovering from an injury do it for health. You do it for glory.

Heavier weights satisfy the formula. The heavier you lift, the bigger you are supposed to get. The larger the barbell, the bigger the envy in the spectators’ hearts.

Rippetoe’s pupils and others pretending to do it for function are liars too. Want function? Enlist in a furniture moving company and keep working there.

Advanced Naturals Don’t Get Bigger Even When Their Strength Increases

The experts in natural lifting who are almost exclusively not natural say that if you add 50lbs to all the major lifts, you will experience a surge of extra growth. Sweet.

Unfortunately, many are at the point when adding 50lbs to a lift requires great sacrifices capable of producing undesirable results. But even if you succeed in gaining the extra pounds, muscular gains are not guaranteed because strength can be amplified without hypertrophy.

A more efficient central nervous system, stronger joints and denser muscles equal more strength without size. If your goal is hypertrophy, the extra weight is close to worthless.

This notion applies to advanced guys.

Who are those? If you ask Jason Blaha, advanced lifters are those benching 400 and squatting 600. Nonsense. Similar numbers are not anywhere near the natural potential. Sumo wrestlers are not included.

Here’s a more realistic definition of advanced – lifters with 3 or more years of persistent, consistent and determined lifting. That’s it. Numbers? They are individual.

Making Light Weights Heavy

The goal is not to lift the most weight. Never has been. That idea resides only in the mind of the delusional and unaware lifters. You can get stronger by lifting less.

Here’s an example representing a potent rage trigger for many.

Don’t deadlift with straps, a hook grip or a mixed grip.

In other words, grip that thing naturally.

This simple adjustment will make the lift much harder. Still not enough?

Try a snatch grip deadlift with a double overhand grip. The weight will be pathetic according to the professors’ standards, but in the end, you will be stronger without overloading your system.

Here’s a great comment that I received from a reader depicting his experience with the snatch grip deadlift coupled with a standard grip.

Pep wrote:

Are you kidding me… I swear I had the exact same reasoning as you 8 months ago.
I’ve been doing snatch grip deficit deadlifts for a year now, and considered the hook grip because I thought it would be impossible to hold on to the bar. I even used straps for my heaviest sets.
8 months ago i just said fuck it, if in a perfect environment with a tiny perfect barbell designed to be holded perfectly I can’t lift the weight because my grip is too weak, then there is no point in lifting the weight. You are only as strong as your weakest link, and in the real world your grip/forearm strength is the bridge between your other muscles and objects.
So I started snatch deadlifting with a double overhand.
And in the begining, I couldn’t hold on to it for my life. But now.. guess what, my forearms grew, and the grip is no longer that much of a limitation. deadlift strength went up tremendously, Even tho I always work with “suboptimal” weights. Plus I dont get fatigued as I did after the deadlift days.

Also. If I conventional deadlift, I can literally pull more with double overhand than mixed grip. And that is just f*cking amazing.

If you can’t grip a tiny perfect bar, how do you expect to hold on to messy shit in real life?
Double overhand forever

There are many ways to make an exercise harder without moving a baby elephant. For instance, deep high bar squats without a belt won’t allow you to hit your low bar numbers done with a thick belt around the waist but build just as much if not more strength.

Stagnation or content?

The world is super-focused on gains. The status quo is to want more and more and more and then some more.

We live our lives in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction precisely because we always ask for more. We are sad regardless of whether we get it or not. If you don’t succeed, you cry because your goal did not manifest. If you win, you are unhappy because your victory is not what it appeared to be. Besides, you can’t hold on to your success forever. It’s a lose-lose situation.

That mentality is not needed in the realm of natural bodybuilding.

What if I tell you that you can actually reach a state where you are good enough and stay there for a long time with minimal effort?

Some will say that this is stagnation, but stagnation and content have many overlapping points. What’s wrong with being happy with your current situation? Why should you always pursue a higher number? It makes no sense, especially if you are a natural. Why are you demolishing your joints? What are you trying to prove by playing hero in a sterile environment such as the gym?

Gains? You won’t get them as a natural.

But strength is the most important thing…blah….blah.

Strength is a nice product to sell. It’s attractive, seems healthy and promises muscles. Yet there are troubles under the hood. If you pursuit strength long enough, it will start to hurt you viciously while giving you almost nothing in return.

P.S. The book Potential: How Big You Can Get Naturally Is available for USD 7.55 until the end of the week. (the regular price is 14.99)

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17 comments

  1. Jeff

    Your ‘3 years lifting’ definition is reasonable and excellent.
    As I approach my natty limits, I enjoy tinkering with ways to advance slowly, but what’s the rush? The objective is not to summit (numbers on the bar) but rather to enjoy the climbing.
    Also great advice about the furniture store 🙂
    The last couple of weeks I lifted odd-shaped objects using farmers carries on a construction site with maybe 35-50% of my gym weights. I realized the gym environment is too idealized with a perfect 1 1/8″ bar with knurling in a balanced bilateral stance. Carrying odd shaped heavy objects for distance really developed “connected strength” where I could literally feel way better functioning between my legs and spine and arms.

  2. Philip

    Regarding the deadlift grip comment I had a thought. Before a few weeks ago or whatever when your article came out I saw the light. I stopped the switch grip deadlift. This took my top work sets using 405 to 315. Which whatever, my form is better and my lower back is much better just using the 315. Im fine with that. Like you said the higher numbers are for show offs basically. I’ll never attempt to pick up any odd object that weighs over 300lbs by myself that’s for sure. Haha. Anyhow to my point, maybe is is not actually the grip strength is so weak that I can’t hold on to 405. Using a trap bar I can load it up with 405 and do reps and hold on to it perfectly fine because the bar isn’t trying to roll out of my hand. So clearly my grip is strong enough to hold that much weight and my body to lift it. it’s just not strong enough to hold that much weight trying to roll out of my hand. So is the round bar the culprit or really my grip. If you attached handles to the top of the bar so that it wasn’t rolling as you tried to lift it you could lift a lot more with double overhand grip. Just something to think about.

  3. Jim Suntres

    “ If you have a base, all else is an egoistical pursuit of peaks that will never fill the void. More money does not make you happier when you are already rich. So, what is the goal? To reach that point and stay there.”
    Truthseeker! You really outdid yourself with those words! I’ve been following you for years. This is, in my view, your best post ever in so many ways.

  4. Jeff

    I’m interested in others experience after reaching peak natty. Please chime in these comments 🙂

    Getting to the summit took me a couple years of hard work.
    But maintaining peak shape requires maybe half the efforts (ie 1/2 the frequency of 1/2 the volume with reasonably high intensity and more variety).

    What is your experience?

    1. Nattylurker

      Similar experience here, although not sure where the peak is. The only signal is diminishing returns and more pains for the gains. Once or twice a week seems ok for maintenance, and it seems fine to lay off lifting completely for a week or two here and there without any significant losses. I feel that once the body takes to a shape / muscle shape, it doesn’t go away fast and it’s easy to regain if it does.

  5. WinnerWinnerChickenDinner

    Hey Truthseeker, been reading your articles for maybe 3-4 years, never been disappointed even by a single article, your writing flows like water downstream- very natural and relatable. Keep up your awesome work.

  6. Alex

    Hey Truth Seeker
    How about using higher reps instead of breaking yourself with low reps? I don’t know if it’s just me but I noticed I tend to injure myself on low reps even if the form is good.

  7. John Southern

    Blaha says that an intermediate lifter is chinning +45lbs, overhead pressing 155, benching 225, squatting 315 and deadlifting 405 and that this should take approx. 1 year on his novice routine for a “healthy young man”. I’d say that’s accurate if you are in fact, a healthy young man.

    I surpassed these numbers in a couple years (except the OHP and deadlift) in high school as a stick figure weighing only 125lbs with some pyramid routine that was taped to the wall. I didn’t know what a deadlift was and nobody did OHP. These numbers actually put me into elite territory at my bodyweight. I had no idea or I would have powerlifted. lol

    Here is the pyramid routine I followed for squat and bench: I found it on the internet 25 years later.
    http://www.sixpacksmackdown.com/p/bench-press-pyramid-calculator-generator

    Note how high the volume is and how low the RPE is relative to 1RM…most people are straining way too much. That’s why people stall on 5×5 so easily, they’re trying to do it all at 90% RPE. 5×5 is a hypertrophy/bodybuilding regimen, it should feel light. Check your GD ego, it’s volume training, load the bar like it’s 3×8. lol

    Blaha’s advanced lifter is chinning +100, pressing 200, benching 300, squatting 400, deadlifting 500. I’ve reached all of these as an adult at a bodyweight of 215lbs, except the 500lb deadlift but I have done 315×12 perfectly stiff legged with the plates resting on the floor each time, never attempted more since I was “bodybuilding” and didn’t know how to conventional deadlift.

    Blaha is right, if you go and review strength standards on these lifts, assuming an average bodyweight of 180-220 lbs, those are all advanced numbers and you can even look these up for small lifts like barbell curls.

    https://strengthlevel.com/strength-standards

    Obviously if you are really short, it would be different. If you are too skinny, you are underweight, eat, you get stronger, get bigger. But don’t get too fat, because your chin up numbers will fall…this is a self regulating mechamism. 😉

    Once you reach these goals, you are probably not going to grow a whole lot more. But how many people reach all of these simultaneously? If you can hit the 400lb squat, AND the 100lb chinup simultaneously, not just a fat boy with weak arms. That’s what he’s getting at. Most people just mess around at the gym trying stuff they saw online and they don’t know how to safely perform the lifts.

    I have no doubt that if any of you started a reputable novice routine, hired a strength coach to kick your ass and correct your form that you would be an intermediate lifter in a year or two. I also have no doubt that if you hired a strength coach, got on a reputable intermediate routine that you would be advanced within 3-5 years…and there you are. Many people train 10+ years and they are not even intermediates, Jason Genova comes to mind and he’s chemically assisted. He’s actually not close to intermediate because he still can’t do 3 good bodyweight chinups, only 100 more lbs to go. That’s what you get farting around on all those lat machines, nothing.

    There are various YouTube personalities (Omar Isuf, Silent Mike, Blaha) who have reached this standard and you can more or less see what they gained, how they look and how long it took.

    None of them have really gained much muscle since reaching these numbers, their physiques “are what they are” at this point so it’s a good indication of what most naturals will achieve with similar numbers. I know Blaha juiced but he’s so genetically ungifted, it doesn’t matter. lol

    They’re all big boys but no one would say that they look like bodybuilders and I wouldn’t call any of them particularly genetically gifted. Omar looks vaguely aesthetic and smaller since he’s fairly lean at 185 or so. They’re about the same size as I was when I hit similar numbers. My arms were 16-17 as were my calves and I’m very ungifted in those areas. Bird legs, check. lol My chest, 48 inches, talk about torso dominant. lol

    There’s really no difference between powerlifting and bodybuilding. Powerlifters still have to build muscle to reach these numbers, they all do the same exercises, more or less, everybody does 3×10 on their dumbbell laterals. lol

    That’s what you can expect with average genetics after 3-5 years of hard, focused work…and that’s about it. More than most people will accomplish, ever because they are impatient and want it all NOW. lol

  8. John Southern

    I don’t think you can teach yourself powerlifting or even “bodybuilding”, there’s too many things that can go wrong.

    There should be a rep “in the tank” when strength training, if the form breaks at all, it’s time to stop, especially if you’re not competitive. By all means go double overhand on your deadlift, play it safe.

    Most people have no idea how to do the lifts, serious lifters spend a decade refining this specifically for their body type. As a recreational lifter, you still need to do this work, you’ll just be doing it with less weight.

    People think they can read an ebook and load 45lb plates onto the bar to make serious gainz, this is a serious mistake. You better study video before every single workout if you want to deadlift on your own, record yourself and get regular form checks. Make sure it’s right before going over 135.

    I think that all but the most conscientious lack the honesty to do this, they want it now, they want glory, they think they’re gonna get some pussy or that the dude in the next rack is showing them up…never mind that most people are cheating.

    Most people should be using more sets and less weight overall, that doesn’t mean don’t do 5×5. Do 5×5 with a comfortable weight and gradually improve it, this induces hypertrophy. 5×5 is a high volume bodybuilding program, not for peaking strength. People treat it like it’s 3×5 but with 2 more sets @ worse form. lol

    Many people fail to realize that if it hurts, it’s too much. Train for health and strength, think long term. Glory comes with doing everything correctly for a decade. Name another sport where you get glory in a couple years…

    If Ed Coan watched your workout, how many times would he correct you?

    A lot, every time, that’s what you’re missing. 5 years in, he’d still be correcting you and overseeing your progress. This is the level of commitment it takes to get started on the path to “glory”, maybe…if.

    Do you really think you’re getting the same result as you would training with him, that you wouldn’t have a stronger, more impressive physique if you had been doing that all these years?

    Training as a hobbyist is roughly the same as for a competitive athlete, the intensity is lower but you still have a coach.

    I train Judo with a coach who’s won international competitions even though I’m just a hobbyist. He trains me the way he was trained.

    I don’t do it in my basement with a stack of videos trying to O Soto Gari my buddy onto an old mattress and award myself a black belt after 3 years.

    I could do that for 5 years and still be a beginner. So many things would be wrong, I’d have to start over and it would be harder than teaching a beginner.

    I’ve been lifting for decades off and on without a coach and now I realize how much of a mistake that was. If I’d had a coach, I would probably not have got injured and quit so many times. I could have learned everything I know now in a couple years and I would have been stronger.

    I honestly didn’t even realize that such a thing was possible or that it mattered, my Judo training really opened my eyes and then the advent of YouTube, seeing guys like Mark Bell, etc.

    I’ve learned so much just being able to watch and try things out on my own and it’s reduced my pain a lot. It would be amazing to train with someone like that and I probably will if I get a chance.

    If you don’t care enough to do it right, you can’t complain about the outcome. Even doing everything right, doesn’t guarantee anything. But doing it wrong and expecting something? lol

    Imagine if I said, “Hey coach, forget all that noise, I just want to train Judo for a couple years and win the Olympics at 40 so I can get some easy pussy and some endorsements”. Imagine the look on his face, he’s been training for decades.

    This is also why you have a coach, to adjust your expectations. lol

    It’s just too hard to go through this shit alone for years, bouncing things off of your own echo chamber without a reality check.

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