How Heavy is TOO Heavy to Build Muscle?




How Heavy is TOO Heavy to Build Muscle?

About This Class

If you want to build muscle you have to ask yourself how heavy is too heavy when it comes to lifting weights. A lot of people will lift heavy weights in order to build muscle but not pay attention to how they are doing it. I would argue that lifting lighter weights will go a lot further towards adding mass if you are going to lift the heavy weights improperly.

That said, there is a need to first ask yourself what your training goal is. What are you training for? If your goal is to increase strength at any expense then you may think that completing the lift at all is hitting your goal. I would argue that at the expense of good form, this is not true. At the root of all true strength is stability. This is especially so if you want to build muscle and remain injury free for years to come.

If you continue to attempt to add weight to the bar and progressively overload but do so upon a body that is not stabile you will ultimately suffer an injury in almost every case. Instead, look to add weight to the bar as able provided you can maintain the safety through stability by not building around a cracked foundation.

Now, when it comes to hypertrophy or building muscle, there is one easy test that you can do right now on any lift to determine if the weight that you are using is too heavy for you. This is caused the pause test. At any point in time during the lift you are performing you should be able to stop the weight and hold it. I don’t care if this stopping point is at the beginning, middle or end of the rep.

The reason why is because of muscle physiology and biomechanics we know to be true. Muscles are stronger isometrically than they are concentrically. In other words, the force generating capacity of a muscle is stronger when all it has to do is hold the weight in one place rather than shorten and move the weight in space. With this knowledge however, we know that if we truly have the strength to lift a weight on an exercise that we should always have at least the same capacity to stop its motion.

Take an exercise like the front dumbbell raise. This works the front delts. That said, if you use only momentum to swing the weight up then you will be hard pressed to be able to stop it at some point during the rep as well, especially as we get towards the top of the movement. Instead, if you had chosen a weight that is lighter, and could be lifted under your muscle control then you would have had the ability to do so. The lightening of the weight will not detract from your muscle gains but actually boost them. How? By giving your delts a better chance to incur the load and be responsible for overcoming the resistance - serving as the spark for their overload and ultimate hypertrophy.

Now, is there ever a reason to use a heavier than usual weight and cheat it up through the concentric part of the lift? Definitely. This allows you to train with an eccentric overload focus. Things like cheat curls, or cheat laterals are muscle building exercises that allow you to use some momentum to swing the weight up in order to put the dumbbell or barbell in a position to be forced to lower slowly and overtax the eccentric muscle capabilities of a muscle in order to make it grow bigger.

If you look at an exercise like the lat pulldown, it gives you the chance to do either. Load it up and lean back as you swing the weight down in order to focus on the eccentric as I am suggesting here and attempt to stop it at different points in the range of motion in order to find your heaviest and most appropriate weight.

So, set the pin in the stack and perform a rep and see if you can stop the pulldown bar from moving at various points in the lift. Be sure to remember to do it at the very end of the rep as well since this will often be the hardest part to do this in. If you can control the weight, don’t assume you have found the right weight. You’ve only ensured that you haven’t found the wrong one! Now, raise the weight a bit and try again. Your goal should be to find the heaviest weight you can that still allows you to control it and stop its motion at any point in the lift. When you’ve found the weight you are unable to control, simply drop back a notch on the stack and that is the weight to train with.

When you are looking to build muscle and get ripped you need to apply muscle building science to your workouts. If you are looking for a complete step by step workout program that includes day by day meal plans, be sure to head to via the link below. Use the program selector tool to find the program that matches your goals the best.

Meet Your Teacher





Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS served as both the Head Physical Therapist and Assistant Strength Coach for the New York Mets during the National League East Championship 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons and coached some of the game’s most accomplished players including future hall of fame pitchers Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, and perennial all-stars Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Billy Wagner to name just a few. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).


Jeff received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy and Bachelor of Science in Physioneurobiology / Premedicine from the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT (one of the top 5 universities in the country in physical therapy and sports medicine). Off the field, Cavaliere is a much sought after author and lecturer, speaking on the topics of baseball injury prevention and sport specific conditioning and has appeared numerous times in print media writing (including many of the top Fitness Magazines) on the topics of sports training, injury rehabilitation and prevention. Consistent with his desire to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of creating the “complete and functional athlete”, Cavaliere also possesses an extensive knowledge of nutrition that he has simplified for the masses and both practices and preaches with outstanding results.


In the weight room Jeff is known for his unique and cutting edge approaches to functional strength and conditioning and has been called the actual “brains behind the brawn” for putting real muscle science back into training. Cavaliere’s physical therapy background is his greatest asset and what separates him from most all other trainers, as it provides him with the ability to apply his knowledge of bio mechanics, muscle anatomy and function in order to create some of the most effective (and often never before seen) exercise combos and programs around…while prioritizing safety and injury prevention always. His creativity and credentials are second to none in the game. When the goal is reaching peak performance and maximizing all that the body has to offer, Jeff is at the very top of the game.


Outside the gym, Cavaliere is an accomplished author having penned both the Major League Insider Training Manual (a strength and conditioning must for all professional baseball players and aspiring pros alike) and the Teen Sports Nutrition Blueprint (an insightful look at the worrying state of youth nutrition and childhood obesity…and more importantly…solutions to change this!)

Amongst his peers, Jeff is recognized as a respected authority who never lets ego stand in the way of education and continued learning which helps him to stay on the cutting edge of his field of expertise.


Cavaliere realizes that not everyone that steps into a gym has athletic aspirations, but finds that there isn’t a guy around that wouldn’t want to have a ripped, athletic body. Taking the exact methods and techniques used to forge some of the greatest, most explosive and strongest physiques in pro sports and now applying it to you…Jeff has now made it possible for everyone to look like athletes with his complete ATHLEAN-X Training System. If you want to unleash your inner athlete, build sculpted muscle head to toe, and finally get that shredded core…then it’s time to join the rest of TEAM ATHLEAN and get started today.

See full profile

Chloe Ting 7.2M Views
HIIT All Levels
Yoga With Adriene 52.7M Views
Workout Beginner
Yoga With Adriene 3M Views
Vinyasa All Levels
Psyche Truth 4.7M Views
Workout Beginner
Psyche Truth 95.1K Views
Workout Beginner
Psyche Truth 135.1K Views
Restorative All Levels
Kino MacGregor 39.6K Views
Yin All Levels
Kino MacGregor 126.4K Views
Ashtanga Advanced
Kino MacGregor 49.7K Views
Power Intermediate
Fitness Blender 3.4M Views
Pilates All Levels