The inspiration for today’s video is a study I read that compared increasing load without changing the number of repetitions to keeping the weight the same and just increasing reps as a person gets stronger. The goal was to see which method builds the most muscle, adding weight or increasing repetitions.

We’ll come back to the study at the end of the video but let me know in the comments which one you think builds the most muscle.

This got me thinking of all the different ways we could increase the training stimulus on a muscle to keep it growing without increasing load, and I came up with a total of 12 different ways.

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But why would we want to progress our workouts without lifting heavier weights?

I can think of 3 main reasons. The first one, which seems to affect us more as we get older, is it allows our joints and tendons more time to strengthen and get used to a weight.

Next, if you’re a guy like me and mainly train with dumbbells, as you get stronger and start moving weights heavier than your body, it becomes difficult to get into certain exercises like the bench press safely.

Finally, you simply may not have that much weight to work with.

The two most common ways to progress without adding weight are to increase the number of repetitions you’re doing or the number of sets. These methods are commonly used in double or triple-progression programs.

In double progression, you have a specific rep range, say 8 to 12 repetitions. You start with weight doing 8 reps and slowly working your way up until you can do 12 on all sets, then you increase the weight and start working from 8 up to 12 again.

Now, if you don’t want to increase the weight, then you could increase the rep range to 15 before increasing weight or even going to 20. Studies have shown you can build muscle in ranges as high as 30 to 35 reps, but from a practical standpoint, I cap mine off at 20.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to do more repetitions, you could slow down the pace instead of doing a 1-second concentric and a 2-second eccentric, cut the speed in half and do a 2-second concentric and a 4-second eccentric. That’s the third method for those who are keeping track.

Going back to increasing the number of sets, this works, but you can’t continually add more sets, or your workouts get too long. There are 3 ways we can offset this. First, we can reduce our rest times between sets or eliminate them, as in the case of drop sets.

Eventually, we may have to look at increasing training frequency by adding another training day to keep our individual workouts down to a reasonable length.

There’s one more way we can manipulate rest to increase our training intensity, and that’s a rest pause. This is where you rest at the end of a set for 10 seconds or less so you recover enough to force another rep or two before failure.

Some programs will go with longer rest pauses of 15 to 30 seconds.

Another intensity method I like to use is part repetitions. I do this quite often on my last set of pull-ups. I’ll keep going even after I can no longer get my chin over the bar, with each rep having a shorter range of motion until I can’t even move.

Pre exhausting a muscle is when we do an isolation exercise before a compound moment to tire out a muscle allowing us to effectively work it with less weight.

For the bench press, we do chest flyes first to pre-exhaust our pecs.

Another way we can exhaust a muscle is with static holds. I was talking to a guy in the comments of a recent video, and he likes to pause and hold at the bottom of a squat. This is how I like to do my static holds as part of a repetition.

The following two things I should’ve mentioned first as they’re the things you need to look at before adding another repetition or even more weight, and that’s perfecting our form and improving range of motion.

    25 replies to "Best Ways To Build Muscle Without Lifting Heavier (12 ways)"

    • Dougie YT

      I love channels like this man, so many ways to better yourself, all it takes is finding the perfect ways for yourself, I’ve seen some of your videos before, they’re awesome man!

      • Fit and 50

        Thank Dougie, I’m glad you are enjoying the content!

    • BarXaM Fitness

      I like light weight. You can slowdown the tempo, pyramids, ladders. I like doing reverse ladders and as the repetitions get smaller I slow down the tempo. I like to use “rest pause” kind of. I’ll set a time for 5 minutes and do as many reps as I can. Take a small rest, 20 sec or less, and do more reps until the 5 minutes is up. This style of training forces you to do more quality reps and thoughtful training.

      Nice video. This

      • Fit and 50

        Those are pretty cool methods.

    • Fit and 50

      If you would like help losing excess body fat and building muscle, please email me at for information on my personal training services.

      The shorts and shirt I’m wearing in this video are supplied by FortisFight. Here is the link to their website for all your gym apparel; and use my affiliate discount code FITAND50 at checkout for 15% off.

      Check your testosterone levels from home. Just click this link and receive 30% off with code: LAURENCE30 I receive commissions on referrals to LetsGetChecked. I only recommend services I know and trust.

    • Maurice Cooper

      Lawrence, this is fantastic!!💪 Been looking for ways to cool it with the heavy lifting, and you came through like you always do.👍

      • Fit and 50

        Glad I could help Maurice.

    • Ruben Rios

      Pause and hold, will have to try that one

      • Fit and 50

        Those isometric holds are great for keeping us from using moment when we lift too, Ruben.

    • edwardo

      Great video thanks 👍👍👍👍👍

      • Fit and 50

        Thank you for stopping by!

    • Westfield Art Works 81…weights……bigger…muscles…..I…no..longer…believe……….The..example…given…is…the……Powerlifter..who…has..doubled..his…strength…over….a…two…year..period,..yet…still…competes….in…the……class…..Starting…6..weeks..ago..I..lightened…the..weight…significantly….in…the..Squat,…and..added…3-to-5…second..pauses…at…the..bottom…of…the…rep…Also..focused…on…getting…knees..out..ahead…of..the..toes……Since..the..change,..quads…have…grown(I..feel),..and…legs…are…sorre…for…a..WEEK..afterwards….It’s..brutal……works…..Sorry…for…all..the..dots..but……on…the..fritz…

      • Fit and 50

        Lol, I was wondering what was going on with the dots. A lot of people do tend to overemphasis lifting heavy.

    • Souvik Kundu

      Thank you

      • Fit and 50

        Anytime my Friend.

    • FLUKS

      Nice video

      • Fit and 50

        Thanks man!

    • R.S.

      You do a lot to good with these videos.

    • Eddy Jimenez

      Lawrence, one of my issues in this 43yr journey of training, has been cuts in my bicep. Mercy, its the only muscle on my body that doesnt have cuts. Gd mass, but hotdamn cut i want all around bicep has eluded me for years.

    • Franklin

      Damn, the video ended quick. Another cliffhanger lol. Why do I get sad when they finish? Because he puts out great content & I am eager to hear more. Anyway, great video 👍 & thank you!!

    • Homer Da Don

      I like how he doesn’t put out BS like other channels just for views….he maintains integrity…

    • jeff01922

      Once again, great video Laurence.

      Been having good results doing the last set of each exercise worked to failure, then rest pause for 3 or 4 reps, then partial reps with a rest pause, finishing with a static hold until I collapse lol. I only do this safely with exercise bands.

    • adegbenro agoro

      Great video.

    • Dwayne Cunningham

      Gym he went to was probably mine, when I was there training.

    • August Mosco

      Thanks Lawrence, another great video. Because I’m a man in my 70s, I only workout with lighter weights. I’ve found, when going to failure, nothing beats “Drop Sets”. I also do a modified range of motion on my Overhead Press and my Squats. This is because of my permanent shoulder and knee injuries. I’d rather do a Half Squat than no squat at all. Thanks again.

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