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So I have started working out for the first time, using 10 pound dumbbells to build muscle on my arms and forearm for the time being. I do all the usual exercises, for example curls and hammers, etc. at decent reps (10-15) and 3-4 sets, yet I still dont get this burning feeling that people tell me I should be getting. I do feel exhausted during the exercise, but after completion I don't feel any pain or soreness in my arms. So should I increase the weight or the number of reps per set, or is that just normal to feel no soreness after a workout? I'm 16 years of age, weigh 113 pounds and am rather skinny.

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4 Answers

If you want to build muscle you should probably reduce the reps and increase the weight.

I am underweight. How do I gain weight and muscle?

Secondly, it is probably worth getting somebody to put a full body workout program together for you and teach you some lifting technique. Some of the best weight exercises are things like squats and deadlifts which work pretty much everything, but require good technique.

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In my opinion, it sounds like you need to increase the weight you are using and add some variety to the kinds of curls you are doing. Like Jaydee stated, you might want to also decrease the number of reps you are doing. Personally, I like to do about 8 reps and use a weight that only allows me to get those 8 reps (so I'm working until failure on the 8th). However, increasing weight may cause you to sacrifice your form, which is NOT a good thing. You can find hundreds of videos/tutorials/guides on proper form (here is one example - Proper Form Dumbbell Bicep Curls).

Overview

  • Increase Weight
  • Decrease Reps (to stimulate growth)
  • Maintain Proper Form
  • Add Variety
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Burn doesn't really indicate a positive or negative stimulus. You'll often get the burning sensation if you do an exercise where the time under tension for your muscles is constant. For example, cable curls may cause more of a burning feel than dumbell curls because your muscles are contracted to some degree throughout the rep (so long as you don't deload the cable but dropping the weight all the way back to the stack).

But again, burn itself is not really much of an indicator of training effectiveness. When you first start out, there are really two things to key on: central nervous system strain and delayed onset muscle soreness. While these two are also not clearcut indicators of positive results, they do often correlate with intensity. So if you are stressing your muscles to a large degree, you will find that motor control degrades over the course of our workout. It's not just because your muscles are sore but also because your body itself is firing signals like crazy to coordinate muscle contractions to meet the demands you're placing on it. You're straining your CNS to train your body to recruit more muscle efficiently for future workouts. If you did a really heavy compound lift such as a squat or deadlift the systemic strain on your entire body can leave you quivering not because of muscular exhaustion but rather because your nervous system itself needs to recover.

Muscles soreness can be a bit scary, especially early in your training where frankly everything can hurt early and often. But it's fairly common for a very taxing workout to cause the muscles you loaded to be sore 1 to 3 days after. This again is often a good indicator that you're providing a heavy adaptive stimulus. It's not that the pain is good (and by all means, DO NOT train for pain), so much as your body is telling you it was overloaded and needs to repair and adapt. As you continue to train, the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will become less shocking and easier to cope with if you follow a progressive loading pattern (i.e. up your weights by 5 lbs a week).

The burn itself doesn't really factor into you reaching your training goals. It's not something that signals a whole lot compared to you making note of your recover between workouts (CNS and muscle strain).

TL;DR:

  • Lift heavier weights for less reps. You want to stimulate your body to grow not just to feel tired.
  • Concentrate on monitoring your recovery. The higher your intensity, the much longer you need to rest and heal between workouts.
  • Burn really does not indicate a whole lot in comparison.
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Sounds like you might be using weights that are too light for you, or too heavy for you and you are just swinging the weights up (assuming you just do curls), not actually engaging your muscles.

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