Opinion: Bodybuilder Samson Dauda Told Sam Sulek He Lifts Too Heavy. Dauda Is Wrong. 

Ever since Sam Sulek started yapping into his webcam on his gym commute in 2023, he’s rapidly become the Internet’s favorite soundboard. Everybody has their take: Sulek is this, Sulek is that. He’s a good influence, he’s a bad influence. He’s comfort food, he’s junk food.

But it was 2023’s Arnold Classic winner and IFBB pro bodybuilder Samson Dauda who recently went viral-ish for his opinion on Sulek’s training style.

During a chest workout at MuscleWorks Gym Orpington shortly after the 2024 Arnold Classic UK, Dauda took a beat to voice his disappointment with Sulek’s ironclad commitment to getting his weights from point “A” to point “B” at any cost. 

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The skinny of Dauda’s argument is that Sulek lifts too heavy to really feel the muscle he’s working, which may inhibit his muscle gain or predispose him to injury. Is he right? No. Well, sort of. 

Samson Dauda’s Take

After spotting Sulek on a set of incline dumbbell bench presses, Dauda’s expression bunched a bit. “Why are you lifting so heavy?” he asked. Their banter revealed two different perspectives on strength training, and why Dauda wasn’t thrilled with how Sulek hits the weights. 

Feeling the Muscle 

By lifting heavy and with a bit of body English on his presses — that’s playing things fast and loose with form, something Sulek is known for — Dauda insisted that Sulek wasn’t “using the muscle [he’s] supposed to be.” 

Here’s the rub. “Feeling” the muscle, as in experiencing physiological sensations associated with muscular contraction like cellular swelling and the accumulation of hydrogen ions, isn’t a prerequisite to training properly. Sensation is not permissive to action. Try doing a five-rep max set of squats and saying with a straight face that you “feel” your quads working the same way you would on the leg extension machine

Credit: @HOSSTILE / YouTube

You can’t. You’ll feel truckloads of tension from head to toe, sure, but you won’t leave the squat rack with a leg pump. Yet, if your quads weren’t firing, you wouldn’t be able to stand up with the bar on your back in the first place. 

Past a certain level of intensity (that is, your proximity to failure or the percentage of your 1-rep max you’re working with), it becomes more and more difficult to maintain a good mind-muscle connection as your nervous system strives to keep everything stable and moving in the right direction. Does that mean Sulek isn’t using his pecs when he presses? 

No; Sulek lowers the weights until his upper arms are parallel to each other, then pushes his arms up and inward. That’s the biomechanical function of the pecs in action. Sulek’s chest is doing its job just fine.

Preventing Injury 

Dauda also remarked that lowering weights with less-than-superb levels of control and patience would harm Sulek in the long run: “You keep pounding it out, and you will cause injury.”

Does Dauda have a study to support his claim? Probably not, but it’s common sense. At the most basic level, acute injuries occur when the tension or torque placed on a structure exceeds its tolerance. That’s true for bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, too. An injury can certainly happen during a chest workout taken to the brink. 

Five-time Classic Physique Mr. “O” Chris Bumstead has made similar remarks. Deep into his contest prep diet for the 2023 Olympia, Bumstead noted that he was wary of bouncing his pressing exercises. 

Jerky, abrupt movements with heavy loads are a recipe for disaster for a bodybuilder four or five weeks out from competition when they’re severely nutritionally deprived and training in a fatigued state. 

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Dauda’s concerns, unlike a bodybuilder’s muscles right before a big show, hold water. But when they trained together, Sulek wasn’t in his competitive season. Dauda was, and that may have colored his advice a little. Still, it’s a fair point that Sulek would do well to keep in mind should he one day make a bid for his pro card. 

Maximizing Hypertrophy

“When you contract a muscle as tight as it can go, and you release it, that pushes blood in and breaks down the muscle and causes growth,” Dauda lectured Sulek. He seemed to be getting at the idea that the mind-muscle connection, coupled with vicious contractions and lots of blood flow, heavily influences hypertrophy. Current exercise science literature disagrees. 

Some data show a relationship between “attentional focus strategies” and more muscle growth, but the mechanisms aren’t fully understood, and the data are far from comprehensive. (1

Training for the pump for its own sake may build some muscle, but many experts agree that you should strive to apply as much mechanical tension as is safely possible. (2) Save the pump work for the end of your session. 

It’s becoming increasingly evident that applying tension to a muscle in its lengthened position causes more growth than isolating a peak contraction. (3)

Clinicians are cooling on the relevance of metabolic stress as support grows for mechanical tension being the main driver of hypertrophy. (4

[Opinion: Long-Length Partial Reps Are Overrated for Hypertrophy]

To Dauda’s credit, some studies have shown that high-rep training can generate hypertrophy just fine, even well above 20 reps per set. (5) But overall, the idea that you need to squeeze your pecs as hard as possible and shove blood in there to stimulate growth simply doesn’t mesh with what the lab coats have to say. 

Sam Sulek’s Take

After asking why he lifts so heavy, Dauda received a characteristically uncomplicated answer from the YouTube superstar. “Well, I like it,” — a bonafide Sulekism from a fitness influencer whose claim to fame rides partially on not fussing about too much in the weight room. 

“I don’t think there’s necessarily a limit on the amount of weight you can use,” Sulek continued, cloaked in the confidence of an early-20s gym rat. “But I do think the mechanical tension [of lifting heavy] is a factor.” He’s bang-on in that regard.

To his credit, Dauda mostly agreed. “The muscle doesn’t care about the weight; it cares about the tension you’re putting it through,” he said later. But that’s a distinction without a difference.

More importantly, Sulek gains points for not trying to force a square peg into a round hole, at least while his gym career is in its (relative) infancy. The man likes lifting heavy, and it’s hard to fault him for that. Sulek’s tremendous progress at just 22 years old is owed partially to finding a style of strength training that suits him and soaking himself in it. 

Our Take 

On one hand, Dauda and Sulek are just a pair of meatheads chopping it up in the weight room. Underneath the chit-chat, their conversation offers a glimpse into two different bodybuilding philosophies, both with their own merit. 

Dauda is a living, breathing, competition-winning proof of concept. He’s a damn good bodybuilder and a safe bet for the Sandow someday. What’s worked for him in the past will probably keep working, and physique neophytes would do well to listen to what he has to say

But it’s not his way or the highway, and Sulek’s hard-and-heavy training style, reminiscent of bodybuilding icons like Yates or even Coleman, has plenty of scientific support. Is sage advice from one of today’s top bodybuilders worth considering? Sure. Dauda, though, is playing a different game from the rest of us and is in a different stage of his career than Sulek. 

For now, Sam should do what he’s always done — keep an open mind, don’t be too dogmatic or stuck-up about how you lift weights, but most importantly, find a style of training that lights your fire and stick with it

“Well, I like it,” will get you pretty far in the iron game. 

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Schoenfeld, B. J., Vigotsky, A., Contreras, B., Golden, S., Alto, A., Larson, R., Winkelman, N., & Paoli, A. (2018). Differential effects of attentional focus strategies during long-term resistance training. European journal of sport science, 18(5), 705–712. 

Schoenfeld B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 24(10), 2857–2872. 

Wolf, Milo & Androulakis-Korakakis, Patroklos & Fisher, James & Schoenfeld, Brad & Steele, James & Wolf, M & Steele,. (2023). Partial Vs Full Range of Motion Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Krzysztofik M, Wilk M, Wojdała G, Gołaś A. Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 4;16(24):4897. 

Ikezoe, T., Kobayashi, T., Nakamura, M., & Ichihashi, N. (2020). Effects of Low-Load, Higher-Repetition vs. High-Load, Lower-Repetition Resistance Training Not Performed to Failure on Muscle Strength, Mass, and Echo Intensity in Healthy Young Men: A Time-Course Study. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 34(12), 3439–3445.

Featured Image: HOSSTILE on YouTube

The post Opinion: Bodybuilder Samson Dauda Told Sam Sulek He Lifts Too Heavy. Dauda Is Wrong.  appeared first on BarBend.


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