Monday, November 14, 2016

Can lifting light weights effectively build muscle?

The Study
In this study, 49 men that lifted weights regularly performed 12 weeks of resistance training. The men were randomly allocated to one of two training groups; the first group used very heavy weights (75-90% of 1 rep max) for 8-12 repetitions per set, the second group used much lighter weights (30-50% of 1 rep max) for 20-25 repetitions per set. Each group lifted weights 4 times per week. At the end of follow-up, there were significant increases in muscle mass in both groups with no difference between groups. Journal of Applied Physiology 2016; 121:129-138.

Take Home Message
This study shows that you don’t have to lift very heavy weights in order to build muscle. You can get similar increases in muscle mass with lighter weights and higher repetitions. I use lighter loads with most of my clients, for a bunch of reasons: 1) I find there is a lower risk of injury. 2) It is my opinion that it is safer (lower spikes in blood pressure and heart rate) than using much heavier weights. 3) I find there is a lower risk of overtraining with lighter weights. 4) Generally, it is more enjoyable. Experienced weight lifters actually enjoy the fatigue and “burn” that comes with lifting heavy weights. Most people that are new to weight lifting and that are deconditioned do not. 

This study shows us that you can build muscle quite well with lighter loads, as long as you increase your repetitions.

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