Tuesday Tip: Bigger weights aren’t always better 🏋🏻♀️
If you want to get stronger and fitter you have to lift heavy weights in the gym, right? Wrong! Several recent studies have shown this isn’t the case at all. You may have seen mention of this on the TV last week, I’ve had a look into the study behind the story.
Recent studies in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that lifting light weights (30 -50% of 1 rep max) for more reps, was just as effective as lifting heavy weights (up to 75-90% of 1 max rep) for 8 – 10 reps both for increasing strength and muscle size. Participants took part in a 12 week program of total-body resistance training (leg press, bench press, shoulder press, leg extension, bicep curls) – half used light weights, half used heavy, all lifted until failure. After 12 weeks, both groups made equal gains in strength and size, except for the chest press, where in fact those lifting lighter weights showed greater gains! Muscle strength increased 25-30%, and both groups put an average of 2.4 pounds of lean muscle on. In addition, biopsies of the muscles showed there was no difference in the growth of muscle fibres in either group (type I and II).
If you want to get stronger then you need to increase your muscle mass (don’t confuse this with getting “bulky”) by activating as many muscle fibres as possible. Day to day activities use the type I fibres first. As demand on muscles increase (more reps, or more weight) you recruit type II fibres – which is what you want. Conventional wisdom states that you can ONLY recruit type II fibres by lifting big weights for fewer reps, but what these studies show is that you don’t need to do that. The key is lifting to fatigue – with whatever weight you choose.
Great news for anyone who wants to get fitter and leaner but doesn’t fancy lifting heavy weights in the gym. You CAN still get strong by doing things like body pump, or workouts with smaller weights IF you are reaching fatigue by the end of the set or track. Lift to the point of exhaustion and it doesn’t matter whether the weights are heavy or light.
Happy Tuesday 🤗xx