Are heavy weights or light weights better for muscle building

Some people believe that lifting light weights for more reps will build endurance but not strength while lifting heavier weights for low to moderate repetition range is the best way to achieve maximum muscle growth. Let’s check it out!

The benefits of the lighter weight

If you use lighter weight for your reps, then the muscles you are targeting will do all the work.
While when you are using heavier weights you usually lose your shape and don’t rely only on your muscle strength but on momentum as well.
And, when it comes to hypertrophy (this is the term of the enlargement of tissues and organs due to their cells increasing), you should know that suitable for you (aka not too heavy) weights give you more benefits and more gains.

Also, when you choose lighter weights, then you can easily achieve the full range of motion which takes full advantage of the exercise and reduces the risk of getting injured. When you use the full range of motion, you gain more strength and muscle mass. While if you use heavier
weights it’s quite possible that you won’t be able to use the full motion range.

Lifting lighter weights for more reps

If you choose to go with this, you still gain muscle strength. Yes, it’s in a slightly different way.
In this case you are gaining more muscular endurance which is the ability to support a certain amount of pressure for a certain time before exhaustion. And when you do more reps at a level of high intensity, you burn more calories. Overall, in the long run doing more work (aka more reps and sets, even though with a lower weight) will make you stronger. And, as we said, you’ll work on the muscles you are targeting and will lower the risk of getting injured while not relying on any compensatory movements and patterns. Well, yes, there is a downside and it’s that it’ll take you more time because you’ll be doing more reps.

What about the heavier weights?

When you go heavy, you are most likely lifting for small amount of reps (sometimes even just 1-5). This way, yes, you do increase the overall maximum strength of your muscle because you are getting better at this particular exercise. But eventually you’ll reach a point where you cannot add more weight without compromising your shape and risking to get injured.

Still, heavy weights are more beneficial for building bone density than the lighter weights. And bone density is really important prevention for some diseases, such as osteoporosis. But do remember that you shouldn’t pick up a heavy weight by bending at the back or at the hips –
instead pick it up by bending at your knees.

At the same time, the heavy weights use your fast-twitch fibers which use the fat stores in the body to supply themselves with energy. Thus, lifting heavy weights can probably burn fat for longer period of time after you’ve finished working out than lifting lighter weights.

Are there any studies on the subject

Yes, the Journal of strength and conditioning research published a study in January 2014. This study had shown that after 12 weeks during which the participants did strength training the size and the strength were bigger in the participants who used the full range of motion than in those who used shorter range of motion.

And researchers at McMaster University also published a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology. They say that their study shows that the muscle growth is increased not by the load but by the effort. In this study the participants who used lighter weights until failure gained the
same results in terms of strength and size as the participants who used bigger weights.
In the same study it was shown that the growth hormones and the testosterone were equally increased in both the group which lifted lighter and in the group which lifted heavier.

What about doing both?

In order to get more strength and size you need to achieve muscle damage, provide mechanical tension and metabolic stress. The high-rep method and the heavy weights both achieve those three things, thus, they can both build your strength. But don’t forget that in both methods proper form is necessary, otherwise you are not only not getting the full benefits but you are also risking an injury.

You can easily incorporate both methods in your training schedule. For example, you can do some workouts with heavier weight for a small amount of reps and some workouts with a lighter weight for a large amount of reps.

But, remember, when you make any changes in your training schedule or when you add more weight, you should do so only in small excrements. And it can be also helpful to warm up before and cool down after you exercise (this is also one way to avoid injuries).


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