Lighter Weights, Longer Repetitions Build More Muscle

It may boost your ego to lift giant barbells off the rack, but it won't help your actual muscles as much. A study of 15 young men suggests that higher repetition on lighter weights is the route to gaining strength.

Photo by midiman.

Bulkier gym rats can still use the heavier bars and disks, but for those intimidated by how little they can lift, take comfort in the cold hard facts arrived at by McMaster University researchers:

"Rather than grunting and straining to lift heavy weights, you can grab something much lighter but you have to lift it until you can't lift it anymore," says Stuart Phillips, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University. "We're convinced that growing muscle means stimulating your muscle to make new muscle proteins, a process in the body that over time accumulates into bigger muscles."

Over time, of course, your definition of "much lighter" should shift upwards, but that's a good thing.

Building muscle doesn't require lifting heavy weights [Physorg via The Consumerist]


    I always ride an excercise bike while playing Xbox, it helps to get the adrenaline flowing. I just can't seem to get any kills without it. And while watching TV or movies I usually use some tiny 1kg dumbbells.

    This strikes me as a pretty erroneous story; muscle size /= strength, otherwise how would Arthur Saxon have been able to bent press 370lbs? It's not about how big your muscles are, it's about how you use them.

    It depends on the type of muscle you are trying to build.

    The above tip is good for building slow twitch muscle fibres. This means that the muscles you build will typically not be as strong, but will have more endurance.

    If it's just raw strength you are after, you should aim for high weight, low repetition, and slow repetitions. Optimally, 6-8 reps, each rep being 3 seconds on the extend, and 3 seconds on the contract. The weight should be such that 2 sets if this for each exercise wipes you out.

    This will build fast twitch muscle fibre, which is more powerful and stronger, but will tire more quickly.

    A study of 15 subjects is hardly a study. Their results are also far from revolutionary, and are in fact almost common knowledge in sports and training circles.

    I've been doing something like this for years. From memory I learnt it from Arnold Schwarzeneger's Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, despite the fact he's a questionable actor and obviously hopeless governor, the guy knows alot about nutrition, exercise and the body.

    It's called the 'stripping method'. You start with the heaviest weight that you can do approximately 3 reps of. You then pump out as man reps as possible until fatigued, take a 30-60 second breather, then you 'strip' the weight back to something slightly lightly. Again, you pump out as many reps as possible, and repeat the process. You keep doing this until you can barely lift your arms.

    This is essentially a more efficient method of what's described in the article.

    The basic theory is that on the first weight, you may not be able to lift the weight any more, but you might only have fatigued %60, of the muscle fibres. While the remaining 40% can't lift the original weight, it is enough to lift the lower weight. By working your weigh down you should get close to completely fatiguing all the muscle fibres used.

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