PSA: You Don’t Need Heavy Weights To Build Muscle

PSA: You Don’t Need Heavy Weights To Build Muscle
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If you’re new to exercising, the thought of sitting underneath a 50kg barbell is probably pretty terrifying. However, if you can’t lift heavy weights, or they just scare you a little bit, research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that lighter weights can have the same muscle-building effect, provided you do more reps.

Resistance training and muscle-building exercises are intimidating to anyone starting to exercise, and subsequently a lot of people stay away from it because they can’t imagine lifting the heavy weights. This research suggests that lifting small weights – even as low as 30 per cent of your maximum – can have nearly the same benefit as heavy loads.

This is great news for people who shy away from muscle-building resistance training, because it means that small, less intimidating weights lifted with enough repetitions (three sets of 25-30 reps) have the same positive health effects as heavy ones. Combine this with a few of the most common exercise myths, and hitting the gym shouldn’t be intimidating at all.

Light Weights Are Just as Good for Building Muscle, Getting Stronger, Research Finds [ScienceDaily]


  • From a purely physiological point of view, this is true; however, to get optimal muscle building benefits from resistance exercise, the set(s) should be done to ‘exhaustion’ / ‘failure’.

    Psychologically, for the majority of people, doing repeat sets of 25-30 reps is significantly harder than sets of say 8-12 repetitions. That said, if you’re new to the gym you need to condition yourself before attempting heavy/heavier weights; so you should start with light weights and longer repetitions. If you are new in the gym, or new to weights if you can only lift/move/squat/whatever <15-20 reps then it is too heavy.

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