Study: Lighter Weight + Higher Reps = Stronger Muscles

Study: Lighter Weight + Higher Reps = Stronger Muscles

Shane M.

Have you seen the guys in the gym who say; “I lift things up and put them down…” with lots of grunting and moaning? If you want to build muscle, you don’t need to copy them.  A surprising new study has been released that may change how people do strength training. People can build muscle lifting lighter weight with less risk of injury than lifting the heavy weights.

McMaster University in Ontario, still our favorite spot for exercise studies, shows it’s not the weight, but the reps that are what help build muscle. In other words, whether you’re lifting an 80-pound weight or a 40-pound weight doesn’t matter as long as you lift both to a point of fatigue.

Researchers followed two different sets of weight lifters for 12 weeks. One group did lighter weights but both groups lifted the weights until they felt they hit their limit. The group lifting lighter weights did far more reps (lifts).

And at the end, both groups showed roughly the same gains when it came to muscle mass. Not only that, but the results were actually a little better with those who did lighter weights but more reps.

We added an experimental program at Cardio High this week. We asked clients to do bicep curls and squat to press to exhaustion. Most of our strength intervals are 45 seconds, but clients blew past the 45 seconds – lifting their weights for 75 – 100 seconds (25+ reps). We learned two things;

  1. Some of them were selecting weights that are too light as they did not fatigue after 100 seconds.
  2. Some could hit a point of fatigue with light weights.

We’re not trying to turn clients into bodybuilders, but we want to help all of them become stronger. This new trick of going to exhaustion is a nice tool that combines strength and low injury risk.