Most of us were taught that to get good results from weightlifting, heavy weights were needed. For that reason, many people find weightlifting unpleasant. If a person could get good results using lighter weights, that would be good to know.
This is what the results of a recent Canadian study showed. Researchers from McMaster University (Ontario) published their findings recently in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The researchers recruited 49 healthy young men who had been weight training for a year or more.
At the beginning of the study, the men all completed a battery of strength, fitness, and blood hormone tests. Then they were randomly split into two groups. Each group lifted weights 4 times per week, for a total of 12 weeks. But one group was assigned to the traditional weight lifting program, using heavy weights, and the other group was assigned a lighter weight routine.
The traditional heavy weight group lifted weights that were between 75 to 90 percent of their maximum tolerable They lifted as many times as they could in one set. For most of the men, this was 10 repetitions. The lighter-weight group used weights that were only 30 to 50 percent of the man’s maximum tolerable weight, and again, they lifted their weights until they could not lift more.
The men in the lighter weight group were able, as makes sense, to accomplish many more lifts (up to 25 lifts) than the group using heavy weights. At the end of the study, all the men underwent the same tests of hormone, strength, and fitness that they did at the beginning of the study.
Identical weightlifting results
The results showed that, without question, at the end of the study, both groups showed identical improvements in all the tests. Their muscle growth was the same whether they lifted heavier weights fewer times, or lighter weights more times. There was also no difference in the hormonal changes in the two groups—both showed identical increases in testosterone and growth hormone levels.
The authors concluded that the important issue was not the heaviness of the weight, but that the men got tired. If the routine led to almost total muscular fatigue at the end of the training, then it didn’t matter what weight was used.
This is great news for people who prefer to use lighter weights with more repetitions. It may make weightlifting more pleasant, and decrease the chance of muscular injury.
The secret to using lighter weights is to lift repeatedly until the effort for the final lift is at least a level 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. One of the authors of the study, Dr. Stuart Phillips, notes “There should be some discomfort, but the dividends at the end, in terms of stronger, healthier muscles, are enormous.”
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