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Building Muscle Without Hefting Huge Weights [Body Blog]

For years, trainers and athletes have said that to build lean, toned muscles, you should lift light weights and do lots of reps. To build big, bulky muscles, you lift heavier weights and do fewer reps. Some studies have called that philosophy into question lately, suggesting that lifting heavy weights doesn’t necessarily make you look like the Hulk.

So is there still a value to the light weight, high rep workout style? A recent study says yes. The study, conducted in the Netherlands, showed that lifting light weights can be just as effective in building muscle tone as lifting heavier weights. What really matters is that you work until the point of exercise-induced fatigue – that means that the last two or three reps should be hard.

This is great news for people who’d like to tone up, but don’t often lift weights. The heavier the weight, the more you risk injuring yourself. With a lighter weight, you can get the same results without the danger. Light weight exercise is also perfect for people who are recovering from injuries, as a way to ease back into exercise.

Doctors say that if you really want to stimulate muscle tone (and save yourself from boredom) the best thing to do is to change your exercise routine up. Alternate between lifting heavier weights and doing fewer reps, and lifting lighter weights and doing more reps. The moral of the story? If you want to get into great shape and have the muscles to show it, you don’t have to grunt and struggle like that obnoxious guy at the gym.

Garnet is a student at Columbia University in New York City. She is “that person” who starts dancing at a party when everyone else is standing around, and if there were a Facebook stalking Olympics, she would be a gold medalist. She also loves cheesy 90s music, and almost died of happiness when Vanilla Ice retweeted her. Once. Follow her on Twitter @garnethenderson.

[Lead image via Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock]

    Comments

    Comments

    1. Brittany says:

      You will NOT get the same results by lifting light weights and doing high reps as opposed to lifting heavier weights and doing low reps. You're building ENDURANCE when you lift light and will eventually build muscle. Lifting heavy builds muscle.

      1. Garnet – Columbia University says:

        That's an old way of thinking. You'll notice that my post is based on a brand new study, which showed that exercise with light weights builds muscle just as effectively as heavy weights. According to the study, what matters is that you work to the point of muscle fatigue, however long that takes based on the weights you're using. This is new evidence. Also muscular "endurance" is produced by strengthening individual muscle fibers. When muscle fibers get stronger, they get bigger. "Endurance" and "tone" are two ways of describing the same thing.

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    3. The Mind-Muscle Connection says:

      I disagree with Brittany. As a bodybuilder (I'm a big boy), the older I get the bigger I get but I remain with the same weights in the gym, because contraction is far more important. 'heavy' and 'light' is all relative and has to do with form and contraction. Also, I drop set almost everything (with slow negatives on the first half) so each set is about 20 reps. Most importantly, lifting weights breaks muscle down. Building happens at home (FOOD).

    4. Robert says:

      For years, trainers and athletes have said that to build lean, toned muscles, you should lift light weights and do lots of reps. To build big, bulky muscles

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    6. Lifting with proper form is important. You won't receive big gains in muscle if your technique is off. When it comes to weight (load) you can use heavy weights and lighter weights but you should not rely on just one style of training, for example; if you lift heavy weights exclusively, you will benefit when you start training with lighter weights (high reps) and vice versa

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    11. muscle build says:

      This is great news for people who’d like to tone up, but don’t often lift weights. The heavier the weight, the more we risk injuring our self with a lighter weight. I am so impressed to read your blog.

    12. Wesley says:

      Well I'm being lifting heavy weight and doing reps as well to get better results. I know lifting lightweight is also effective but I'm looking forward to make my muscles extra powerful for heavy product carrying tasks. Thanks for supportive information.

    13. Harold says:

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    14. Jeremy says:

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