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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]

Dancer, choreographer, personal trainer, and freelance writer based in New York City. More here.