The age old debate: is it better to do fewer reps with heavier weights or higher reps with lighter weights? The short answer is, it depends.
Generally speaking, performing fewer reps with heavier weights tends to increase muscle mass while focusing on high reps with light weights builds muscle endurance. Depending on your goals, incorporating both may be the best approach for long-term health and results.
Proponents of fitness classes like barre, yoga sculpt, and yoga FiiT, tout the ability to create long, lean musculature by focusing on lighter weights. Less power is required when using light weights, resistance bands, or your own bodyweight which makes it easier to work through the entire range of motion, both eccentric and concentric. A greater range of motion means increased flexibility as well as greater muscle endurance.
The good news is that you don’t have to lift heavy in order to build lean muscle if that’s your goal. What’s most important is that you work your muscles to the point of fatigue. Muscle fatigue will happen faster if you are lifting heavy weights but you can still work your muscles to failure using light weights, you just have to perform more repetitions. Lighter weights will also enable you to target and isolate muscles without needing to recruit compensatory muscles to help complete the movement. Without the help of momentum, which is often employed when lifting heavy, your muscles do most of the work building both muscle strength and muscle endurance.
Another benefit of lifting light is that there’s a reduced risk of injury compared to lifting heavy weights. If you are new to lifting, or new to exercise in general, start with light weights and focus on proper form to reduce your risk of injury. Working with light weights enables you to perform each movement through the full range of motion properly and precisely, making it the safest choice for beginners or anyone rehabilitating from an injury.
The bottom line is that any form of strength training can be extremely beneficial for your physique and overall health. The key to seeing results is less about how much weight you are lifting and more about whether or not you are continuing to challenge yourself with your workouts. If you never change your weights, reps, or movement patterns your muscles will stop adapting and you’ll stop seeing results. So, regardless of whether you prefer heavy or light weights in your workout, make sure you keep challenging your muscles in new ways for optimal results!
Want to try out some barre classes and feel the difference between your weight sizes?
Erin Entlich is a certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, holistic health coach, and writer. She believes doing good starts with feeling good, which is why she loves helping people weave movement, mindfulness, and healthy eating into their daily lives. Find out more at www.erinentlich.com.