Monday, January 16, 2017

For Maximum Muscle Growth Use Lighter Weights (Sometime)

For Maximum Muscle Growth Use Lighter Weights

If you are at all serious about gaining muscle, whether for aesthetics or fat loss, you've no doubt heard that (1) you must train heavy using 80-90% of your 1RM or (2) you need to train in the 60-75% of your 1RM and that 8-12 reps is the sweet spot for hypertrophy. 

Now I'm telling you to "train light for hypertrophy." Confused yet?

If you are a student of "Periodization" you probably understand. If you're not familiar with periodization, you need to go back and read Periodization. How to Get the Most From Your Training Program

Using Lighter Weights doesn't mean using those cute little pink  2  pound dumbbells.

Using lighter weights means dropping down to about 50% of your 1RM but pushing the reps up to 20-25 reps per set and to total momentary muscle failure.

Two recent studies illustrate this.

The first study involved subjects new to resistance training comparing training to failure with lighter weights vs. heavy lifts.
Both study groups ended the 12 week study with roughly the same muscle gains. (Hypertrophy). 
This study drew some criticism though because "newbies" can typically have muscle gains doing almost any program for the first few months.

The second study, however, involved well trained subjects with a minimum of four years experience. The results were still the same.


Refer back to the article  Periodization: How To Get The Most From Your Training Program. High rep work to failure causes metabolic stress by trapping metabolic by-products in the tissue.

High rep work also targets your Type I (slow twitch) muscle fibers that get somewhat neglected during heavy lifting. Type I fibers account for 40-60% of your muscle in most cases.

High rep work also gives your joints and connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) a well deserved break. I recommend high rep work for everyone but it's especially beneficial as you age. When you resume heavier work your connective tissue will be much better equipped to handle heavy loads.

Remember, light, high rep work is only one piece of the puzzle. Use it for only as long as it's working and that will vary by person.
Usually about 4 weeks in some people but up to 12 weeks in others.

Remember, it's periodization. When progress slows in the high rep  period, start the medium weight 8-12 rep period with more weight. And finally heavy low rep period.



  1. Thanks for this informative post. I recently enrolled in our local gym and still finding my way. After doing the military diet, I started focusing more on exercise and what I've learned such as calorie counting and portion control. I'm also going to get a personal trainer to help me lose more weight and gain more muscles. I love getting in shape - I have more energy and lesser time to be sick. I think everyone should review their exercise routine and their diet, as well. For more info on the military diet, see

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