Heavy or Light? The Basics.
Heavy Or Light? The Basics.
This is one of the questions we get asked in fitcamp a lot. People ask, should I try to go heavier or just go lighter and do it more often?
Its probably a question most people have come across when training or working out.
Now there is so much information out there about so many different reps and sets and how heavy or how light. And I understand that this can be complicated. So I thought I would break it down to the basics of what lifting heavy or light will do and help with as well as how to.
So here it is, next time you’re wondering what weight to train with, have a read further and choose what suits you best.
A lot of gym rats like to use the phrase ‘lift big, get big’. While the science behind muscle building is a little more technical. The general idea behind the phrase is sound. Lifting heavy is of course going to stimulate muscle growth. There are a quite a few programs nowadays on the internet for muscle gain so it can get a little complicated of what ‘heavy’ is and how often to lift ‘heavy’. Of course everyone’s ‘heavy’ is different. We are all at different strength levels and fitness levels. So I can understand, when programs state you must lift a certain amount for this exercise, it can be frustrating.
There are a couple of important factors to remember if you want to go heavier.
One. Some kind of muscle development will occur, of course it will! You’re asking your body to lift a heavy object consistently. You’re going to develop muscle to make it easier!
Two. If you want to continue building muscle, you will need to keep increasing the ‘heaviness’ of the weight over time. As your body gains more muscle, the movement will become easier and easier (as mentioned above) by continually progressing the weight we are making sure that the muscles never find the movement ‘too easy’
Three. Everyone’s heavy is different! Don’t be afraid to actually lift a very low numbered weight because its heavy for you. That’s fine! everyone has a starting place!
Now after these points you may be thinking, “well yeah.. but how many times am I going to lift this heavy weight? Once is easy, but I don’t know about 4 times”
There are a lot of different methodologies out there for how many reps and sets to lift heavy for muscle growth. Generally when selecting a heavy weight, look for one that you can perform the movement with good form for 5 – 12 reps and you”ll want to do this for about 3 – 5 sets with about 1 minute breaks between sets. When you can perform the movement easily over this amount of reps and sets, then it’s time to up the weight to continue stimulating growth.
Okay. Obviously I don’t mean lift feathers (but you get the idea)
A lot of people will tell you that lifting light weights often for more reps is pointless. Whats the point of lifting weights if you’re not going to challenge yourself?
There are benefits to lifting light which can help you. So don’t be afraid of going lighter and hitting some high rep counts, and remember, everyone’s definition of light will be different. Do what works for YOU.
You’ll find that lifting light improves what we call in the industry ‘Muscular Endurance’ . Effectively your body becomes better at repeatably performing the specific movements. Lifting this way is often understated in team sports and can often be beneficial with fat loss programs as well.
Generally when lifting a lighter weight for higher reps, look to work in the 15 – 25 rep range with 2 – 3 sets of roughly 30secs break. Combine this with some old school body weight exercises and you have a great workout for endurance and cardio.
Lifting light is also a great way to master technique before going heavy. Don’t be afraid of working on the technique with a light weight, making sure you can perform it until you are relatively fatigued, and then switching up to the heavy stuff.
A word of warning though.
Try to complete the reps within 90s, taking two or even three minutes too complete 25 reps won’t exactly be beneficial to your goals (I won’t bore you with the science) and lets face it….its boring.
Figure out your goals. What are you looking for? Choose from there and don’t be afraid to do a little mixing and matching if you wish too!
I realize that this is a SUPER basic summary of these styles of lifting weights and protocols, but that’s the whole point of this article. Basics.
I also understand that there are plenty of studies showing conflicting results with lifting heavy and lifting light, I’m not here to argue for or against these methods. I’m here simply to help beginners understand a few of the basic concepts behind both styles.