We’ve all been there: Standing in the middle of the weight room at the gym or holding dumbbells at home trying to figure out the best way to get the most out of our workout. And we know weight training is a great whole body workout, but the debate between lifting heavy weights versus starting out on the lighter side has been going on for years. But now, a new study is shedding light on what’s actually the best way to build muscle and strength.
The study by researchers at McMaster University in Canada found that — wait for it — it really doesn’t matter whether you choose heavy or light weights. But there is one thing that does matter a lot: whether or not you lift to fatigue. So think you’re killin’ your sets because 15-pounders have become super easy? It’s time to step up the reps or the amount of weight if you want any results.
Stuart Phillips, senior author on the study, says, “Fatigue is the great equalizer here. Lift to the point of exhaustion and it doesn’t matter whether the weights are heavy or light.” That’s great news for all workouts.
The researchers studied two groups of men, all experienced weight lifters, for 12 weeks. One group was tasked with lifting lighter weights at repetitions of 20-25 while the other group lifted heavier weights for repetitions of eight to 12. Researchers then analyzed both groups’ muscle and blood samples and found that both groups’ key measures of strength, muscle mass and muscle fiber size were nearly identical.
Overall, this is great news for lifters on both sides of the fence. As long as you’re working out to the max, this study suggests that you’ll be good — whether you’re lifting 25 pounds or five. Of course, more research needs to be done to determine the exact underlying causes of the muscle growth, but for now, go grab yourself some weights and kick it into high gear. We’ve got strength to gain.
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