Is Heavy Lifting Necessary for Muscle Growth and Strength Gains?

Is Heavy Lifting Necessary for Muscle Growth and Strength Gains?

Want to get bigger and stronger? Common knowledge would tell us that we must lift as heavy as possible in order to grow. Well no quite, there is some new research out from Brad Schoenfeld that challenges the notion of heavy weight = more muscle mass. In todays post we will dive down deep to discuss the research around lighter load training!

The study we are basing todays article on comes directly from this months MASS Issue. Find out more about MASS here:

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Watch us discuss this topic in more detail here:

Based on this 6 week study Higher loads equal more than 60% of 1rm

Lower Loads are considered less then 60% of 1rm (more then 15 reps)

For example: If your 1 rep max for the bench press was 315lbs

Higher Loads would be anything above 190lbs and lower loads would be anything less than 190lbs. 

Some people swear that low-load, high-rep training is the key to building muscle, while others contend that high-load training allows you to stress the muscle to a greater degree, resulting in more growth. Furthermore, while most people agree that lifting heavy is the best approach for building strength, many people still hold the position that lifting light weights won’t meaningfully increase maximal strength and will only improve strength endurance. 

This study found that: Lower loads were no good for strength/ but isometric strength improved. The study also found that there was no difference between high and low loads for hypertrophy. However if you are using lower loads for hypertrophy you must be taking all those sets to failure. 

One program I created a while back to train for hypertrophy with lighter loads was called the 500 Rep Workout. You can see that workout here: 

It’s possible that people who had engaged in low-load training would “catch up” to people who had engaged in high-load training pretty quickly once they started training heavier. For example, if group A trained with 80% loads for six months, while group B trained with 50% loads for three months and 80% loads for three months, it’s likely that group A would be stronger at month 3, but also possible that strength levels would be similar between groups at month 6. At the very least, I don’t think it’s wise to discount the utility of low-load training for strength athletes within the broader context of a program that builds to heavier loads as testing (or a meet) approaches.

What does this mean for you?

This might be good for older individuals or if you are injured. I also believe lighter load training is more suitable for isolation exercises.

What about if you are a powerlifter?

Cycle lighter training and then higher training maybe better for strength gains. Cycling through lighter training periods have many benefits


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