Light or Heavy Weights: Which Is Best?
Lifting weights offers a number of health benefits in addition to making your muscles potentially look impressive. It speeds up metabolism, increases bone density, improves strength so you can better perform daily tasks and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, according to a 2019 study. But when it comes to strength training, there are many differing opinions about how it’s best to get it done.
The biggest question many people have is whether it is better to lift light or heavy weights. Some people think the only way to get stronger and build muscle is to lift heavy weights. Others, especially women, are concerned that heavy weights may cause them to “bulk up,” making their muscles look too big. But does that mean that one method is better than another? Or that one should be avoided?
Whether you choose to lift light weights or heavy weights is often a matter of personal preference. Both will achieve the goal of making your muscles stronger, assuming you work out to the point of muscle fatigue. Muscle fatigue means you can no longer do more reps in proper form.
If you’re lifting lighter weights, you’ll have to do more reps before you achieve the same level of muscle fatigue as you would if the weights were heavier. For example, if you are using a 10-pound weight to do bicep curls, you may have to do 20 reps to achieve muscle fatigue. If you use a 20-pound weight instead, you may only be able to do 10 reps. Both methods will provide similar results and both have their benefits.
Benefits of Using Lighter Weights
- Easier to do for people new to weight training
- Allows more focus on proper form
- Reduces the risk of injury
Benefits of Using Heavier Weights
- More efficient at building muscle mass (requires less reps)
- Challenges muscles when lighter weights don’t feel like they’re doing much
Benefits No Matter What Type of Weights You Use
The most important thing when it comes to strength training, or any type of exercise, is that you do it consistently. So the “best” strength training workout is the one you are going to enjoy doing the most so you get it done. Whether you opt for lighter or heavier weights, remember to only increase the weight or reps slowly so your body has a chance to get used to the added challenge without risking injury.
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Date Last Reviewed: January 10, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Dietary Review: Andrew P. Overman, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS