What’s Better? Lifting Lighter Weights/More Reps or Heavier Weights/Less Reps?
The simple answer is this: if you need to lift heavy things, you need to train by lifting heavy things. But if your goals are to improve body composition, improve metabolic rate, increase bone mass, have better tone, and be stronger, according to a new research study at McMaster University in Canada, both types of workouts are effective.
Senior researcher of the study, Professor Stuart Phillips found that the increase in muscle mass and muscle fiber size were essentially identical with both types of workouts. The key factor was fatigue. Time-under-tension parameters were 30 to 90 seconds, with the heavy-weights group fatiguing in essentially 30 seconds or less, with the lighter-weights group fatiguing in the 60-90 second window.
Ballet Barre and Definitions students, rejoice! This is great news for those who like to strength train, but like the feeling of fatiguing in a longer set. Keep in mind the lighter-weight/more-repetition workout will take more time to complete than the heavier-weight/less-rep workout.
If your goals revolve around a performance related outcome (i.e. being able to climb a wall, do a pull up, jump higher, etc.) then heavier weights are the ticket. What the study did not measure were gains in actual strength or power. Your body is a highly adaptable machine. If you tell it that it only needs to lift 5 pounds, it will get strong enough to do 5 pounds and muscle endurance will kick in so that you can do 5 pounds repeatedly. If you train for a pull up and only do 50 pounds on the lat pull down bar, it will get strong enough to do 50 pounds, not your body weight (presumably you weigh more than 50 pounds….). But, if you jump up to the bar and let your entire body weight down (a negative pull up), it will get the message: you weigh this much, and wow…I have to get that strong!
Or mix it up! Your body loves a challenge and variety. One of the biggest benefits of being a member of a wellness center like Pivotal Fitness and Eco Fitness is that there are a myriad of formats, workouts, classes, trainers, and equipment to change it up and try new things. The best defense against a plateau is variety; we have it all and we’re really good at everything!