The other day, I came across an interesting article on Shape magazine’s website: The Final Say in the Heavy vs. Light Weight Debate.
According to the study cited in the article, it doesn’t matter whether you do low reps with heavy weights or high reps with lighter weights; as long as you lift to exhaustion, you’ll still gain strength and muscle.
The caveat is that many women who lift light weights still aren’t lifting heavy enough to fatigue by their final rep. Bench pressing with 10 pound dumbbells? Probably not going to do much.
I think we can all agree on that last point, however, I imagine the article’s main claim – that high rep/light weights are just as effective as low rep/heavy weights – will cause some controversy. The fitness community is rife with people who think they know everything so it will be interesting to see how this article is received.
My take? While I’m a sketpic at heart and tend to eschew bold claims (“The Final Say?” Really?) the study’s findings do make sense in light of my own personal experience.
My primary mode of strength training is BodyPump, which is a high rep/low weight workout (and by “low weight,” I mean in the range of 15-45 lbs) and I have definitely seen visible changes in my body from doing it.
Obviously, I’m not lifting as heavy as some of the ladies out there who can deadlift twice their body weight but I always struggle to make it to the end of each track and if that’s what it takes to build muscle, regardless of load, then it makes sense that I’ve gotten results from lifting the way that I do.
That’s not to say other methods aren’t effective. In fact, lifting heavier is arguably a more efficient way to strength train because you can spend less time in the gym while getting the same results. But, for me, thirty minutes in the weight room feels twice as long as an hour-long BodyPump class and isn’t nearly as fun.
One thing the article didn’t touch on is the myth that low weight/high reps are good for toning while heavy weight/low reps are good for bulking. If this study’s findings are accurate, then the distinction is nonsense, since both types of workouts yield the same results. Again, my own experience confirms this. When I was lifting heavier with lower reps, I saw similar results to what I’ve seen with BodyPump.
I’m interested in hearing other people’s take on this article. I’m pretty biased because it confirms that my favourite way to strength train is indeed effective and don’t we all love studies that confirm what we want to believe?
But I’m curious as to whether others have seen results from strength training in a way that is generally considered ineffective.
Speaking of BodyPump, I decided to try a different class this morning instead of the one I usually go to on Saturdays. When I move at the end of June, the gym I went to this morning will be closer to me, and I’ll likely be going to this class often, so I decided to give it a test run.
It was more crowded than my current gym is on weekday mornings but nothing too crazy. The instructor is a good one (I’ve done his class a few times before) and has been teaching Pump for a long time, so I’ll get a good mix of releases in his class.
This morning we did release 57, which was a lot of fun, especially after a month of the latest release. I went a little lighter on the squat track because my quads are a little sore and I want to be in good condition to do BodyAttack tomorrow.
After class, I had some time to kill before leaving for work, so I ate breakfast at Starbucks (egg white, spinach and feta wrap and a skim latte) and read my book. Great way to start a Friday!
For those of you who lift weights, do you do heavy weights / low reps or lighter weights / high reps?