There are many different opinions when it comes to whether or not you should use heavy or light weights to gain muscle.
Many people believe that the heavier the weight is, the more stress you put on the muscle and, in turn, the bigger it will grow. While others believe that a lighter weight allows for more reps, putting the muscle under even more stress. But who’s right?
Below, we’ll take a look at the benefits of lifting both heavy and lighter weights in a bid to gain more muscle. In the end, you’ll have a better idea of what you should be doing in order to make those sought-after gains, and what type of weight would work best for your individual needs.
Lifting Heavy Weights
Let’s start by looking at heavy weights. There are actually a few benefits that come from lifting heavier weights which we’ll explore in more detail a little later. However, the main thing you need to know is that if you’re looking to gain muscle, heavy weights are the option to go for.
Explosive reps under a heavy weight will create more stress on the muscle. When this happens, muscle-growth hormones are released in a bid to help repair them and, in turn, the muscles get stronger and bigger over a shorter period of time.
It is worth noting, however, that this isn’t necessarily the case for women. Men have more testosterone than women, so any muscle growth hormones that are released following a heavyweight training session will create muscle definition more than growth.
What are those other benefits we mentioned earlier? When you train with a heavier weight and your muscles grow as a result, there are also improvements in your ability to jump higher and sprint with more explosiveness.
When you lift a heavier weight, you’ll also be burning more body fat than you would with a lighter weight. And, the heavier the weight is the more calories and body fat you’ll burn. What’s more, your body will continue to burn more even after you’ve finished your workout if you train with a heavy weight.
Finally, training with a heavier weight also builds more bone density. We naturally lose bone density over time, but by lifting heavy weights, we’re able to increase our bone density and keep certain diseases (such as osteoporosis) at bay.
Lifting Lighter Weights
We know that lifting heavier weights is the way to gain muscle mass. But there are still some good reasons why lifting lighter weights from time to time is a good idea. To begin with, the lighter a weight is, the more reps we’re able to do.
As we achieve more reps, we create muscular endurance and this makes it much easier to take on cardio activities including cycling, swimming, and long-distance running. Cardio is crucial to our overall fitness. Lifting heavy weights will help you build bigger muscles, but you won’t build any endurance.
Lighter weights will also help you burn fat since they still build some muscle. However, unlike heavy weights, you won’t continue burning as many calories in the hours following your workout if you train with lighter weights.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. For instance, if you’re looking to maintain your current weight and physique, a lighter weight will help you do this without creating too much muscle gain or weight loss.
The Anatomy of a Muscle
To truly understand how both heavy weights and light weights affect our bodies differently, we need to look at the anatomy of a muscle. Every single muscle in our bodies is made up of two different muscle fibers; slow-twitch and fast-twitch.
However, only one of these muscle fibers is ever activated at a time when you’re training, and it all depends on the amount of weight you’re lifting.
Lifting heavier weights will activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers, and it’s these fibers that help to gain more muscle and increase our explosive power. Lifting lighter weights activates your slow-twitch muscle fibers, and these are the ones that are responsible for increasing your muscular endurance.
With this in mind, it becomes easier to see which type of weight you should be lifting in accordance with your overall goal. If you want to gain muscle and short-term explosive power, go for a heavy weight. Conversely, if you want to increase your endurance and you’re training for something that calls for long-term power (such as a marathon), it’s a good idea to include lighter weights into your training routine.
Take Things Slowly
As you can see from what we’ve discussed above, heavy weights are your key to muscle growth. However, it’s extremely important that you take things slowly and increase the amount of weight you lift over time. Don’t go straight for the heaviest set of dumbbells on the rack, especially if you’ve not trained for a while.
If you do, you could cause yourself an injury that will put you out of action for a few weeks and really delay your progress in the meantime. Even if you don’t injure yourself beyond immediate repair, you may find yourself a victim of the dreaded DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). This can also keep you out of the gym for a few days.
Instead, build things up slowly. You want to feel as though you’ve got one or two reps left in you at the end of each exercise, rather than struggling halfway through. If you finish your set and feel as though you could do more, the time has come to start thinking about increasing your weight.
They’re also better at burning fat for a longer time following your workout and increasing your metabolism.
However, as we’ve explained above, lighter weights still have their place in your workout routine, especially if you’re looking to gain muscular endurance.