Light vs. Heavy Weight

High reps or low reps for muscle growth?
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OPENING ARGUMENTS

  • Defense: Lifting heavy weight is what separates the men from the boys and allows bodybuilders to make the biggest gains in mass. In fact, some of the largest bodybuilders to ever grace the posing dais were ex-powerlifters.
  • Prosecution: Lifting with light weight and higher reps may seem like the girly way to train, but it is very effective for building muscle size as long as you take sets to muscle failure. Tom Platz, who built some of the biggest legs in bodybuilding, was known to frequently train with sets as high as 30, 50 and even 100 reps.

EVIDENCE

  • ■ Researchers in the United Kingdom had trained men perform four sets of leg extensions using a weight that limited them to about four reps per set, or a weight that allowed them to complete about 25 reps per set.
  • ■ When the men did the four sets with light weight for higher reps, muscle protein synthesis (which leads to muscle growth) of the quadriceps was elevated by about 60% more than when they did the four-rep sets.

VERDICT: LIGHT WEIGHT FOR HIGH REPS

Light weight wins for its ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and prevent injuries.

SENTENCING

The real bottom line is that the majority of your workouts should utilize light-to-moderate weight for moderate-to-high reps. However, you need to frequently change your weight and rep ranges to keep the muscles stimulated and build both strength and muscle mass. So alternate between reps as low as 3–7 and as high as 25–50, but with the majority of workouts in the 8–15 range for best results.

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