Let me paint you a gym scenario that I come across daily. A member of the gym has the goals of improved muscle tone and increased muscle mass. They want to look like “this person” or “not like that person”. Typically, this is common in female clients and gym members but occasionally I’ll hear it from a male client or member. If you’re a female exerciser and you think you will get huge from lifting weights then you should stop now and read about why you will not get big and bulky like the guy on the cover of a muscle magazine. Everyone else, read on.
The Dilemma: What you probably think.
The advice from your friend at the gym about how you should lift for muscle tone can get a bit skewed. “Lift light weights and lots of reps.” This does NOT mean to put the pin on 10 lb and lift it 100 times in a row, not even break a sweat, carry on a conversation and text with your teeth simultaneously. This also doesn’t mean pick up 1 lb pink dumbbells and curl with your friends while making happy hour plans. I understand that everyone should exercise within their capabilities and if your unsure what they may be, then by all means consult with a professional. The point is to maximize your efforts in the gym tosee your results faster.
The Solution: Alternate Ending
If you’re doing 3 sets of 20 reps then you shouldn’t be able to do 25, 30 or 35 reps. If you can do 25, 30 or 35 reps then you need to increase the weight accordingly. Not everyone has to lift heavy or should they, but they should challenge themselves within their abilities. Some recent research suggests that lifting light weights for more reps will give you similar results as heavy weights for less reps. This is great news for those who cannot because of their physical ability and age cannot lift heavier weights safely. The research still found that lifting the heavier weight improved strength and muscle mass to a greater extent. The intensity of the weight was still based off the individuals maximal ability. Most exerciser’s maximal ability is higher than they assume.
If your apparently healthy, practice proper technique/form and your exercise program follows proper progression then increase your weight to meet the recommended repetitions. If you are doing 20 reps, don’t do 30, increase the weight.
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McMaster University. “Light weights are just as good for building muscle, getting stronger, researchers find.” ScienceDaily, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 7 May 2012.