Increasing the size of major muscles has always been associated with heavy weights. After all, you don’t see bodybuilders near the woman lifting 4 lbs. dumbbells. New research says that she is just as likely to build muscle as he is.
Doing fewer reps and but adding more load has been suggest a workout people can do to see results faster. If you can normally do 10-12 repetitions, increase the weight until you can do 3 sets of 4-8 reps. You should be reaching the point of failure by the third set. But if you have time and patience to get healthy without risking injuries, keep in mind that lifting light weights is just as effective as lifting heavy ones for building muscle.
More specifically, “12 weeks of supervised, higher- and lower-load per repetition resistance training programs were similarly effective at inducing skeletal muscle hypertrophy in resistance-trained participants when it was performed to volitional failure.”
The trick is that you have to lift the lighter weights more times. The goal is still to get the muscles tired as they would with heavier weights.
“Fatigue is the great equalizer here,” says Stuart Phillips, senior author on the study and professor in the Department of Kinesiology. "Lift to the point of exhaustion and it doesn't matter whether the weights are heavy or light.”
The study involved two groups of men. All of them experienced weight lifters. They followed a 12-week, whole-body program. One group lifted lighter weights – up to 50 percent of maximum strength – for 20 to 25 reps each set. The second group of men lifted heavier weights – up to 90 percent of maximum strength – for eight to 12 reps each set. Both groups lifted until their muscles were exhausted.
Forty-nine participants completed this study, several others dropped because of injuries. They were similar in body physique and other descriptive characteristics with no differences between groups with the exception of fat mass. There was no significant difference in dietary intake of macronutrients or energy between groups, the researchers say.
The final numbers were based on samples of muscle tissue the men gave after the program. Their bodies were scanned so researchers could look for changes in muscle fiber size and lean muscle mass.
“For the ‘mere mortal’ who wants to get stronger, we've shown that you can take a break from lifting heavy weights and not compromise any gains,” Phillips says. “It's also a new choice which could appeal to the masses and get people to take up something they should be doing for their health.”