You don’t have to lift heavy weights to build muscle. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to make an effort. While it’s often touted that you need to lift heavy weights to gain muscle, according to a new study conducted at McMaster University, you can get the same level of muscle building by using lighter weights. The key is to life the weights until you reach muscle fatigue.
In the study, participants used weights based on a range of repetitions. The heavier weight they used was enough to fatigue them after 5 to 10 repetitions, whereas the lighter weight was an amount that the person could lift at least 24 times. Doing the higher reps of lighter weight worked just as well.
“Rather than grunting and straining to lift heavy weights, you can grab something much lighter, but you have to lift it until you can’t lift it anymore,” says Stuart Phillips, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University. “We’re convinced that growing muscle means stimulating your muscle to make new muscle proteins, a process in the body that over time accumulates into bigger muscles.”