Heavy few, light many
The question gets asked many times by newbies in the fitness and muscle building game: Should I lift with heavy weights and few reps, or should I lift with light weights and many reps? The logic behind the talk on the internet and in gyms is that when you lift heavy and few times you build muscle more efficiently, while when you lift light and many times you instead tone your muscles and not bulk up. This article will talk about these two styles and what you should do when entering the world of bodybuilding and fitness health.
Lifting heavy weights
Bodybuilders across the globe use this method to build lean muscle and put tremendous strain on the muscles to break them down and build them back up. The idea behind lifting heavy and few times is because each lift is very hard to do, therefore the body responds by recruiting fast twitch muscle fibers to perform that lift. There isn't much effort needed in lifting light weights as your muscles can handle that easy, but in order to lift heavy you have to use fast twitch muscle fibers and more effort from your muscles to actually make that happen. Fast twitch muscle fibers are used in short bursts of intense exercise such as lifting heavy weights or short sprints, thus these fibers are only used in this style of weight training. Lifting heavy will enable you to tear up the muscles faster and therefore allow greater mass gains as there are more tears and bigger gaps to recover from.Credit: wikimedia commons
Lifting light weights
The polar opposite of the spectrum is the style of weight training where you lift light weights for many reps to tone the muscle and lean them out. Many people use this method when they are beginners or if they are in shape but don't want to get bulky. Lifting light weights will not employ fast twitch muscle fibers because these are longer, easier uses of muscle energy so instead they employ slow twitch muscle fibers. As you can probably guess this means that lifting light weights frequently will use these slow twitch muscle fibers because they are used for endurance and prolonged light activity. The comparison can be made that sprinters and heavy lifters need quick power to make their movements fluid and swift, where endurance runners and marathon joggers and light lifters need endurance and long lasting power to take on prolonged activity.
One better than the other?
The comparison has been made and we can see both are good for your health. Is one better? Not necessarily because both are to your benefit and will help you reach the goals you need to look better. Lift heavy and do few reps if you want to build muscle, lift light and many reps if you want to burn more calories and tone better. You are going to be getting more of a cardio workout with the light weights as this isn't working your muscle as much as it is using energy to do an action frequently, thus this is a form of cardio. Either way will work well for reaching the fitness goals you have set forth, just make sure that you never overdo it and stretch beyond what you are capable of doing. If you are looking to lift heavy to build muscle never go beyond your limit because you can injure yourself easily. You don't want too much weight come crashing down on your head or you breaking something because you had to tack on an extra 20 pounds.
Track your progress
Whichever method of weight training you choose to use, always track your progress with a journey or a smartphone app. You don't want to be doing the exact same routine with the same reps and same weight a year down the road. This is a sign of plateauing and not making any progress, instead you are stagnant and not reaching any newer heights. You will never see results if you continue to do the same thing; always stretch yourself to reach a bigger goal or a different approach to the same workout so you get your muscles involved with something other than the same old thing. Tracking your progress is vital in making improvements and tailoring your workout towards the goals you desire. See if your heavy lifting is working for you and how the results look in the mirror. See if your frequent light weights are toning your body and leaning your body out.
Another important reason for tracking your progress is for motivation. Nothing motivates better than seeing on your app or your tracking paper than you have been able to do more than you did last time. This means you are reaching your goals and getting there slowly. Now you can take on that next exercise with a zeal and a new found fire of energy because you know you aren't who you used to be. We never want to be the old self, we always want to progress forward to a better version of ourselves. Track how you are doing and see those results come quicker with that motivation behind you.
Now that you know you should track your progress and you know what type of weight training you want to do go for it! Write down your goals on paper and start doing the training you desire. If you are lifting heavy find out what your maximum is by piling on as much weight as possible that still allows you to do one rep, and then from there you know your maximum and can start using your workout routine to change the plate numbers based on that max. Never forget to ask for help either, whether it's on bodybuilding forums or at the gym itself. Some people aren't friendly, but more often than not people at the gym are working out and just having a good time and would love to help spot you, give you advice, or help you with a lift and show you how to do it. Asking for help is a sign of humility and gives you the ability to learn from others who have success in what you are doing. You have the tools, now go out and tackle your goals.