Lifting Heavy • VS • Lifting Light

Many of us always wonder if our training is effective with the weights we are integrating during our workouts. One of the questions that we get in our practice is the efficiency of light vs heavy weights during a training session. Each load has its benefits, it all breaks down to what your goal is and the purpose of your training. 

Something that us humans can’t control is the aging process. As we get older our bodies don’t feel the same and our overall performance (muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, body composition, etc.), declines. We can not control whether it will decline or not but we can control how fast it declines. Our goal as fitness professionals is to make sure our program takes into account all components of fitness which helps delay the process of aging. With that being said, it is important to include both light and heavy weights in our training protocols. 

We can go back to what our goal is for training. Many of us come with a specific goal including but not limited to, training for a race, recovering from an injury, weight loss, overall health, or increasing sports performance. Each one of those goals plays a major role in the load of our training. The rule of thumb is that heavier weights will help with overall strength and light weights will help with endurance. 

Heavy weights are used to push our bodies to maximum capacity with lower repetition in order to increase muscle mass and overall strength. It is important that we include heavy weights in our training programs because our bodies want to stay where they feel comfortable. If we demand more from our bodies by putting more stress on them, our bodies have no choice but to work on building more muscle to overcome the stress that is being put upon them. In order to get more from your training, you will need to make yourself uncomfortable. If you are comfortable during your workout session your body doesn’t need to make any changes, therefore, you will not be working towards your goal. 

As we can see it is important to include heavy weights in your training program, but heavy weights do not come without any risk. The more our body is put toward complete failure the higher the risk of injury, therefore, it is important that measurable steps are taken into consideration, such as proper progression, proper form, and always having a plan for when you fail during an exercise. It is recommended that individuals with higher training experience should be using heavier weights. As a beginner, it is important to use light weights to ensure safety and proper form. Lighter weights are also used to increase endurance in individuals. 

As a Strength and Conditioning Coach, we recommend the following repetition scheme to work towards your goal. 1 – 5 repetitions are used for strength training, 8 – 12 repetitions are used for muscle hypertrophy, and anything over 15 repetitions is used for endurance training. One of my favorite programs to follow is  5/3/1 by Jim Wendler. It increases strength without putting the body to complete failure with the heaviest weights, but also increases muscle endurance by making the body fail at the lightest weight for that training period. This program is one of the better ones because the risk of injury is lower if our bodies fail on the lighter load. 

In conclusion, both loads are important in a training program. The major decision-maker will be an individual’s goal and training experience. If you need more information on this topic please contact one of our trainers and we would love to get more in-depth. 

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