Light vs Heavy Load Training

What is more effective for building muscle: lifting light or heavy weights? The answer may surprise you!

It is commonly thought that heavy weight training for lower reps builds more muscle than lower weights for higher reps. Many conversations at the gym may lead you to believe that light-weight training only results in “toning”, whereas the real “gains” only come from heavy-weight training.

Many athletes are afraid of losing their hard-earned work, while others are afraid of getting too bulky, so what’s the deal?

One of our favourite fitness experts Brad Schoenfeld shed some light on the controversial topic. Find out what he discovered below!


What The Study Found

Brad recently conducted a study looking at the difference between light- and heavy-load resistance training. More specifically, he wanted to look at the effect that this training would have on the muscles in experienced lifters. He recruited athletes and then assigned them to eight week resistance training programs with either light or heavy loads. Three things were measured: muscle growth, strength and endurance.

Many of the results were to be as expected. Heavy-load training was found to increase strength in the athletes, whereas light-load training was found to increase endurance. Although, when they looked at the muscle growth in the athletes, they found that both the light- and heavy-load training gained similar amounts of muscle. Say what?!

So contrary to common belief, the athletes had similar muscle gains in the eight weeks, regardless of their weight training.

The Plan

Light or heavy?

Mix it up! If your goal is to build as much muscle as possible, then you should utilize the best of both worlds. By training with both light- and heavy-loads, you will not only gain muscle, but also increase your overall endurance and strength.

Brad mentions that making the switch to light-load training is no joke. Initially, many people experience nausea and lightheadedness after working it into their fitness routine. Do what feels right for your body, don’t sweat it. If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to a Reflex team member for help!

Light vs. Heavy Load Training | Reflex Supplements

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  1. Schoenfeld, B. “Does Light Load Training Build Muscle in Experienced Lifters?” 2015. <https://www.lookgreatnaked.com/blog/does-light-load-training-build-muscle-in-experienced-lifters/>
  2. Schoenfeld, B., Peterson, M.D., Ogborn, D., Contreras, B., Sonmez, G.T. “Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men.” 2015. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25853914>
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