Do Low-Weight, High-Rep Workouts Build Muscle?
In the 1970s, health gyms, spas and clubs began to thrive. Personal Training became available to the general public. Who were the first Personal Trainers? Guys in gyms that other men wanted to look like. The male clients ended up doing the same bodybuilding workouts as their trainers, whether or not it was best for them.
Women joined health clubs in droves in the 1980s. The ‘80s spawned aerobics and group exercise classes. Anyone could turn on the television in the morning and perform a workout with the smiling ladies on the screen.
Most women say, “I don’t want to bulk up.” So, they prescribe to the attitude of lightweight, high rep exercises. Men, on the other hand, still want to gain mass and prescribe to the, “lift big to be big” theory. Is either train of thought correct? No.
Increasing the density of muscle fibers is known as hypertrophy. Hypertrophy occurs when an exercise is performed with 30 to 70 seconds of time under tension. Therefore, when guys lift for maximum, one repetition exercises, the muscles do not have time under tension of 30 to 70 seconds. While this high weigh to failure set increases strength at the neurological level, it does not increase the size of muscles.
When a woman picks a low weight and performs 15 to 25 repetitions, how long is the time under tension? The time under tension is usually between 30 and 50 seconds, falling under the hypertrophy category. Therefore, low-weight, high-rep workouts build muscle.
Bodybuilders at the gym may look like they are lifting a ton of weight, but the weight is relative. Their main goal is hypertrophy. They want to build muscle. Time their sets and they will be between 30 to 70 seconds, guaranteed.
So if the goal is weight loss, what should a person do? Weight loss occurs when more calories are expended than consumed. The goal of any weight loss workout should be burning calories.
Total calories burned are based on a person’s weight and heart rate. During a single workout, a person’s weight is not going to change significantly but their heart rate is. A weight-loss workout will be full of exercises that increase heart rate. The best types of exercises to do this are multi-joint exercises, like squatting and pressing movements. Even better, combine a squat with an overhead press. This will rapidly increase heart rate and caloric expenditure. Circuits work also but the exercises in the circuit should be multi-joint (shoulder/elbow, hip/knee).
A weight loss workout should not be full of biceps curls, leg extensions and calf raises with two minutes rest in-between sets. Those exercises do not increase heart rate enough to burn the calories needed for weight loss.
Weight loss workouts should not be about lightweight, high repetition exercises. Instead, they should concentrate on multi-joint exercises with 20 seconds to one-minute rest in-between sets.
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