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The Benefits of Lifting Light Weights

woman curling small dumbell
Despite the widely-held belief that you need to use really heavy weights to build muscle, working out isn't just about how much you can lift.

by Steven Auger

 

We've got good news for you: You don't have to lift heavy to get great results! Despite the widely-held belief that you need to use really heavy weights to build muscle, working out isn't just about how much you can lift.

Lifting heavy weights absolutely occupies its own corner of the workout universe, but lifting light weights can offer an equally effective workout — especially when it comes to muscular endurance. Here's what you need to know.

Muscular Endurance vs. Muscular Strength

According to Healthy Living, muscular endurance is defined as a muscle's ability to lift weights repeatedly over time. Meanwhile, muscular strength is measured as the amount of force you can exert in one repetition.

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE) if a task calls for going all out in one motion, it will help build muscular strength; if it involves numerous repetitions of the motion, it will help build muscular endurance. Keep in mind that there is a great deal of crossover with these different motions.

5 Benefits of Lifting Light Weights

Now that you know the difference between muscular strength and endurance, let's dive a little deeper into the advantages of working out with lighter weights. Here are five benefits of low-weight, high-repetition workouts.

1. Enhanced Strength

A study performed at McMaster University compared the merits of lifting heavy and light weights. Interestingly, the results showed no significant strength differences between the group assigned to lift heavy weights and the group assigned to lift light weights.

What the study did reveal was that the key to gaining strength was to grow tired from your workout. Volunteers in both groups could only increase muscle size and strength by pushing themselves to almost total muscle fatigue.

Opt for a lighter weight (and more repetitions) next time you're in the gym. It's your effort that matters — not the weight of your dumbbells. If you're lifting lighter weights, you'll be able to work for longer periods before tiring.

2. Better Range of Motion

Oftentimes, the heavier the weight, the poorer the range of motion — and the less you will benefit. An advantage of using lighter weights is that they can enable you to perform the full range of motion for a specific movement.

A greater range of motion means increased flexibility and greater muscle strength. Lighter weights will also allow the targeted muscle to handle the load without needing help from compensatory muscles, ensuring you get the most out of your workout for that particular muscle group.

3. Reduced Chance of Injury

Opting for lighter weights can also reduce your chance of injury, as your body isn't tasked with lifting more weight than it can support. Gone are the days of dropping weights on your toes or overextending yourself! If you're using lighter weights, you can focus solely on form and technique — helping you avoid injury and benefit from your time in the gym.

4. Everyday Life Is Made Easier

Lifting light weights and completing multiple repetitions really cranks up your muscular endurance. Curious to lean how that benefits you, exactly? Well, it can make daily life easier.

Shape magazine defines muscular endurance as the body's ability to work for a prolonged period of time. This means the better your endurance, the less tired you will be (and the longer you will last), whether you're doing chores like cutting the grass, or having fun in a sports league or playing with your kids. You can also work on your muscular endurance by focusing on repeated strength movements.

5. No Need to Rely on Momentum

If you're lifting a weight that is too heavy, you're likely relying on momentum in addition to the strength of your muscles. While this may help you feel powerful, it won't help you build strength. When you work out with lighter weights, your muscles do most of the work — not momentum!

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.