In traditional training programs for weight gain, the idea of maximum load dominates. That is, when performing an exercise, you determine the maximum allowable weight that you can lift, and then work with 80-90% of this value until your muscles come to a state of absolute fatigue.
Practice on theory
Professor of Kinesiology (the science of muscle movement) Stuart Phillips devoted a huge part of his life to studying the effect of various exercises on muscles. At the same time, the scientist noticed that the generally accepted “need” to lift a lot of weight in training makes them tedious and discourages some people from practicing fitness. Either of altruistic motives, or because Phillips himself was too lazy to lift large weights, but the professor decided to tackle this issue and, together with his colleagues, began to study the effects of another type of training, which uses lighter weights for the main work, but with more repetitions.
Phillips gathered several volunteers, some of whom had to follow the traditional regime of heavy weights, while others used lighter weights in their workouts. The results, published by scientists since 2010, revealed that the indicators for the two groups of subjects were comparable.
Subsequently, Phillips recognized the probable error of this experiment, since all the volunteers were newcomers and had not been engaged in fitness before. Therefore, any physical activity should have led to an increase in muscle volume, and it was impossible to determine the greater efficiency of a particular method to the exact extent.
Therefore, it was decided to conduct a new study, but this time to attract 49 young people who had at least one year’s experience in fitness. The Canadian Scientific Council on Natural Sciences and Engineering Research joined the experiment, and was the main sponsor of the study.
One group, as before, was ordered to follow the standard program, in which the volume of loads was set at 75-90% of the maximum available weight. The average number of repetitions when performing exercises was 10. The second group worked on a lightweight (in the literal sense of the word) system. Their weight was 30-50% of the maximum, and the average number of repetitions increased to 25.
All volunteers performed three types of exercises four times a week for 12 weeks. Then, in the laboratories, subjects were subjected to a thorough physiological examination, during which their muscle strength, volume, hormone levels, and general health were measured.
The result was unequivocal: there were no significant differences between the two groups. All participants, regardless of the severity of the loads, acquired the same size of muscles. Another interesting fact is that scientists have not found any connection between changes in testosterone levels and muscle gains. All men involved in the experiment showed an increase in sex hormones after performing physical exertion, but this growth did not proportionally correlate with an increase in strength indicators.
At the same time, Phillips and his colleagues noted the importance of loads for the growth of muscle volume. Volunteers of both groups had to reach maximum fatigue so that the muscle mass increased in size.
This experiment confirms the fact that the growth of connective tissue in the muscles occurs under the influence of large loads. However, these data do not prove that one approach, with the lifting of large weights, is necessarily better than the other, where the weight of the shells may be less. As Phillips says: “Some people are much easier and less intimidating to work with light weights.” Even for the sake of this, you will have to do more repetitions and spend more time on training. According to the scientist, this approach is less conducive to injuries, although this argument has not yet been scientifically confirmed.
According to this study, scientists did not set out to question the effectiveness of one of the methods of working with heavy weights. The task of Phillips rather was to dispel the myth of the senselessness of work with small weights and show the wide possibilities of strength exercises for people of any experience and any anthropometric base. In the end, the degree of load is in the zeal, and the magnitude of the weight affects only the duration of the training. And the choice here can not be wrong.