Resistance training is an essential part of a workout routine. However, many shy away from it due to the fear of building up too much muscle mass. That said, lifting weights does not have to lead to massive muscles, if you use the right methods. Low weight high reps offer an alternative to the standard high-intensity lifting that is associated with bulking up. The result, then, is a slimming down and becoming more toned.
Decreasing the weight you lift can still help you build muscle. But you should note that you won’t achieve the same results as high weight low reps. You should be able to enjoy benefits such as decreasing body fat, improving muscle strength, and developing muscle endurance. Because it uses a lighter load, using higher repetitions will require more motivation and effort from you to reach a level of exhaustion, but the results will be well worth it.
Today we will explore the benefits of high rep low weight exercises. And also, discuss what they are good for as part of your workout routine. We will also explain how you can use them to build muscle, why they’re good for cutting, and if you can use them daily. Read on for everything you need to know about what this beneficial weightlifting method can do for you.
What Is Low Weight High Reps Good For?
High reps low weight is an excellent alternative to high weight low reps when someone is worried about bulking up. Those who are resistant to the concept of resistance training have the fear that those exercises will result in the kind of extreme muscle building that they are not interested in achieving.
This combination of high volume and low weight will lead to the development of improved muscle endurance, increased muscle strength, and decreased body fat while not increasing body mass. However, it is important to note that the increase in muscle strength will not be as profound as that achieved with high weight low reps.
Those who are no longer conditioned or inexperienced with resistance training will benefit most from high reps low weight workouts. Training with high repetitions offers the same strength results and endurance benefits that come from moderate and low repetition workouts. Eventually, once they establish their strength training foundation, increasing the weight load may be essential to increase their progress.
Additionally, using a lower weight with higher repetitions is an excellent way to perform resistance training while reducing the risk of injury. Trained athletes should mix in days with low weight high reps to ensure they maximize their workout routines (14).
Low weight high reps are most beneficial for those who are seeking to trim down and tone up. Regardless of your current size and weight, increasing repetitions and lowering the weight you are lifting is an excellent routine for achieving this goal (11).
Injured athletes can also benefit from performing these exercises, as they will help build the muscles around injured joints. The lighter weight reduces the risk of further injury while slowly rebuilding the muscles to help recover the lost strength caused by the injury. Because of this, it is highly effective as part of a treatment regimen for injuries (6).
Can You Still Build Muscle With Low Weight High Reps?
Performing low reps high weight is the most effective exercise method to improve and maintain bone health. Combining high-intensity resistance training with impact training elicits the best results.
High-intensity lifting also leads to significant improvements in muscle mass or hypertrophy. Lifting at higher loads is essential to maximizing muscular strength improvements. Knowing these benefits of high weight low reps, you may be curious about what you can get from lightening the load and increasing your repetitions (7).
A 2016 study of subjects with a minimum of two years experience in weightlifting demonstrated the similarity in building muscle strength between low weight high reps and high weight low reps. At the culmination of the 12-week study, both test groups had developed the same level of muscle mass increase, showing that either option is effective for building muscle (9).
However, those performing low reps high weight will find that they do not need to reach failure to achieve their muscle-building goals. For the workout to be as successful, those completing high reps low weight workouts will need to lift until failure, which means reaching a state of exhaustion where they cannot complete another repetition. This requirement demonstrates that there is significantly more effort required for high-rep workouts.
Additionally, a one-hour workout using lighter weights will burn approximately 300 calories. A workout session that involves heavier weights and longer rest periods will ultimately burn around the same number of calories. Therefore, in terms of calorie burning during the workout, the two methods are roughly equal.
Low-load training also requires significant effort to obtain results. Lifting lighter weights until the point of exhaustion takes much more energy than lifting heavier weights because of the number of times you must perform the action to reach that state. For someone to do this, they must have a high level of motivation and an ability to withstand a lot of discomfort (7).
Is High Reps Low Weight Good for Cutting?
Cutting is when someone chooses to eat at a calorie deficit to lose body fat while maintaining muscle mass. Resistance training is important during this process to help with muscle maintenance; however, lifting at the same intensity as before may not be possible.
Without the fuel from your regular caloric intake, you may feel sluggish and not have the physical energy you once had to lift the higher weight. Despite resistance training, there is still the potential to lose muscle mass. Additionally, your bone density may be negatively affected, and your sleep quality decreased (3).
Because of this, switching things up to using high reps with low weight could be the ideal solution. With your reduced energy levels, the lower weights will be best for your lifting capabilities and for preventing accidents and injuries. By reducing the weight you normally lift, you won’t risk overextending your muscles; however, you can still get a powerful workout by maximizing the number of repetitions you can complete with the lighter weights.
The exercises will also work to maintain your muscle mass, preventing you from losing a significant portion of it due to your caloric deficit. However, you may not experience much muscle building during this period due to the cutting back on calories. Additionally, these exercises will promote fat burn, supporting the cutting process of reducing body fat. The combination can help you achieve your weight loss goals more efficiently.
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Can You Do Low Weight High Reps Every Day?
Strength training should be performed so that you work on every major muscle group twice weekly. However, even with high rep low weight lifting exercises, you should not lift every single day of the week. You need rest days to heal the microscopic tears in your muscle fibers that result from your workout sessions. Not taking the time to rest can ultimately result in injury.
For all the days you perform strength training, you can use high rep low weight exercises. In combination with a healthy, reduced-calorie diet, you’ll see results that lead to a sleeker physique and more toned muscles (4).
The Difference Between Lifting Light and Lifting Heavy
The primary difference in weight is clear between the two forms of lifting. But several other differences exist that produce different results in those performing resistance training exercises.
Low weight with high repetition is ideal for those who want to have defined and toned lean muscle. This type of exercise creates lactic acid burns in the focused muscle groups. This burn creates a hormonal reaction that continues for several days post-workout. Essentially, when you work out until your muscles burn and shake with high reps low weight, the result is a fat burn that lasts for days following your workout, leading to an increase in energy.
High weight low reps builds strength. It’s the ideal option for those looking to bulk up more effectively. However, to get the most out of this, you will need to be in a calorie surplus. You will need to consume more than you burn. This surplus is not a requirement for high reps low weight. The goal is not bulking up when performing those exercises.
Low weight high repetition typically results in shorter rest and recovery periods. With this method, you’re not likely to see a massive increase in muscular strength or build significantly bigger muscles. With high weight low reps, you’ll see more improvement in the strength and size of muscles while also more significantly decreasing body fat (8).
The Bottom Line
Many associate resistance training with high weight low reps. But you can get an effective workout from low weight high reps, achieving a slimmed-down and toned body. You can also build muscle mass by lifting light weights to a state of exhaustion, but note that you will not bulk up as with higher weights.
High reps low weight is very effective for burning calories and fat. The resulting fat burn from a strength-training session using this strategy will last for several days post-workout, increasing your results. It’s also effective for cutting because the lower weight is easier to lift when your energy is decreased from a reduced calorie intake. You will continue to maintain muscle mass and perform strength training exercises.
While you should take a day of rest once weekly, the other days are safe to regularly perform high reps low weight exercises. Combining these exercises with a healthy diet will help you achieve a slimmer, more toned physique. However, low weight high reps requires a lot of dedication, motivation, and the ability to conquer the uncomfortable. Do you have what it takes to incorporate this into your workout routine?
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 6 Exercises Using Low Weight and High Reps (2020, healthline.com)
- 6 Surprising Reasons You’re Not Building Muscle (2017, nbcnews.com)
- Bulking vs. Cutting: Pros, Cons, and Comparison (2021, healthline.com)
- Can You Lift Light Weights Daily to Lose Weight? (2019, livestrong.com)
- Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strenght and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men (2015, journals.lww.com)
- High Reps With Low Weights Build Muscle, Too (2012, hss.edu)
- Lift heavy or smaller weights with high reps? It all depends on your goal (2022, unsw.edu.au)
- Lifting heavy or light weights will give you different results – here’s how to know which ones to use (2019, insider.com)
- Neither load nor systemic hormones determine resistance training-mediated hypertrophy or strength gains in resistance-trained young men (2016, journals.physiology.org)
- Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults (2009, journals.lww.com)
- Strength training 101: Is it better to lift heavier weights or do more reps? (2022, today.com)
- Time under tension: Here’s how it actually affects muscle growth (2022, livescience.com)
- Want to Build Muscle? Light Weights Will Do (2010, webmd.com)
- What Are the Benefits of High Reps? (n.d., livestrong.com)