Less Weight, More Reps Builds Muscle

If you are looking to build muscle light weights and more reps are the way to go.

Portrait of a smiling young woman lifting dumbbell weights in a bright gym

Medically reviewed in January 2020

Updated on February 1, 2021

Don't knock yourself out with super-heavy lifting. You can make your muscles bigger and stronger by pumping the little stuff.  

You just have to lift it more times. Think: less weight, more reps. In a study, researchers found that the men who did 24 leg extensions with lighter weights built just as much muscle as the men who did 5 reps with heavier weights. 

Flex your muscle 
Whether you like big weights or little ones, the key seems to be lifting them to the point of fatigue. That's important in building more muscle mass, researchers note. And strength training that combines light weights and more reps is a great way to stimulate those muscle cells to build more tissue. That's all the more important as we get older, because our bodies tend to lose muscle with age. But some of us just aren't up for power lifting.  

Be a lightweight 
Still, New Year's resolutions aside, don't dive headfirst into serious strength training if your body is not used to exercise. It's a perfect formula for injury—which will get you nowhere fast on the path to fitness. So, talk with your healthcare provider about a strength-training program that will gradually get you into shape.

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