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5 Reasons You Should Train with Both Light and Heavy Weights

  May 5th, 2012

Why You Should Train with Both Light and Heavy Weights

Training with heavy weights is the most effective way to build muscle mass, period. That being said, I learned a long time ago that there are a number of benefits that can be gained from training with lighter weights for a higher number of reps.


In other words, if you train heavy all the time you’ll end up cheating yourself out of getting the best gains possible.


Let’s look at 5 reasons why periodically mixing in some lightweight training is a good idea…


Reason #1: A Good Muscle Pump Feels Incredible

Training heavy is the best way to overload most muscles in the body. But the low amount of reps associated with training heavy doesn’t allow for the kind of high rep volumes necessary for a significant increase in blood flow to the targeted muscles.


This inrush of red blood cells to the muscles being trained causes a tightness and swelling known as “the pump”.


The pump causes the muscles to feel hard to the touch and leads to increased vascularity, which correlates to the muscles swelling and having enhanced vein protrusion.


All of these things look and feel great! Unfortunately, a good muscle pump only lasts for an hour or so.


Still, few things compare to having your muscles looking swollen and veiny, while feeling rock hard during an intense training session.


Reason #2: Training Light Gives Your Tendons a Break

Heavy lifting is strenuous on the body’s tendons. The strain heavy lifting places on your tendons is exactly why you don’t want to max out on any lift more frequently than every 4 weeks and is also as good a reason as any to mix in some higher rep training every 2-4 weeks.


I have witnessed several individuals defy this rule only to end up with a case of tendonitis in their wrists, elbows or elsewhere, preventing them from training for several weeks while they allow their tendons to heal.


The reason lifters typically ignore lifting light altogether is because they believe the greatest muscle gains are to be had by lifting heavy.


As I’m about to explain, this isn’t necessarily the case…


Reason #3: Switching Rep Volume Allows for Faster Muscle Hypertrophy

I cover the topic of muscle hypertrophy in great detail within another article (click here to read my article dedicated to muscle hypertrophy), but I want to briefly reiterate the muscle building benefits of training with both light and heavy weights.


It is true that training with heavy weights that cause failure within 4-6 reps will lead to the fastest gains in muscle mass.


You must always keep in mind that the addition of muscle mass is just one type of muscle hypertrophy.


The other kind of hypertrophy is best achieved with lighter weights that cause failure in the ballpark of 7-12 reps and relates to increasing the volume of your muscle cells. So, while you aren’t actually adding mass with this type of high rep induced hypertrophy, it does make your muscles larger.


If you want to maximize your gains in both size and strength, it’s absolutely imperative that you train your muscles in such a way to induce mass building hypertrophy, along with muscle volume hypertrophy.


The best way to do this is by implementing some mix of heavy and light weight training.


Reason #4: Mixing Your Weights Provides You a Chance to Work on Proper Form

It’s easy to get so caught up in lifting heavier weights for more reps that we get sloppy on our form and actually reduce our ability to target the muscles we’re intending to train. While the goal should be to lift as much weight as possible to ensure that we’re applying maximum muscle intensity, it should never come at the expense of sacrificing proper form.


Occasionally lifting with lighter weights allows us to reflect on the form we’re using and make the necessary adjustments to ensure that we’re not unintentionally taking the stimulation of the lift off the muscles we’re trying to target by transferring it to cursory muscles.


Also, improper form is the cause of most injuries that happen in the weight room. So take the opportunity while lifting lighter weights to get your form down. It will pay dividends in the long run!


Reason #5: Changing Weights Keeps Your Training New and Exciting

Doing the same lifts for the same number of reps can become monotonous in a hurry. Mixing up the weights you’re using and, consequently, the number of reps you’re performing, is a great way to keep things from becoming mind-numbingly boring.


You wouldn’t think that something as simple as using lighter weights would make a difference in your enthusiasm for training, but it really does have a profound impact.


If you’ve been training with a relatively consistent number of reps for any length of time, it’s time to change things up for a week or two.


Get a good muscle pump, give your tendons a break, take advantage of both types of muscular hypertrophy, get your form right and keep things new and exciting.


You would be a fool not to!



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