LIGHT WEIGHTS OR HEAVY WEIGHTS, WHICH ARE BETTER FOR BULKING UP?

LIGHT WEIGHTS OR HEAVY WEIGHTS, WHICH ARE BETTER FOR BULKING UP?

The usual advice when it comes to weights is straightforward. To tone up, use light weights and more reps. To bulk up and build muscle, use heavy weights and fewer reps.

New research is showing that this trusted fitness mantra may need some tweaking. What’s going on?

1.      WHAT MAKES MUSCLES GROW?

Building up muscles is actually an exercise in controlled damage. The skeletal muscles are made of thousands of fibres, linked by connective tissue which carries blood supply and connects muscles to bones.

There are thought to be two types of muscle fibres. Type 1 are ‘slow twitch’ for endurance, and type 2 are ‘fast twitch’ for anaerobic and explosive effort.

For most people, the number of muscle fibres is fixed, but their size can be increased. This mechanism is stimulated by loading the muscle, which causes tiny tears in the fibres.

2.      I’M TOLD THAT REST IS ALSO ESSENTIAL – WHY IS THAT?

Muscles actually grow when you stop working out. As you rest, the muscle fibres are repaired and will increase in size. To do this, the body needs a good dose of protein as well as a correct balance of other nutrients.

So you need to give your muscles time to recover in order to make them bigger.

3.      SO FAR SO GOOD – NOW WHAT SIZE WEIGHTS SHOULD I USE?

Here’s the clever bit.  It is the type 2 fibres that have the most potential for growth, but to do that you need to activate them.

The body uses the type 1 fibres first, and it is only when fatigue sets in that the type 2 fibres get involved.

So the type 2 fibres can be activated either by short sessions with heavy weights or longer sessions with lighter weights.

A small study has shown that either method will work, although bigger weights will build more strength.

Training to fatigue is the key. To do this, stop counting your reps and keep going to the ‘AMAP’ point. That stands for ‘As Many as Possible’ - a good target!

As always, look to your technique, choose kit that works for you and take advice from the professionals.

 

 


The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.

Comments

craig t.
26 October 2016

craig t.

Very useful information, thanks. Good to remember that muscles grow when you rest, so I don't feel I need to work at it all the time.

Daniel M.
13 October 2016

Daniel M.

Nice article, I like it. It's best to keep it simple nowadays, for some reason, there are many many conflicting theories and myths in the fitness industry and it just confuses the hell out of people. "As many as possible" is a nice way of putting, just work hard and eat right! Stop worrying about reps etc. in fine detail.

Matthew C.
31 August 2016

Matthew C.

HI Sasha, thanks for the reply. not sure where I got short and long twitch from! It was stuck in my memory from years ago and I'd never questioned it!

Sasha B.
30 August 2016

Sasha B.

Hi Matthew - type 1 fibres are the same as slow twitch fibres, and type 2 are fast twitch. Not short and long twitch!!

Matthew C.
30 August 2016

Matthew C.

I have heard of short twitch fibres and long twitch fibres. is this the same thing as type 1 and type 2?

Matthew C.
28 August 2016

Matthew C.

This is great information. I don't think I have ever heard the IMAP acronym before, but I don't think I will forget this simple approach to exercise now.

Tom D.
25 August 2016

Tom D.

I always try to work towards a new PB each session. This could be in reps or this could be in a heavier weight. I always want to increase what I can lift and like the competition with myself to try and lift heavier. Good to know that when I plateau and have a few off-weeks of no increases I'm still building muscle though.

Phillip H.
25 August 2016

Phillip H.

well I never - even the most holy grail of fitness truths may not be 100% accurate! Reassuring to know that I'm not wasting time with lighter weights.

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