Muscle mass: to gain muscle, it is better to lift more small weights

Recent research shows that adopting a weightlifting methodology of lifting heavy weights to build muscle is not the best way. Smaller weights lifted in greater numbers do better for muscle mass gain than large weights.

Lifting large masses of cast iron would not be the only way to gain muscle mass, according to the results of a study conducted by McMaster University. It shows that working the muscles by lifting light weights many times is just as effective as lifting heavy weights less repeatedly.

From small weights to exhaustion

In this study, two groups of experienced male weightlifters followed a protocol of 12 weeks soliciting the whole body. One group lifted lighter weights (≥50% of maximal strength ) at a rate of 25 to 25 reps per set, while the other group lifted heavier weights (≥93% of maximum strength) at the rate of 8 to 20 repeats.

Both groups lifted the weights until they reached their breaking point. The study authors observed that muscle gain and muscle fiber size were virtually the same in both groups. They also found that it is not really the heaviness of the weight lifted that counts, but the fact of continuing the effort until exhaustion.

This should reconcile amateur athletes with the practice of bodybuilding!


Morton RW et al.Neither load nor systemic hormones determine resistance training-mediated hypertrophy or strength gains in resistance-trained young men J Appl Physiol. 121: 129-138.

Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES can the information given replace the advice of a health professional.

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