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Study Reveals High Reps/Low Weight Effective in Building Muscle

Don’t scoff at that dude at the gym doing dumbbell bicep curls with five-pound weights. While it may take him quite a bit longer to work out to fatigue – you’ll probably have showered, driven home, finished your protein shake and read all the new articles at TSB by the time he’s hit his third set: His routine is just as effective in building muscle as that of the guy lifting a crap-ton of weight at low reps.

Suck it up!

According to a recent study by Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands set to appear in the June issue of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, high reps with low weight are said to be just as effective in building muscle as low reps with high weight. Nicholas Burd, PhD, one of the researchers, believes that you’re really no better pulling a fire truckthan you are lifting dumbbells a zillion times (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.)

“There is nothing magical about heavy weights beyond the fact that they make you work hard,” said Burd.

For those of us who can’t bench-press 1,000 pounds (hand raised) this study comes as a relief. Seeing guys at the gym lifting weight you can’t even fathom can make you feel like you’re not accomplishing anything. I used to go to the gym and feel crummy for not being able to lift half the weight the dude next to me was lifting with ease. This study proves that low weight/high reppers are at no disadvantage, so long as they work out to fatigue. You’ve got to feel it. If you aren’t really pushing through those last two or three reps, you’re not going to see results.

To all the high weight/low reppers calling bullshit, listen up. Maastrict University’s study doesn’t reveal anything bad about high weight/low reps. Burd and the other researchers do feel, however, that a low weight/high rep routine works best for those recovering from an injury and/or without access to heavy weights.

No matter which method you prefer, you owe it to yourself to mix up your routine and shock your body now and then. If you’re used to high weight/low reps, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try low weight/high reps and give your body a much-needed ass-kicking. That and it’s a good way to keep from getting bored doing the same workout all the time.

Whether you’re a weightlifting noob or a seasoned bench-presser, a low weight/high rep workout is going to increase your muscle growth. It might take more time (especially if you’re using your girlfriend’s hot pink 2.5 pound dumbbells), but you’re sure to see results. Execute each movement with proper form and energy and your body will respond in due time. Don’t be put off by those dudes lifting seemingly impossible amounts of weight. So long as you really feel it after each workout, you’re making progress. Lift your five-pounders with pride!

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About John Brhel John Brhel is a freelance writer from upstate New York that enjoys picking apart life's idiosyncrasies and listening to Huey Lewis & the News.

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