Heavy Vs Light Weights Pt 1 – Wednesday Wisdom

Building or increasing lean muscle mass, is an important goal for many clients in the fitness industry. However, many of the well established training routines that lead to these goals, are often not compatible an environment with limited strength training equipment. Therefore, an important question that should be asked is there another training method that can be used to increase lean muscle mass without heavy loads and a large variety of free weights and pin-loaded machines? A growing body of research now suggests, lower load, higher resistance training exercise can achieve similar if not greater increases in lean muscle mass in both trained and untrained populations. Over the next month, we will review a number of these studies with the aim of identifying the most suitable low load, higher repetition programs that can be used in an environment with a limited amount of free weights and pin loaded machines.

The Study

                         Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise in Young Men

Why they did it: 15 recreationally active, younger men performed four sets of a single-leg, leg extension exercise at either 90% of 1RM until fatigue or 30% of 1RM until fatigue. Three minutes rest periods were provided between each set.

What they measured: Protein synthetic rates were measured 4 and 24 hours post exercise.

How they did it: As outlined in the table below, the loads lifted, repetitions performed, volume load (sets x reps) and time under tension were monitored and recorded by the researchers.

What they found: The lower load, higher repetition sets were more effective at increasing muscle protein synthetic rates. Interestingly, the researchers also observed significant increases in mitochondrial protein synthetic rates as well. Which suggests training with lighter weights may also have benefits for metabolic conditioning and local muscular endurance training. Short term changes in muscle protein synthetic rates, predict training induced changes in lean muscle mass.  

What does this mean: Training with lighter weights and higher repetitions can effectively increase lean muscle mass in recreationally active men. Some important caveats should be applied to these findings, which include the results of this study are specific to the population (younger men) and to the exercise stimulus, which was a single leg, leg extension.  Training to fatigue also appears to be an important component of these findings. Individuals should perform each set until concentric failure and aim to complete somewhere between 20-30 repetitions with a load that is approximately 30% of 1RM 

Reference: Marín, P. J., García-Gutiérrez, M. T., Da Silva-Grigoletto, M. E., & Hazell, T. J. (2015). The addition of synchronous whole-body vibration to battling rope exercise increases skeletal muscle activity. Journal of musculoskeletal & neuronal interactions, 15(3), 240.

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