No need to strain yourself with back-breaking weight-lifting sessions involving heavy barbells. Muscle mass can be achieved just as successfully using small weights, a new study shows.
The research revealed a similar degree of muscle-building can be achieved by using lighter weights as with bulkier ones, suggesting the secret to building muscle mass is to pump iron until you reach muscle fatigue.
"Rather than grunting and straining to lift heavy weights, you can grab something much lighter but you have to lift it until you can't lift it anymore," study researcher Stuart Phillips, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, said in a statement. "We're convinced that growing muscle means stimulating your muscle to make new muscle proteins, a process in the body that over time accumulates into bigger muscles."
The findings are published online Aug. 9 in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) and involved 15 healthy mean with an average age of 21. The men had to lift light weights (30 percent of what the participant could lift) and heavy weights (90 percent of the subject's best lift) with varying repetitions.
Participants were able to lift the heavy weights in the 80-to-90 percent range from five to 10 times before fatigue set in. At 30 percent, subjects could lift that weight at least 24 times before they felt fatigue, according to lead study researcher Nicholas Burd, a doctoral student at McMaster University.
"We're excited to see where this new paradigm will lead," Phillips said. He noted that while the study's findings have practical significance for gym enthusiasts, they are especially important to people with compromised skeletal muscle mass, such as the elderly, patients with cancer, or those who are recovering from trauma, surgery and even stroke.
However, while light weightlifting may help people attain the same overall results when it comes to muscle mass, it won't provide the same endorphins boost as lifting heavy weights, research has shown.