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Lifting weights seems to be the holy grail of exercise at the moment. But, there’s a lot of conflicting evidence and advice surrounding the best approach: light weights and high reps (15 or more) or heavy weights and low reps (6 or fewer).

During this light weight vs. heavy weight debate, proponents of heavy lifting proclaim that the only way to improve your physique and reach your health goals is by hoisting heavy objects. But, according to a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, low-load resistance training and high-load resistance training both lead to muscular definition.

Each technique can make you stronger, but going light by using resistance bands or picking up ​3​-pound ​hand weights provides additional health benefits that lifting heavy weights fails to offer.

As a prime example of light resistance training, Tracy Anderson’s workouts rely on 3-pound or 5-pound ​hand weights. Her sessions target, activate and engage small muscles in the body, which tones, strengthens and lengthens them. Like Tracy, going light on your load is an effective way to improve your health and get results. Here’s why.

Decreases risk of injury

You might feel powerful and fierce when you decide to amp up your lifting game, but all that weight comes with a cost. Taking strength training to the extreme and lifting something beyond your body’s capacity means that you will eventually become fatigued. In order to sustain that weight, you will have to adjust your body’s alignment, which ends up compromising your form and increasing your chances of becoming injured. Plus, lifting heavy objects puts pressure on your joints.

By abandoning the 50-pound kettlebell swings and opting for the ankle weights, you’ll maintain proper form, so you can continue working toward your fitness goals without needing to take time off from the gym. Going light also means you can perform the full range of motion and concentrate on your posture, so you end up doing the exercises correctly, targeting the correct muscles and achieving muscle tone.

Builds endurance

If you’re looking for a leaner frame and a stronger stamina, light weights and high reps is your best bet. Using a light ​hand weight during your strength training workouts increases your muscular endurance whereas the heavier alternative builds muscular strength, which increases the size of your muscles. When you go light with sustained, smaller movements, you develop your slow-twitch muscle fibers and use more aerobic energy.

Improves your physique

Have you ever noticed how your breath quickens and your muscles ache when you pulse a 3-pound ​hand weight while doing shoulder presses? Barre, pilates and spinning classes all use light weights, and there’s a reason for that. Lifting lightly over an extended period of time increases your heart rate, revs up your metabolism and helps you lean out without bulking. You pulse, lift and press until your muscles burn and shake, so you’ll continue to burn calories and melt fat long after the workout is over. While heavy resistance training focuses on increasing muscle mass, lighter weights elongate and tone your muscles.

Activates the right muscles

If you usually grab the 30-pounders off the dumbbell rack, you might not target the muscle that you intended to work. When you work out with weights that are heavier than you can properly lift, you rely on momentum rather than strength to complete the exercise. The larger muscles in your body take over to help you lift that mass, which defeats the purpose of doing that exercise in the first place. But, when you use lighter weights to complete that same exercise, you activate and engage the smaller muscles rather than relying on those large muscle groups to do the work. So, you’ll tone up those hard-to-reach spots that many compound exercises overlook.

Appeals to a larger demographic

There’s a pervasive myth that strength training is only for bodybuilders who want to increase in size and gain muscle. This stereotype intimidates and deters many groups of people, so they shy away from incorporating strength training into their fitness routine and miss out on the benefits. For the novice, older adults or those with joint problems, training with light weights is a more promising option. These groups of people are less experienced and less confident with heavy loads, so reaching for the light weights will motivate them to stick with the exercise program and train more frequently so that they can reach their goals.

Categorized under Fitness