Walk into any gym, and it’s easy to get intimidated once you near the weight rack. To your left, a man’s reaching for 40-pound dumbbells. To your right, someone else is deadlifting a 200-pound barbell. Newsflash: You don’t need to lift crazy heavy weights to see monumental changes in your body. In fact, lighter weights can be just as effective as heavy ones, according to one McMaster University study.
As a part of their research, Canadian doctors followed 49 men through a strength-training program. Half of the group was tasked with lifting heavier weights that caused them to fatigue after performing 10 reps. The other group went lighter, capable of completing around 25 reps before failure. Both groups trained four times per week for 12 weeks. The team found each group had similar gains and saw improvements of strength regardless of which weights they were using.
But there are plenty of other reasons to lift light weights, aside from gains galore. Experts offer four benefits of lifting light weights:
Of course strength training is good for muscles, but it also helps your bone density, according to Dr. Cordelia Carter, director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at NYU Langone Health. “When a bone is loaded by weight-bearing activity (light-weight strength training included), it gets stronger so that it can withstand the additional stress,” she says. “This is why strength training is recommended for people as they get older, as a way to mitigate age-related bone loss and the associated risk of fragility fracture.” Plus, building a strong bone bank when you’re young may also be a way to protect against osteoporosis and fracture as we age.
A MOOD BOOST
Ever feel super stressed, then tackle a workout and feel like a major weight has been lifted off your shoulders? Well, lifting weights can help negate anxiety and depression, according to one University of South Florida study.
When you find something you’re good at, sometimes it’s hard to deviate from your new normal. For example: Runners can become better runners by doing an activity other than running, like participating in weight training and adding variety into their routine that might otherwise put an athlete at risk for overuse injuries. “Building strength in the core muscles and the entire kinetic chain may improve athletic performance as well as athletic longevity by playing a role in injury prevention,” says Carter.
BETTER MUSCULAR ENDURANCE
“The most notable physical benefits to training with light weights is muscular endurance and toning,” says Kara Liotta, creative director at FlyBarre, the popular sculpting class from the FlyWheel Spin empire. Inside of FlyBarre, class-goers often do tiny movements (Think: A plie pulse) for 20+ reps at a time.