Building muscles is not just about lifting the heavy weights. Of course you have to lift heavier weights for your muscle fibers to be recruited in the action, and thus enlarge. However, it’s possible to begin this process without relying on such heavy weights.

For starters you will have to choose a pair of light weights – free weight dumbbells are your best bet. A study in McMaster University proposes just that, having found that working with lighter weights gets you the same net result, when you fatigue your muscles.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, assigned healthy men to one of three different exercise groups with different sets and percentage of one-rep maximal strength (the max weight you can lift in a single rep). After 10 weeks of thrice-weekly exercise, each group saw significant a gain in muscle volume as expected due to the training. The doctors measured this using MRI and found no difference among the groups.

Particularly, they found greater protein synthesis with three sets compared to one at a higher one-rep max percentage. Essentially, it means you could increase the size of your muscles by lifting at 30% of your one-rep max until you are fatigued.

Add in a weight or kettleball to increase the intensity. Make sure you are squatting well below the knee line in a Sumo Squat (
Add in a weight or kettleball and slow down your movements to increase the intensity of your squats (

The most brilliant thing about this new study is it makes it easier for working professionals to get a muscle-building workout while on the go, or even for a home gym to suffice for this goal. Of course, if you want to be able to lift heavier weights, you are still going to have to go to the gym. But home workouts could just have received their biggest endorsement with this research. It must be noted that this is not an end-all remedy for getting bigger muscles. Isotonic muscle strength still increases the most with heavier weights, but that light dumbbell is not a timid weapon after all.

Another way to get the most out of light weights is to make them feel heavy. Slow down your movements – sounds easier than it is – and adjust tempo according to your goal.  Give your core a great workout too by removing one hand or leg out of the equation. This means your body is relying on your core for balance. You don’t need much weight to make such unilateral exercises feel more intense and heavy.

Workouts generally last from 5 to 25 minutes (Image: Mid Coast Crossfit)
Use dumbbells to enhance intensity of regular bodyweight workouts (Image: Mid Coast Crossfit)

At mobiefit, we love making the most out of any given fitness situation, and this research makes lives easier for stay-at-home moms or those who cannot venture out to mega gyms. It’s certainly an interesting perspective for those averse to the heavy weight section.

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