Which is more effective for strength gains? Heavy weights and low repetitions or Low weights and high repetitions. Think Crossfit verses Barre Method. I have to admit that I was skeptical that light weights for a ton of repetitions could create strength gains. However I will admit that I have heard people swear that Barre classes have sculpted their bodies better than other classes. So there must be something to it!
Well a study published in July states that both will definitely cause increases in strength! You can lift heavy weights at low repetitions to gain strength and you can lift light weights at high repetitions to gain strength. You can do Barre Method or Cross Fit and you will see results.
Specifically the study noted the following:
Both groups had practically the same increases in their 1 Rep Max for all the exercises performed.
-The only exercise exception, was the bench press, it performed better with the lower repetitions.
Lean Body Mass (not fat and not bone) increased similarly in both groups
Hormonal responses were basically the same in both groups
The one big thing that must be understood about this study is that both groups reached muscle fatigue! This is the key to gaining strength! You must choose a weight or exercise that allows you to be challenged enough that you get to muscle fatigue (volitional failure) before the end of the set. This can be 5lbs and 30 bicep curls or it could be 15lbs and 15 bicep curls. It could be 50 body weight squats or it could be a 120lb barbell squat for 10 reps. Do you see the pattern? Challenge yourself!
So what do you enjoy? What feels right to you? Do you enjoy lifting heavy and the sense of accomplishment of 50lbs verses 5lbs? Do you feel more comfortable with lighter weights for many repetitions? Maybe you feel less likely to injure yourself with lighter weights, or you feel like your form is better. Try both. Think about how each might benefit you. I think that lifting heavy has given me strength for lifting heavy furniture and difficult yard work, and confidence like I’ve never had before. But I think that some exercises that I do with light weights for higher repetitions have benefited me in different ways. My posture has greatly benefited from upper back exercises where I try for 20-30 repetitions instead of using a heavy weight and going for 8-12 repetitions.
So what is my plan? I’m going to try adding in some more of the lower weight higher repetition sets. I like the balance of knowing I have the strength and the endurance and well rounded routine. So I encourage you to try some different workouts. Try some new classes. Listen to your body and push all the way to muscle fatigue. You should feel a significant burn. You should feel like you cannot do another repetition with good form. It should be a challenge!
Have you tried both Barre and Crossfit? I’d love to know what you think. Let me know or comment below.