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Heavy Weights – Improved Muscle Tone?

Posted Jun 14 2010 10:52am

Hands of light
Tomas Sobek

We usually associate lighter weights for high reps with improved muscle tone, that is what conventional knowledge tells us anyway – Is it possible that we are mistaken?

I recently came across a study showing that heavier weights are actually what triggers muscle growth and muscle tone, having a significantly more toning effect than lifting lighter weights for higher reps…..

when women performed various resistance exercises at different weights and repetitions (85 percent of their maximum ability for 8 reps, versus 45 percent for 15). Subjects lifting more weight fewer times burned more energy and had a greater metabolic boost after exercise.

So 70-80% of your maximum weight for 8 reps is the ideal weight for toning muscle. This changes the game when it comes to lifting and has tied together a lot of things I have thought myself for years but always brushed aside in favour of conventional wisdom when it comes to weight lifting. This probably comes down to a better stimulation of the muscle in terms of growth, this also holds benefits in terms of things like glucose metabolism making sure the food you eat is funneled into making muscle explaining the Metabolic Boost.

One thing I have noticed when weight lifting is that I always get my best results sticking in the 6-10 rep range, this is in terms of muscle growth and general body composition improvements. I have tried doing high reps before and even made them a staple of my fitness program but they have never produced nearly as good results. With little result in terms of muscle and I could feel little metabolic shift when doing workouts of high reps as my appetite would remain low although muscle soreness would be pretty severe.

The other advantage of lifting heavy is the lack of wear and tear it puts of the joints and tendons in comparison to using lighter weights. Although you are handling a heavier load there is not the same repetitive wear and tear that say doing 20 reps would produce. This reduces the chances of Repetitive Strain Injuries.

It is becoming more and more clear that everyone should be doing some sort of relatively heavy strength training – Gone are the days of lifting light weights for high reps in search of toned muscles. If you are a guy lifting heavy from time to time should be a staple, and for women it should be too. Studies like these and evidence from people I have worked with show that whether male of female the people with the best looking bodies  lift heavy once or twice a week and couple that with a active lifestyle. This not only “tones” muscle but will lead to increased bone density and less chance of things like osteoporosis in later life.

Here is A great plan for some heavy intense lifting for men or women. Take 60 seconds rest between sets and lift for 6-10 reps per set (so you want to be going for a weight that makes you fail around the 10 rep mark):

  • Front Squat or Goblet Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Pullups or Lat Pulldown

Simple as that - Do 2-3 sets of each exercise and repeat the program 1-3 times per week trying to improve your weights slowly with time. This will help you get that elusive tone and lose some fat while you are at it…..

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