The precise details of weightlifting routines might not be as critical as previously thought, according to a new study from McMaster University. Whether you lift heavy or light weights, or how many times you do it, the key to strength and muscle growth appears to be consistency in resistance training.
Researchers scrutinized the most popular variables in resistance training programs, such as the amount of weight lifted, the frequency of training, and the number of repetitions. Their findings suggest that all forms of resistance training, including body-weight exercises like planks, lunges, and push-ups, can be beneficial.
“There are a dizzying number of factors and combinations to consider when creating a weightlifting program to maximize strength and muscle growth,” explained Stuart Phillips, a Kinesiology professor who led the research. “This study could help settle the long-standing debate among athletes and coaches about which combination leads to the best gains.”
For this study, researchers reviewed 192 randomized, controlled studies involving over 5,000 participants, making it one of the most extensive projects of its kind. They collected and analyzed substantial data based on three crucial resistance-training variables: higher versus lower loads, single versus multiple sets, and training frequency.
While most fitness experts have traditionally advocated for heavy weights for strength and lighter weights for muscle growth, the McMaster team suggests that lifting lighter weights to the point of exhaustion can also yield significant gains. This approach could involve 20 to 30 repetitions, sometimes more.
According to their findings, lifting heavier weights is most effective for maximizing muscle strength, while performing each exercise several times with less weight seems to best maximize muscle size.
“Every resistance training prescription resulted in strength and muscle mass gains. Complex prescriptions are sufficient but unnecessary to gain strength and muscle. Simple programs are extremely effective,” said Currier. He emphasized that while seeking guidance is helpful, the process doesn’t need to be complicated.
These findings could encourage people of all ages to pursue strength training and muscle maintenance, crucial for preventing injury, enhancing mobility, and optimizing metabolism. Jonathan Mcleod, a member of the research team, underscored the importance of sticking to a workout regimen. He advised, “Once you’ve got that down, then you can worry about all of the other subtle nuances.”