If your training goal includes building strength and size there is new research that can help. Researchers compared the effects of low repetition training with a typical moderate repetition training routine with interesting results.
Both groups were comprised of resistance trained men who followed the same exercise training program with different rep ranges to failure. On Monday/Thursday they did 3 sets of leg press/seated row, bench press/hamstring curl, plank. On Tuesday/Friday they did Shoulder press/biceps curl, Tricep extension/lLat pull down, leg extension. One group did 8-12 reps and the second did 20-25 reps per workout. After the workout both groups consumed 30 grams of protein and then once more before bed.
At the end of the 12 week session both groups had similar increases in size and strength. The low rep group had a greater increase in bench press strength, but otherwise there was no difference. As the exercise science field continues to evolve we learn more about effective programming. For strength and size, high rep low load is just as effective as lower volume higher weight. For some trainees, the constant heavy training causes joint pain and dysfunction. If lifting lighter weights leads to the same gains, it can be much easier to stay consistent. I also think it's important to point out that all the subjects consumed 2 high protein shakes a day and that every set was performed to failure. Training to failure recruits maximal muscle units and is probably what led to the strength gains in both groups.
For many people looking to improve their physique, the thought of lifting heavy weight can be a daunting process. If similar gains can be made by putting in maximum effort at light weight, it provides an appealing alternative. For strength and power athletes, it is still important to train with heavy loads, but for others, mixing up the repetition range and failure training is adequate to achieve results.
Morton, R.W., et. al. (2016). Neither load nor systemic hormones determine resistance training mediated hypertrophy or strength gains in resistance trained young men. Journal of Applied Physiology. http://jap.physiology.org/content/early/2016/05/09/japplphysiol.00154.2016
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