Increasing Muscle Mass and Strength while Lifting Less

Dan White asked:
I was recently told by my Dr. that it’s time for me to give up the heavy weights. Can I still increase mass and strength while lifting less than my max?

The following answer was provided by one of our expert personal trainers, Kevin Delia… Yes for both areas of concern but it might be a little bit harder to accomplish the strength goals than the mass goals. Repetition ranges and the corresponding weight alterations for those repetitions will elicit a somewhat specific response of the trained muscles of the body. (This type of routine will have better success when used with sets of 3 or more or a pyramid routine.) Lighter weights and higher reps will help with toning and endurance gains, usually reps of 15 and above. Medium weights and reps will give you the hypertrophy (mass building) response, anywhere from 12 down to 8 reps. In the next zone of weight training, strength gain, reps will be from 8 down to 4. The final zone being for power gain, reps will be anywhere from 4 down to 1 rep.

Plenty of routines cross the lines into each other. The reason for that is to vary the program so the muscles are stimulated (shocked) to respond differently over the course of an individualized weight training program.

As described above, when the weights increase and the reps reduce there will be a tremendous difference in the stress placed on the tendons of the muscles. This will likely lead to some type of joint discomfort over time or immediately, many factors are involved. Depending on your training goals though this might be something of no concern, however, this is more than likely the reason many doctors will suggest that lighter weight be utilized as advanced age nears for their patients. My suggestion would be to vary the reps between the high end of the strength zone and up to the high end of the endurance zone. This will allow for you to continue to work on your goals of mass building and little bit of the strength. This will also help you reduce the joint and tendon discomfort associated with heavy weights.


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