The Right Way to Build Muscle

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

People, young and old, who hit the gym or who exercise at home are obviously interested in building muscles. The best way to do so is to perform weightlifting on a regular basis. But what, exactly, should you be doing for optimal muscle gain?

Current gym dogma holds that to build muscle size you need to lift heavy weights. Step into any gym in America and you’ll see big bodies straining under big weights. But, if you’re an older adult or someone who is recovering from an illness, lifting heavy weights isn’t always an option. A new study from Canada’s McMaster University has uncovered a better way to build muscle, for everyone. Researchers there have shown that a similar degree of muscle building can be achieved by using lighter weights. The ultimate secret: pump iron until you reach muscle fatigue.

The findings are published in the journal “PLoS ONE.”

What it means is that, rather than grunting and straining to lift heavy weights, you can grab something much lighter instead. But here’s the catch: you have to lift those lighter weights until you can’t lift them anymore. That is muscle fatigue. These researchers believe that building muscle means stimulating your muscle to make new muscle proteins. Over time, this process in the body translates into bigger muscles.

Heading to the gym or exercising regularly at home is definitely a very valuable part of exercise. Much research has shown that combining aerobic exercise (e.g. walking, jogging, cycling, swimming) with weight training is the ultimate way to get the body and heart in shape.

Since most of us are “flying by the seat of our pants” as it were when we enter the gym, this new study gives a dose of welcome information. It is not the weight that you lift, but the fact that you get muscular fatigue — this is what builds muscle.

The study used light weights that represented a percentage of what the subjects could lift. The heavier weights were set to 90% of a person’s best lift, while the light weights at 30% of what people could lift. The 80%-90% range is usually something people can lift five to 10 times before fatigue sets in. So, a 30% range is quite light. Participants could lift that weight at least 24 times before they felt fatigue.

This is key not only for gym enthusiasts, but also for older adults or those with disease who have compromised muscle mass in their bodies. Time to get it back!