Although heavy weights can build strength, they can also cause muscle soreness and injury. Also, a lot of the common wisdom came from research on men. New research indicates that women do NOT need to lift heavy weights in order to build strength. Why is this important?
Women are often disproportionately impacted by the idea that heavy lifting is necessary to build strength. Women can be uncomfortable in the traditionally “male” weight section of a gym environment. They might not know the right techniques for lifting. Finally, women may worry that they will bulk up instead of achieving a lean and fit appearance.
According to a study by Dinyer et. Al. published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research in Oct 2019, women don’t have to lift heavy in order to boost strength and gain muscle.
In this 12-week study, 23 previously untrained women (ages 18-27) with similar body composition were randomly split into two groups: One group lifted at 30 percent of their one-rep max (low load) and the other group lifted at 80 percent of their one-rep max (high load). A one rep max is the weight you can lift one time with good form, but not a second time.
The results? Regardless of which group participants were placed in, they ALL achieved similar—and significant—increases in upper and lower-body strength.
The good news is, you can lift lighter and still get good results, but you still need to push yourself. Getting to failure is key. Failure is when you can’t complete another rep while maintaining proper form. As long as you are lifting to failure, the amount of weight you choose is not important. You might even end up stronger by avoiding injuries!