You don't have to lift 30-pound dumbbells to tone up and see gains at the gym. In fact, lighter weights can be just as effective as heavy ones, according to a 2010 McMaster University study. The study tracked 49 men who already had experience weight training for a year. Half of the group was assigned to lift heavier weights, which would cause them to fatigue after performing 10 reps. The other group was assigned lighter weights, which would cause fatigue around 25 reps. Both groups would train four times a week for 12 weeks.
Surprisingly, the resulting gains between the two groups were essentially identical. Each set of men improved their strength regardless of the weights lifted. Although the study only monitored men, the scientists have plans to test the same study on women. Their hypothesis? It's muscle fatigue — not the size of the actual weight — that builds stronger muscles. Something our friends at Barre3 know all about.
"By using lighter weights and doing more reps, you're getting deep in your muscle," said Dino Malvone, Barre3 instructor and studio director of its West Village location in New York City. "The goal here is longevity. Yes, lighter weights can be challenging. But for us, lighter weights have clients coming back the next day, and then day after, too."
Created by Sadie Lincoln, Barre3 combines elements of yoga, Pilates, and ballet barre and maxes out using five-pound weights. Want to get all-over toning with just a pair of light dumbbells? We've got you covered. Check out this easy, total-body workout, courtesy of our friends at Barre3. The best part: all you need is a set of two-pound weights, for starters.
"Start with two pounds, and progress from there," Malvone suggested. "You can use different weights for different movements as you get comfortable. Learning how the body works is a part of what keeps you safe."