standard Heavy Weights vs Light Weights | Build Muscle (THE WINNER IS…)


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The question of whether to use heavy weights or light weights to build muscle is one of the most common training questions. The answer is not so straight forward. The fact of the matter is that in order to build as much muscle as possible you better learn that you need to lift light weights at times and heavy weights at other times. In fact, there is a third way that you should be lifting as well if you want to get serious muscle.

In this video, I use the example of the shoulder side lateral raise to illustrate how to build muscle using both light weights and heavy weights on the same exercise. It has to do with the portion of the contraction that you are attempting to focus the overload necessary for building mass on. If you are looking to overload the concentric or positive portion of the lift then you better get used to lowering the weight that you are using.

That’s right. Leave the ego lifting at the door when you are trying to build muscle by overloading the concentric. Often times, way too much momentum is used to throw a weight up during the concentric on an exercise. This disperses the force from the single area that you are trying to build up to the many areas and muscles around the muscle in question and therefore weakens the overall effect on the target muscle.

On the contrary, if you are trying to stress the eccentric or lowering phase of a muscle contraction on a target muscle then you better get used to asking for help from surrounding muscles in order for this to work the best. In the example of the side lateral raise for shoulders, the middle delts can recruit additional help from the traps, rear delts and even torso muscles to safely help cheat the weight up into position where a stronger eccentric can be performed.

Relying solely on the amount of weight that can be strictly muscled up by the singular muscle in question will limit the amount of weight that you can use on an eccentric (and therefore will be limiting your size potential). This technique is actually something that you can apply to not just this one exercise but almost every exercise you can do.

That said, this combination of heavy weights and light weights is not enough to complete the picture. The explosive component of your training can only be achieved by using a weight that is in the middle of the two extremes shown here and focusing on accelerating the weight as you lift it. This introduces the element of power to strength. Power combined with concentric and eccentric overload makes your size and strength gains even more functional.

For a complete training and workout program that builds functional strength at the same time as it is helping you to add serious muscle size and strength, head to and get the ATHLEAN-X Training System. Start training like a pro athlete and learn how you can start looking like one in just 90 days with physical therapist and strength coach Jeff Cavaliere guiding your every workout.

For more videos on the benefits of lifting light weights as well as the top 5 reasons to lift heavy weights, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube at

36 Comments

  1. In terms of lifting heavy vs lifting light, should we be incorporating both types into every workout, or should we be alternating (lift heavy this time, lift light next time, etc)?

  2. Do you like to hit all 3 types of stimulation in the same session? Start with the light strict concentric, go heavy and focus on negatives and then try and blast out some functional movements with explosiveness. I'm thinking that might be a good basis to build a program around, 2 antagonist muscles worked through all three phases.

  3. Anybody help!: Do you recommend that I do heavy one week, heavy next week, light next week, and so on or do you recommend that I do 3 months of light and 3 months of heavy. I am talking about light/heavy weight. Thanks.

  4. Heavy is where it's at. If you can do the work it means you are increasing your muscles. Who cares if you can think about your muscles while your lifting a five pound weight.

  5. with all the info out there now the average man on the street can train much more efficiently these days, although I train correctly now I would have loved this info 15 years ago

  6. As a paramedic, I couldn't focus on the subject at hand, due to those veins…..look at those veins! I could throw a 14 in those things from across the room.

  7. Thanks for this video cause you just totally changed my mindset. I am used to lifting  heavy weight. But the issue I am having is injuries. I have a hard time anymore lifting heavy because of my shoulders. So…I told myself just go in there and grab some medium weight and do very slow reps with very strict form. But like you said the ego kicks in and I go and pile on the weight and the morning comes and so do the aspirin. Anyway thanks for the great videos and helping me look at lifting a little different.

  8. Youtube keeps sending me work out type of video, I got annoyed, but actually this channel and their content make a lot of good sense. Well done.

  9. I trained with less weight and more reps.

    Now I'm growing MORE than some of the other guys in my gym that are on we call it (ego training)

    As a result, I have grown so much faster than these guys over the past 3 months, that the other day in the sauna, one of those guys came up to me and asked me what am I (taking) :). Lol.

    I told him….Nothing man. So his answer was… Oh, you must have a excellent muscle memory, or good genetics..

    I don't understand why they just don't get it.

    I asked a lot of them the one million dollar question 🙂

    Hey, are you trying aesthetic bodybuilding or are you trying to be a weight lifter????

    They just cannot comprehend how I'm
    Am developing faster than them with much lower weights.

    I'm getting some guys being jellows man.
    Giving me the eyes and shit. Lol.

    Oh well… Jellows as they say, is a bitch. :)

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