If the very prospect of going to the gym and lifting heavy weights every few days sounds like a nightmare, high-repetition, low-weight workouts might be the right choice for you. These workouts build endurance, cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, and are often easier for beginners. The difficulty of the exercise gradually increases as your duration lengthens and speed becomes more rapid, and if you like repetitive activities, these workouts can be fun.
Weights and Cardio
Strength training, which uses weights or body weight to define muscle, and cardiovascular exercise, which works large muscle groups and raises your heart rate, are both important in a fitness routine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 75 minutes of vigorous cardio or 150 minutes of moderate cardio per week, as well as two days per week of strength training. When you combine high repetitions with smaller weights, you're able to get both a cardiovascular and muscle-building workout in one session.
Any exercise that uses smaller weights and a relatively high number of repetitions can help you see the benefits of strength-training and cardiovascular exercise. An ideal exercise routine begins with a relatively small number of reps done at a slow pace, followed by a short break. With each set of reps, you should increase both the number and speed of the reps. For example, you might try doing squats, either with or without weights. In the first set, do 10 reps at a slow pace, followed by a 10-second break. Then double the number of reps, your speed and the length of your breaks with each subsequent set of reps.
High-repetition, low-weight workouts don't just help you meet your weekly exercise needs. They can also build your endurance. If you're training for a sport or just want to be able to work out longer, this exercise routine can be an excellent choice. As your heart rate elevates and your muscles repeatedly contract and relax, your heart has to pump more blood to your muscles, and your muscles have to continue working efficiently despite your elevated heart rate. Over time, this can improve both muscular and cardiovascular endurance. A study published in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise," for example, found that high-repetition, low-weight workouts could improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplies.
There is some debate in the fitness community about the effects of high-rep, low-weight protocols. A study published in "PlosOne," for example, found that such protocols could stimulate protein synthesis in men, thus enabling better muscle development. The American Council on Exercise, however, emphasizes in its "Personal Trainer Manual" that heavier weights are generally necessary for extensive muscle growth. Thus this protocol may increase strength without causing a substantial increase in bulk.
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effects of Moderate-Intensity Endurance and High-Intensity Intermittent Training on Anaerobic Capacity and V02max
- American Council on Exercise: When Strength Training, Is It Better to Do More Reps with Lighter Weights or Fewer Reps with Heavier Weights?
- Ace Personal Trainer Manual; American Council on Exercise
- PlosOne: Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise in Young Men
- High Intensity Interval Training Explained; James Driver
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.