Weight and Resistance Training - Are light weights wimpy?

View Full Version : Are light weights wimpy?

05-31-2009, 08:23 AM

I've been struck by the number of female celebs in Hollywood that have come out (as of late) saying they do only light weights-- and yet, have nicely toned or (dare I say) somewhat muscular arms/bodies.

I guess my quibble is why do they only do light weights if they want to achieve the same results (or close to it) that women who lift more heavier weights do?

Is there any benifit to lifting light weights at all??

~ tea

05-31-2009, 10:28 AM
If you use weight that are light you have to do way more reps. It seems like a waste of time lol. I'd rather lift heavy and do 8 reps instead of 30.
I'm not sure what the benefits are though.

05-31-2009, 03:39 PM
Hi Tea! :wave:

Are light weights wimpy? No. And light is subjective anyway.
The amount of weight that you use for an exercise is really dependent upon your goals. And honestly, everyone's body will adapt to an exercise with a given weight,rep,set or overall volume in a way that may be unique to their genetic build.

But in a general sense, keep this in mind:

If you are interested in gaining strength, chose a weight that will allow you to fatigue or lift to failure within 4 to 6 reps. To gain endurance, you will select a weight that will take more than 12 reps to reach fatigue. To gain the best of both worlds and the hypertrophy (a little more muscle mass) choose a weight that is between 8 to 12 reps to failure/fatigue.

Now, your interest with the actresses who lift light and have great muscle definition, it really has more to do with their body fat percentage. We all have muscles, they are just covered in various layers of body fat.

Is lifting light the right way to go because we are hearing a lot about it by some of the celebs? I think it's one approach of many that may be effective. The beauty of strength training is that for it to be truly effective it needs to be varied every four to six weeks. So, that gives us plenty of room to try things out and prevent plateaus or boredom.

Personally though, I like to lift heavy because I enjoy the feeling of weight pressing into my muscles and fatiguing them. If I want to work on endurance I'll lighten it just a little bit to get within the 12 to 15 rep range. Much more than 15 reps and I really don't enjoy my time "on the bench." My mind starts to wander and I'm no longer able to keep my "mind on the muscle" that's supposed to be engaged and my form will drop. And we all know that this is important to prevent injury from bad form or overuse, and to make the most of the exercise in question. I need to maintain focused concentration and good form otherwise I'm wasting my time and just going through the motions and it will eventually show in my lack of results.

05-31-2009, 04:32 PM
Muscles grow in the course of repairing cellular trauma to the muscle fibers. The trauma comes from the overload stress of resistance training. In order to keep growing muscle, you need to keep overloading the fibers and giving them both the time and the raw material -- i.e., proteins -- to repair. For a somewhat technical but short summary, see here: http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/musclesgrowLK.html. (http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/musclesgrowLK.html.)

The problem with light weights is that unless you are severely untrained, they won't put enough stress on the muscle fibers, even with high reps, to create the trauma that leads to muscle growth. Most people -- e.g., people who don't go to the gym, but are perfectly functional in everyday life -- will soon outgrow the types of weights the women's fitness mags regularly tout for their routines. (Think about it this way: a gallon of milk weighs 8.34 pounds. A 4-year old weighs about 40 lbs. Most women don't blink about lifting a gallon of milk or picking up their 4-year old when s/he cries.)

As for the Hollywood thing, I think you might be confusing "muscular" for "low body fat." Also, the camera puts on 10 lbs; if you were to see some of these women/girls in person, you'd probably think they were scrawny little things. Oh, and the advent of "digital processing" makes it even easier for magazine photos to lie!

Be strong,

PS. Light weights are *great*, though, for learning form!

06-01-2009, 10:42 AM
Speaking as a new lifter...

I injured myself last fall doing flyes for my pecs, and I really think that has to be because I was trying to lift weights too heavy for my untrained muscles. For beginners like myself, light weights are probably a very good thing. I use 10 lb. weights at the gym for some of my exercises, and 5 lb. weights for others. My gripe is that my gym has no 7.5 or 8 pound weights, and the jump between 5 and 10 pounds is way too much. I had to stop weight training altogether until I healed, and that took an incredible amount of time, so I'd rather do light weights with more reps than risk that again.

06-01-2009, 02:56 PM
You can buy little inbetween magnet weights in 1, 2, and 3 lb increments to get weights the right amount for you. I agree, it's often too big a jump to go from one plate on a machine to the next, so I've been known to put a little babybell on the plate to make it a halfway amount. Works great until the plate gets off balance and won't go back into the hole properly! :dizzy: At home I took care of the problem with the dbells by buying some adjustables.

I agree with starting off with what's challenging for you. And sometimes that will mean doing the motion of the exercise and only using body weight at first for resistance, like on squats, flies, or lunges.

06-01-2009, 09:35 PM
where do you get these magnets??? I need those!!!!

06-02-2009, 09:21 AM
The magnets are called plate mates http://www.theplatemate.com/

There are also fractional plates for olympic bars, but like the plate mates, they are not cheap. The best and cheapest way to microloading using Olympic plates are to use 2" washers like these http://www.fastenal.com/web/products/detail.ex?sku=33037&ucst=t One on each side of the bar allows you to go up in increments of 1.25# instead of 5lb minimum with the more common 2.5# plates.

06-02-2009, 03:03 PM
It looks like we have two or three stores here that carry them. I'll have to look into those. I wonder what "strong" magnet means exactly? We have some very strong magnets that I can't pull apart. They can't rip your finger off if you aren't careful. I doubt they are THAT strong though. That would be more than enough.

06-04-2009, 11:45 AM
I've been struck by the number of female celebs in Hollywood that have come out (as of late) saying they do only light weights-- and yet, have nicely toned or (dare I say) somewhat muscular arms/bodies.

A couple of things.

1. They have personal trainers 5-7x per week for hours plus personal chefs and professional hair/makeup/clothing at all times :)

2. They are not muscular, they have low bodyfat, most of which comes from strict diet (see above personal chef). Women like Gwynth Paltrow are NOT muscular, at all. They, I dare say, have "wimpy" arms but a low bodyfat ;)

Unless there is a medical reason why you cannot lift heavy (and heavy can be anywhere from a light rubber band to 50lbs depending on the person), then you are really just using your time inefficiently. It's hard enough to haul your bum to the gym with kids, dinners to make, houses to clean, so we can't look to these Hollywood starlets as an ideal since they have personal assistants for everything.

Now Jessica Biel... that's hot stuff.

06-05-2009, 01:37 AM
I don't even think Gweneth has low body fat, does she? She just looks normal thin, like someone who goes out walking for fun but doesn't do much beside that for exercise. Some others who say they use light weights are Heidi Klum, Liv Tyler, Faith Hill, etc. None of these women have muscular arms.

And yes, Jessica Biel is hot stuff.

07-21-2009, 08:31 AM
when celebs say they use light weights that may not be the whole truth, sure they may only do shoulder press with 5lb db's but if they do press ups too thats holding up half their body weight off the floor...to me thats not light weight

07-21-2009, 10:18 AM
I think that honestly, it depends on what you are doing.

For instance, you might think that light weights are wimpy in the weight room...but I challenge anyone to take one of my dance classes. Your shoulders, back, abs, and other areas will get a really good workout with no weights at all. (Belly dance) Even if you lift heavy weights...what I do challenges the muscles in a different way...and you will STILL feel it.

Many do workouts such as yoga or Pilates, where you are not using weights at all-but you still get really good muscle tone because you are using your BODY WEIGHT as the resistance. I work at a yoga studio, and neither one of the instructors there do weight training-but both have strong, muscular backs, shoulders, and arms because they teach 7-10 yoga classes per week.

In some instances, light weights are meant to simply add a bit of intensity-such as with the Walk Away The Pounds dvds. Those workouts are cardio...using light weights (1-3 pounds) as added calorie burners. You don't want to lift heavier weights with those, because it is a cardio workout and you don't want to injure yourself, trying to kick and jog and everything else with 10 pound hand weights over your head.

So, no...I don't think that celebs are lying when they say they do light weights. They might also do Pilates or yoga...and they are thin so any muscle tone that they do have is going to show through nicely, because they have little body fat.

And NO...I don't think that light weights are wimpy. I think it depends on what you are doing. In my case, I can lift heavier weights when I work on biceps, quadriceps/hamstrings, etc. but when I get to my shoulders, rotator cuff area, and so on...I have to use lighter ones.

Thighs Be Gone
07-21-2009, 10:25 AM
I do push ups and lift with 2.5 pound weights 2x's daily. I also do "dips" where I position myself on the edge of chair and lower my body up and down. I have to say--I do not know any women at all that have arms as toned as mine. Every now and again I will see a woman more "ripped" but rarely, rarely. I have played with my routine some and can tell when I do not incorporate the weights. In my opinion, not all women need heavy weights to get results.

07-21-2009, 10:25 AM
I bought a set of little weights (3 lbs) that I carry during my brisk walks. I also use them to work my arms while watching TV. I focus on form and high repetition - I've heard this helps burn fat and create definition. I will probably invest in some higher-denomination weights in a few weeks, when I get stronger in body and budget :)