Should you lift heavy or light?

Hey guys ūüôā

Today I am writing to address a very important, and confusing question many of you may have; should I be lifting heavy weights or light weights to achieve my goals?

Have you ever wondered about that??

This post is for you, if:

  • You are new to the gym, and not sure if you should start with light weights, or more challenging weights.
  • You have been working out for a while now, using weights in the same range, and really not seeing the results you are looking for.
  • You are a heavy lifter¬†and don’t really see the benefit of lifting light. Heavy is your “one and¬†only” way to do it.

It seems like every person into fitness is having this mindset that we should either lift heavy, or lift light. This has bothered me for a while; because it kinda gives the idea that you need to restrict yourself to ONE training regimen, and don’t deviate from it.

As a strength coach, training for me is not always building strength (lifting heavy). There are days where all I have is  10 lbs DBs and I create a kickass workout using just that.

In fact, taking a break from your heavy training and engaging in low-impact exercises is very important. So really, it is all about balance. But also about what you want to achieve.

The simple answer is this: you need to be lifting both heavy and light weights if you want to get the best results.

Here is the thing. Building lean muscle can be quite challenging for many of us for women. I know that this is not a general rule. But, we definitely push ourselves really hard to see some growth. I know from my experience that, unless I train using few different techniques, I will not see a lot of muscle definition (especially arms).

That’s just the way I am. In addition, my training is heavily focused on building strength, so I don’t really care of having too much definition, but I do care about being strong and functional.

PS: grab the ultimate guide to break through plateaus and start seeing results at the gym

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Whether you are really into lifting heavy weights or not, here is the deal; if your goal is to gain strength, lean muscle and also burn fat. You better be including some heavy lifting into your fitness routine. When I say heavy lifting, I don’t mean you should transform yourself into a powerlifter ūüôā if 15 lbs.¬†is heavy enough for you, then you start with that.

How do I define heavy? hmm let’s see… in general:

  • 5-10 lbs heavier than what you normally lift. If you have been doing goblet squats with a 20 lbs kettlebell for weeks now, then it is probably time to move up to 25 or 30 lbs.
  • It is challenging enough, but not to the point where you can’t keep proper form.
  • You will be able to do 1-4 reps properly, then start feeling fatigued on the 5th-8th reps. If you are able to do more than 12, then you definitely can lift heavier, my friend.
  • Your metabolism will jump to the roof quickly.
  • You will experience some DOMS ¬†(delayed onset muscle soreness) the next day. Don’t we all love those DOMS ūüėČ if you are not feeling some soreness after every hard workout, then you probably are not lifting heavy enough

Lifting heavy will increase your strength, and fire up your metabolism (fat loss benefits). This will also trigger your growth hormone and challenge your muscles enough to make them grow.

So how about those lighter weights?

Well, they serve their purpose too.


Light weights have an amazing benefit. They allow you to target the small muscle groups to increase the load and reach hypertrophy.  This would not be quite possible with a heavy weight.

let me give you an example; say you want to add more definition to your triceps. You need to increase the muscle’s time under tension (slowing the movement down / increase in repetitions), and/or increase the load. ¬†This will burn out the muscle which will trigger growth.

This would be near impossible with heavy weights, and probably not very safe.

If you are trying to increase the duration of a triceps extension exercise, with a very heavy weight, you probably would fail at the second repetition, or you will be engaging other muscles to help you complete the exercise, which may increase the risk of injury (compensation).

A lighter weight will be a better choice for this exercise if your goal is to add  more definition. You not only will be able to focus on your form and on the muscle contraction (improved mind-body connection), but you also will be able to place enough load on the muscle to feel the burn.

Light weights are also great to include in high-intensity interval training. They help add just enough challenge to boost your metabolism for both fat loss and muscle tone.

So, should you be lifting heavy weights or light weights?

You truly need them both, if your goal is to build strength, lean muscle and burn fat in the process.


My best, personal, technique is this: I always start with heavier weighted exercises and I move down on the weights. My last exercise is always a “burn out”, I aim for high reps, good form, and increase muscle tension.

As you start building more strength, you will notice that even the “lighter weights” will increase. That is good. ¬†Your muscles will adapt to the very light weights, and the “medium weights” will become the new “light weights”; ¬†Find your sweet spot, and use that to target small and big muscle groups.

I truly believe that there is no one way to train your muscles. There are so many ways and benefits to every type of training that exists, and it is very important to keep your muscles guessing to avoid adaptation.  Again, keep in mind that your muscles adapt. They get used to the weights. They will grow if you challenge them, keep them guessing and always add some variety to your workouts.

I am not going to cover all the training techniques as I wanted this post to focus on answering the question of “heavy weights vs light weights”. However, I have a guide of 14 training techniques that will help you break through any plateaus.

If you simply stick to the same training style and do it over and over for weeks. You will plateau. I am not saying you have to jump from one program to another, but you can really use the same program for a long period of time and still get the benefits if you are constantly challenging yourself with heavier weights (as well as light weights) when needed.