This week, I want to field a question I’ve received a few times recently:

Why does it seem like all the fitness influencers are recommending using lighter weights?

Maybe a better question is this: why would heavier weights be more popular?

Heavier loads (1-6 reps) are ideal for developing strength. They can also build size (hypertrophy) if you accumulate enough “productive reps” aka reps at or near muscular failure—but this can require a LOT of sets to build up enough of those money reps.

On the other hand, moderate/lighter weights are great for building size because it’s much easier to rack up enough of those “productive reps.”

If you’re confused, let me use an example…

A set of 5 reps with your 5 rep max weight has only a couple reps near failure and then you’re toast.

Those 5 reps played out would be like:

Rep 1: easy
Rep 2: easy
Rep 3: moderate
Rep 4: hard
Rep 5: MAX

Whereas a set of 12 reps with your 12 rep max is like:

Reps 1-4: easy
Reps 5-8: moderate
Reps 9-11: hard
Rep 12: MAX

So if you’re using slightly lighter weights and higher reps, you’re getting WAY more reps that are approaching failure. Typically, that means a superior growth stimulus.

From a practical end, using lighter weights also tends to be safer and more manageable.

To be clear, heavier weights are the best for building low rep or limit strength. No question about that. But for most people that goal just isn’t practical, much less a priority.

So: should you use lighter weights and higher reps? Well, there’s a limit. I’m not recommending sets of 20 or 30 reps over here.

But sets of 12? Short answer: yes.

– Coach Bryan