Looking for strength, tone and body confidence? 8 Reasons to Start Working Out With Light Weights
Strength training is often overlooked and regarded as something you should only do if you want to add bulk. But increasing your strength offers countless benefits to your health and physical performance, as well as being able to tone up for that long, lean look. And it isn’t all about the heavy lifting.
Working out with light weights is proven to be equally effective at increasing muscle mass and strength. Lighter weights are also suitable for all ages and abilities, and you don’t even need to head to the gym! You can easily incorporate them into any home workout - you will be surprised how much difference it makes to your results by adding just a few pounds.
In this article, we explain why working out with light weights is an important part of a healthy exercise regime and provide some light weight high-rep exercise examples to get you started. But first, let’s take a look at what exactly is strength training and how it benefits the body.
What is strength training?
Strength training, also known as weight training and resistance training, involves performing exercises using your own body weight or equipment to put your muscles under tension, with the aim of building muscle mass, strength and endurance. Strength training can take numerous different forms depending on what your goals are, whether that’s to get bigger muscles or improve your posture.
Examples of weight training include:
- Using your body weight and gravity in specific movements, such as pushups, squats, plants, and lunges.
- Free weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, wrist and ankle weights, or even objects around the house!
- Resistance bands that are made of rubber and provide resistance when stretched.
- Weights machines with adjustable loads.
- Suspension equipment that contains ropes or straps that allow you to use your body weight and gravity to create resistance.
Why strength training is important
Gaining strength benefits everyone, as it can help you perform your daily tasks much easier - suddenly, lugging your kids around or carrying heavy shopping bags isn’t so strenuous! Strength training can also improve your posture, flexibility and balance, and can help make your bones stronger, all of which are particularly beneficial to older people and can reduce the risk of injuries or falls.
Strength training can also boost your metabolism to help you maintain a healthy weight. This is because it promotes fat loss and increases lean muscle mass, which burns more calories at rest. Building more lean muscle also means you will appear more toned and defined, something many people desire.
But the benefits of strength training go far beyond building muscle. Not only does it benefit your physical appearance and performance, it also improves many other aspects of health. Multiple studies have found that strength training can benefit heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, boosting blood circulation and strengthening the heart and blood vessels.
Strength training can also help keep blood sugar levels in check and lower the risk of diabetes. This is because muscle requires glucose to power its metabolism, which helps remove glucose from the blood. It also increases insulin sensitivity, allowing cells of the body to use blood glucose more effectively, reducing overall blood sugar levels. One study found that over a 10-year period, women who engaged in weight training were 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
What are lightweights?
Many people believe strength training involves slogging it out at the gym lifting overloaded weights. This is actually not the case. Working out with light weights is one of the best ways to incorporate strength training into any workout and is also a very effective way to gain strength and muscle. Light weights can help add that little extra challenge to help you see results.
But what counts as a light weight? Essentially, it’s any weight that feels light to you - we all have different strength abilities. Things like dumbbells (2-4 pounds) such as AMP's fitness bars (in peach, black or neon pink) or kettlebells are common choices for a light weight workout (AMP Peak strength triangle provides a great, easy to use, alternative).
There are also types of light weights you can attach to your body to increase the resistance on your muscles and turn up the heat. We recommend trying AMP’s adjustable ankle or wrist weights
Simply adding a small amount of extra weight can significantly increase the intensity of your workouts and increase your strength and muscle tone faster. But you don’t have to restrict yourself to wearing these solely during strength training workouts, you can wear them during any fitness activity, such as walking, yoga, pilates or running. You can even wear them as you go about your everyday activities to create a regular workout without any extra time or effort needed. House in need of a spruce? Put these on and suddenly your cleaning chores turn into a mini workout!
Sounding good so far? Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of working out with light weights and why they should be an essential part of your exercise regime.
The benefits of working out with light weights
Easy and convenient
Lifting light weights is the easiest way to build muscle - you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home! All you need is a set of light weights and your own motivation.
Light weights are also easily transportable, so are perfect for those who are constantly on the move. If you are away from home a lot, it’s likely that gym visits are infrequent. And we all know that a regular exercise routine is important for achieving results. Light weights mean you can stick to an exercise regime no matter where you are. Plus, if you purchase weights that attach to your body, you can incorporate a workout into your everyday life with ease, no time out of your day required.
Better all round workout
If all you use are heavy weights, you are likely to develop muscle imbalances and only target larger muscle groups. This is because when the weight is too heavy, larger muscles take over and overpower other smaller muscles. Working out with light weights targets smaller muscles too, as they are able to manage the loads themselves without relying on the big muscle groups.
Contrary to popular belief, lifting heavy does not necessarily equal the most muscle gain. Studies show that effort is equally important as load and that lifting with light weights is also an effective way to build muscle. According to one recent study, training to the point of muscle failure promotes greater muscle hypertrophy (an increase and growth of muscle cells) when lifting low loads than lifting heavy loads.
Better range of motion
If you’re lifting extremely heavy loads, the chances are you won’t be able to perform the exercise through the full range of motion. This can negatively impact results. For example, one study found that participants who performed 12 weeks of strength training with a full range of motion achieved greater gains in muscle strength and size than those who only used movements with a short range of motion.
Builds muscle strength
When we think of building muscle strength, our minds tend to automatically picture deadlifts and overloaded barbells. But interestingly, research has found that lifting light weights for many repetitions is as efficient at increasing muscle strength as lifting heavy weights for fewer repetitions.
Exercising with light weights involves sustained smaller movements and develops your slow twitch muscle fibres, which are important for endurance activities. As a result, you can seriously ramp up your stamina and muscular endurance
Reduces risk of injury
Lifting heavy loads might seem impressive and make you feel like the hulk, but even the slightest mistake or incorrection in form can lead to serious injury. And once you have sustained an injury, you are more at risk of injuring yourself again. Lifting heavy also puts a lot of pressure on your joints and body.
Switching to working out with light weights allows you to work on achieving the correct posture and form so that you can lift properly, and carries a much lower risk for injury. Often referred to as functional workouts.
Great for all ages
It is often believed that strength training is only for bodybuilders and gym bunnies, but this is completely not true. In fact, strength training with light weights is suitable for all ages and abilities!
Are you new to strength training and don’t feel confident with lifting heavy weights? Then start out small and build your way up to bigger ones, if that is what you desire. Working out with light weights is less daunting and can help you remain motivated to stick to your exercise regime. But light weights aren’t just for beginners, even the most experienced weight lifters can benefit from lifting lighter loads to work on their endurance and other aspects of fitness.
The convenience and transportability of light weights make them ideal for young professionals and middle-aged parents who want to build effective at-home workouts - no gym membership required! Working out with light weights can easily be squeezed in around other life commitments.
Light weights are also especially beneficial for older people. As we age, our muscles start to deteriorate, balance is lost, bones weaken and we become frailer. These are all factors that increase the risk of falls and injuries, which can be serious. Working out with light weights can help you maintain a basic level of fitness and strength, well into your older years, and help you stay healthy, mobile and injury-free. Regular strength exercises can also help keep chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes at bay, which is even more important the older we get.
How to use light weights to achieve results
Light weights are all about endurance and exercising muscles to the point of failure. For best results, you will want to perform a high number of repetitions - 12 or more reps. And, when we say light weights, we don’t mean light enough that you don’t feel anything. You should choose weights that are heavy enough that they still challenge your muscles. Ideally, at the end of your set, you should be struggling to complete your last rep.
Setting goals can help you maximize your training and motivate you to stick to your exercise regime. Decide what would like to achieve and create your routine accordingly. Setting an exercise schedule can also help you stick to it.
Once you have built up more muscle strength, you will likely be bossing your reps using the same weight. At this stage, you can switch to a slightly heavier weight to keep seeing results, a technique known as progression. This is an extremely effective way of building muscle mass and strength.
But equally, once you have reached your goals, there’s no need to push yourself further and start lifting heavy weights if you don’t want to. Stick with regular workouts with light weights to maintain your physique and continue to reap the benefits.
Examples of light weight high-rep exercises
To help you get started, below are five great at-home exercises you can perform with lighter weights.
This exercise is great for targeting all the muscles in your shoulders as well as your triceps.
How to do it:
Start by standing with a weight such as a light dumbbell in each hand at your side. You can also wear wrist weights.
Lift your arms up and out to your side, until they are at shoulder height, keeping your hands slightly in front of you.
Hold here for a few seconds and lower back down slowly.
Repeat for 12 reps.
This one combines a push-up, row and plank and is perfect for strengthening your arms, chest, back and ab muscles. If it’s too difficult, you can modify it to make it easier by dropping your knees to the floor.
How to do it:
Begin in the high plank position, arms straight, with a weight in each hand.
Lower your body down into a push-up and press back up.
Follow this by bending your right elbow to lift your hand up until it meets your chest, and lower it back down.Repeat on the opposite side for 12 reps.
This exercise gives your back, arms, shoulders, glutes and legs a good workout. Plus, you get to feel like a superhero doing it!
How to do it:
Lie on your stomach with your legs stretched out straight and your arms extended infront of you - pretend you are trying to make yourself as long as possible.
Hold a weight in each hand, or attach weights to your ankles and wrists to intensify the exercise.
Engage your core and raise your chest, arms and legs off the ground, holding for a few seconds before releasing back down.
Repeat for 12 reps.
Our favourite, you’ll feel the effects of this one in your legs, glutes, core and shoulders
How to do it:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a weight in each hand, a single weight or weights attached to your wrists.
Extend your arms up above your head, keeping your palms facing forward, and tense your core to begin your squat.
Send your hips back and lower your bottom half towards the floor, keeping your knees behind your toes, arms in line with your ears and chest upright.
Lower as far as you can, ideally until your thighs are parallel with the floor and then slowly rise back up.
Repeat for at least 12 reps.
Weighted glute bridge
This is a great beginner’s exercise that works on strengthening your back, glutes, hamstrings, calves and abs.
How to do it:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Place a light weight just above your hip bones and hold it in place.
Engage your core, squeeze your glutes and push through your heels to lift your hips upwards.
Aim to form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees at the top and pause for a few seconds before lowering slowly back down.
Repeat for at least 12 reps.
Strength training is an important part of any exercise regime and can benefit people of all ages. Increasing your muscle mass and strength can help improve balance, posture, mobility, flexibility, heart and bone health, blood sugar levels, and weight management.
But in order to reap these benefits, you don’t even need to lift heavy! Working out with light weights is equally effective and also has some great advantages. They are much easier and more convenient to use, meaning you can fit a workout around your busy life. Light weights also provide a better all round workout, help you work on your form and technique, and build endurance. Older people will particularly benefit from using light weights, as they help reduce the risk of falls and injuries, and generally help keep you fit and healthy.
To see results with lightweights, you must perform a higher number of repetitions to the point of muscle failure. Try our exercise suggestions using light weights and see how you get on, we'd love to hear from you when you do!