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Building muscle without heavy weights

Weight training at a lower intensity but with more repetitions may be as effective for building muscle as lifting heavy weights says a new opinion piece in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

"The perspective provided in this review highlights that other resistance protocols, beyond the often discussed high-intensity training, can be effective in stimulating a muscle building response that may translate into bigger muscles after resistance training," says lead author Nicholas Burd.

"These findings have important implications from a public health standpoint because skeletal muscle mass is a large contributor to daily energy expenditure and it assists in weight management. Additionally, skeletal muscle mass, because of its overall size, is the primary site of blood sugar disposal and thus will likely play a role in reducing the risk for development of type II diabetes."

The authors from McMaster University conducted a series of experiments that manipulated various resistance exercise variables (e.g., intensity, volume, and muscle time under tension). They found that high-intensity muscle contractions derived from lifting heavy loads were not the only drivers of exercise-induced muscle development.
In resistance-trained young men a lower workout intensity and a higher volume of repetitions of resistance exercise, performed until failure, was equally effective in stimulating muscle proteins as a heavy workout intensity at lower repetition rates. An additional benefit of the low-intensity workout is that the higher repetitions required to achieve fatigue will also be beneficial for sustaining the muscle building response for days.

The perspective "Bigger weights may not beget bigger muscles: evidence from acute muscle protein synthetic responses after resistance exercise" appears in the June issue of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

For more information contact:
Corresponding author: Nicholas A. Burd (e-mail:

Full Reference:
Burd, N.A., Mitchell, C.J., Churchward-Venne, T.A., Phillips, S.M. Bigger weights may not beget bigger muscles: evidence from acute muscle protein synthetic responses after resistance exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 37(3): 551-554, doi: 10.1139/ H2012-022.

About the Publisher

NRC Research Press, which began as the publishing arm of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) in 1929, transitioned in September 2010 from NRC and the Federal Government of Canada into an independent not-for-profit organization operating under the new name Canadian Science Publishing. Canadian Science Publishing (which continues to operate its journals under the brand NRC Research Press) is the foremost scientific publisher in Canada, publishing 15 of its own journals and providing advanced electronic publishing services to its clients. With over 50 highly skilled experts and an editorial team comprising some of the world's leading researchers, NRC Research Press (Canadian Science Publishing) communicates scientific discoveries to over 175 countries.

Canadian Science Publishing operates under the brand NRC Research Press but is not affiliated with the National Research Council Canada. Papers published by Canadian Science Publishing are peer-reviewed by experts in their field. The views of the authors in no way reflect the opinions of Canadian Science Publishing or the National Research Council of Canada. Requests for commentary about the contents of any study should be directed to the authors.


Nicholas A. Burd | EurekAlert!
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