The average self-selected weight when people were on their own was 53.4% of a 1-RM. 53.4% might be suitable for novice trainers, but experienced lifters may need a heavier weight to gain strength and size.
ARE WE LIFTING HEAVY ENOUGH TO BUILD MUSCLE? SUMMARY
- The study found that most lifters were not lifting heavy enough.
- The average self-selected weight when people were on their own was 53.4%.
- The author commented that 53.4% might be suitable for novice trainers, but experienced lifters may need a heavier weight to gain strength and size.
Many lifters will say they are “hard gainers” and they can’t gain muscle. They say they train hard and eat enough calories, but when someone says they train hard, what training feels “hard” to one person may not be what is recommended.
If you are a beginner, strength training with as little as 45% of a 1-repetition maximum (1-RM) can increase strength, but this is unlikely to continue beyond a few weeks. (Anderson & Kearney, 1982) The American College of Sports Medicine recommends resistance training sessions composed of 60-80% of a 1-RM for optimal gains in strength and muscle gains.
As discussed previously on Evidence Based Muscle, you can gain muscle with either light or heavy weight, as long as the light weight is taken close to failure. A previous study raised awareness that many lifters’ goal for training is to gain muscle (76% of volunteers), but they may not exert themselves as hard as they should.
SELECTED LOADS IN RESISTANCE EXERCISE MAY NOT BE HEAVY ENOUGH
The study asked participants, “What weight do you usually lift for 10 repetitions on free-weight bench press exercise?” They then had to perform a bench press with the weight they normally use in the gym. At the end of the study, the individuals performed, on average, 16 reps!
It was concluded that most individuals could perform a number of repetitions well above the 10 repetitions predicted for the selected load. Therefore, the training routines are not compatible with maximum effort.(Barbosa-Netto et al., 2021) Thus, many are not achieving enough high intensity workouts for muscle building.
The latest research published in SportRxiv by Professor James Steele casts doubt on if people are lifting weights at the right intensity to produce increases in strength. The study examined loads in resistance training studies from (% 1-RM) over 18 studies with 359 subjects (37% male, 63% female).
The studies allowed subjects to choose their own selected resistance training intensity. Most subjects chose 3 sets of 10 repetitions, but the sets (1-3 sets) and reps (8-15 reps) varied among the individuals. The typical exercises were upper and lower body exercises such as bench presses, squats, leg presses, etc. The averages of the studies are listed below.