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Getting Them Gains While Gyms are Closed

Thanks to COVID-19, gyms across the country are shut down for who knows how long. For the person that sought to build more lean muscle mass, this may seem like an abrupt end to reaching that goal. Scientific research demonstrates that working out with light weight can be as effective as using heavier weights. The key to making this happen is to understand the importance of volume.

Volume is simply a fancy way to say the total amount of weight lifted in a workout. For example, if Karen performed squats for 3 sets of 10 repetitions at 100 lbs, her volume would be 3000 lbs.

To gain muscle mass, it is generally accepted that higher repetitions are highly effective in achieving such a goal. According to Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, a professor at Lehman College and highly regarded strength & conditioning expert, the general “sweet spot” to build mass lies somewhere between 8 to 12 repetitions. Recent research suggests the “going until failure” is a flawed tactic because it leaves individuals vulnerable to suffering an injury due to overexertion or failing to maintain proper technique in search of completing more repetitions. Instead, it is suggested that you end your set as soon as your technique starts to fall apart-- this is called “technical failure”.

However, since gyms are closed and most people don’t have a fully stocked weight set at home, most of us have to make do with what we’ve got. What this means is that going until technical failure will probably be two or three times higher than the 8 to 12 rep sweet spot.

In a recent study led by Dr. Schoenfeld, he and his team discovered that heavy and light weight workouts produced similar muscle mass gains. With the heavy group performing 6-10 repetitions per set and the light group going 20-30 repetitions per set, muscle growth was remarkably similar. Nevertheless, it is important to report that while mass growth was similar, strength gains for the heavy group were much higher.

In practice, performing higher repetitions until you reach technical failure while using light weight or bands has the power to produce mass gains, but don’t be expecting strength gains to be as high as they were while in the gym. That said, when gyms are finally reopened, be safe and resist the temptation of lifting the same weight you did prior to the shutdown. You don’t want to spend more time just to come back from an injury.

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