Weight training is an important part of any physical fitness plan. It helps build muscle, which boosts metabolism and helps your clothes fit better. Obviously, weight training also helps to build strength and improve bone density. There are benefits for men as well as women. These outcomes matter for everyone, and they become even more important as you age. If you want to strength train but are stumped by the less weight vs. more weight debate, here is what you need to know to get started.

What you do with a weight matters more than how heavy it is

No matter the size of the weight good form is important. How you lift can help you isolate the intended muscle or muscle groups and avoid injury. Ask a personal trainer or gym staff member for guidance if you are unsure about form. Got it? Now ready, set, lift… yes, go for it. If your goal is to avoid bulking up, don’t worry. You can achieve lean muscle, tone up, or get some definition with light AND heavy weights. It is a myth that light weight is for toning and heavy weight is for bulking. In fact, lifting heavier weights boosts metabolism and burns more calories than lighter weights so you burn more fat and achieve more definition.

Young woman pumping iron

Feel the burn

The benefit of strength training, with both light and heavy weights, is to fatigue the muscle. As you might imagine, it will take more reps to fatigue muscles with lighter weights. You will need fewer reps with heavy weights. However, the net benefit will be the same. During recovery – avoid working the same muscle group two days in a row – micro tears created throughout your training session will begin to heal. It is this process that leads to muscle toning.

Watch what you eat

Strength training is only one piece of the muscle building puzzle. Diet also matters. Protein is essential for muscle development. Ideally, you will want to include protein in every meal and snack. Be sure that includes your post workout snack. Take in protein and carbs within 30 minutes of strength training to speed recovery, build stores for your next workout and support muscle growth.

Be consistent

Establish a regular strength training practice for best results. Two or three sessions each week is a good rule of thumb. Pay attention to form and challenge yourself to lift until the muscle is too tired for another rep. Don’t shy away from heavy or light weights. Both can help you achieve the lean look you want.