Let's get the answer out of the way, then I'll explain why: Both are equally effective. The difference is in HOW they are effective. Let's start with low weight/high reps first...
First, we need to learn the definition of HYPOXIA: -a state in which oxygen is not available in sufficient amounts at the tissue level to maintain adequate homeostasis For example, high altitude training.
Research suggests that resistance training under hypoxic conditions improves muscle strength and induces muscle hypertrophy faster than under normoxic (normal) conditions.
In this study, muscle hypertrophy was significantly greater for the hypoxic environment than the normal environment. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21266734/
Hypoxia increases muscle hypertrophy induced by resistance training - PubMed
This study suggests that resistance training under hypoxic conditions improves muscle strength and induces muscle hypertrophy faster than under normoxic conditions, thus representing a promising new...
So when we combine high repetitions, training (close) to failure, and short rest periods (60 seconds or less) between sets, we can imitate a hypoxic environment and really get our muscles to grow! Now, let's discuss low reps/high weight...
Now, we need to learn the definition of MYOTRAUMA: -trauma to muscle tissue The load from weightlifting causes microdamage to muscle fibers.
I'm sure you've heard before that when you lift weights, muscles become damaged and break down, only to rebuild bigger and stronger than before in recovery. A heavier load tends to cause more damage.
However, there still needs to be a decent amount of "time under tension" (TUT).
Being able to do just 3 reps of a heavy weight, doesn't give you as much TUT in comparison to doing a weight you could do no more than 10 reps with.
As soon as the damage is noticed by the body, the cells that are necessary for repair move to the damaged area and start the healing process. It's much like an inflammatory response to an infection.
It's a totally normal part of resistance training. This response is believed to release various growth factors that ultimately lead to building muscle.
But all of this is why hypertrophy isn't limited to 8-15 reps. It's more like 6-30 reps. This is all due to the PRINCIPLE OF SIZE RECRUITMENT. I'm going to simplify this as best as possible...
Motor neurons (nerve cells that send impulses from the brain to the muscles) and the muscle fibers they control, together are called MOTOR UNITS.
Naturally, motor units come in different sizes, because muscles are different sizes.
The lighter the weight, the less and smaller the motor units that will be recruited. Basically, as more force is needed, more motor units are recruited in order of size from smallest to largest.
So here's why both heavy and light weight methods work... When you use a heavier weight: More motor units need to be recruited immediately, so you reach failure (unable to do another repetition with proper form) much sooner.
When you use a lighter weight: The smaller units become fatigued as you continue to do more and more reps, which then causes larger motor units to be recruited and then fatigued as you get closer to failure.
You'll find these methods in my programs. Using them will MAXIMIZE your gains!
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