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Less weight can mean more muscle

4 December 2019

New research shows training with less weight, but with lower oxygen, can be as effective as heavy lifting at the gym.

Lincoln University Associate Professor, Mike Hamlin, of the University’s Sport and Exercise Science Lab, looked at whether performing resistance training in systemic hypoxia (via breathing hypoxic air, or air with less oxygen as used in altitude simulation training) with lighter weights might provide training benefits.

Associate Professor Mike Hamlin said it is well established that to gain strength and muscle individuals need to train with relatively high weights (at least 80 per cent of the person’s one repetition maximum (1RM), or the most weight they can lift just once), but such training is out of reach for some people, such as injured athletes.

The research used subjects doing knee extensions and flexions with relatively light weights (50 per cent of 1RM), and found low-load resistance training in hypoxia is as good as (if not better) than traditional strength training at improving strength and muscle mass.

“It also could be used as an alternative to traditional strength training for athletes,” he said, “and for people with conditions where muscle function may be inhibited and therefore traditional high-load resistance is impractical, as well as athletes with injuries.”


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