How to Tell if You’re Lifting Too Light in the Gym

There are many among us who frankly don’t want to know whether they’re lifting too light in the gym. As far as we’re concerned, if what we’re lifting is easy to lift, ignorance will be bliss. Leave us alone. But OK, let’s concede that some people are, like, really into lifting, and if they’re not pumping a sufficient amount of iron they’d want to know so they can up their workload.

Well, here’s the scoop: the European Journal of Sport Science has published findings that say anything below 20 per cent of your one-rep max (1RM) will not add muscle. In fact, a level of 40 per cent of 1RM is recommended if putting on muscle is indeed your thing.

The study’s author, Brad Schoenfeld, has a PhD and is also a fitness coach, so he’s got all bases covered when it comes to both science and yelling at people on treadmills. Assuredly he knows what he’s talking about when he says, “It is now well-established that lifting relatively light weights can substantially increase muscle development. However, the question arises as to whether there is a minimum threshold below which growth is compromised.”

The results suggest that such a minimum threshold does, indeed exist, and by applying the 20 per cent formula, one can avoid dipping below it, and thereby live a long and happy life of continually inflating pecs.