The Benefits of Lifting Heavy Weights

The Benefits of Lifting Heavy Weights vs Light Weights

The Benefits of Lifting Heavy Weights vs Light Weights

A female over 50 flexing her bicep

To lift heavy weights, or not to lift heavy weights?

That is the question.

Any ol’ Google search on weight lifting will tell you how beneficial it is for almost any fitness goal. But you’ll find some of the results contradictory- some urging you to lift lighter weights for more reps, and others to go heavy for less time.

In this article, we want to clear up the question at hand and discuss the benefits of lifting heavy, challenging weights. Let’s dive in…

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The Benefits of Lifting Heavy Weights
Lifting with Light Weights
What Does a “Challenging” Weight Mean?

The Benefits of Lifting Heavy Weights

There are two major benefits that require challenging weights


Gaining strength is the most fundamental benefit of strength training. Strength, though, is largely dependent on how much you lift. Lifting heavier weights is substantially more effective for building strength (Fisher, Steele, & Smith, 2016; Jenkins et al., 2017). This change can’t be made up for by performing extra sets (Jenkins et al., 2017). Strength is a benefit that can only be maximized through the use of challenging weight loads.

Bone Density.

Strength training is also known for its ability to strengthen bones. This benefit is only fully realized when challenging weight loads are used (Kerr et al., 1996). In fact, light weight training has a minimal impact on bone strength (Kerr et al., 1996).

Two of the most important and generally desired benefits of strength training are only fully obtained through the use of challenging weights. As you can see, lifting a challenging weight load is important.

Lifting with Light Weights

When we’re able to choose for ourselves, we tend to use weights that are too light. We underestimate what the “right” weight load is (Dos Santos et al., 2020). This makes sense because light weights are comfortable and challenging weights are uncomfortable. And lifting light weights is better than lifting no weights at all.

So, why strain if we don’t have to?

Aside from being comfortable, another common reason people gravitate towards lifting lighter weights is because we tend to associate “challenging” with “dangerous.” Lifting challenging weights is not the cause of injuries.

In fact, exercise injuries generally occur with free weight accidents (i.e. dropping the weights), broken equipment, or with high impact activities (jumping, aerobics classes, etc.) (Gray & Finch, 2015). You won’t face those issues with The Perfect Workout’s trainers and facilities.

Also, the amount of weight you lift matters. No amount of lifting light weights adds up to the value of lifting challenging weights.

People often push back on weight increases, even when getting stronger. This is one area where a personal trainer is important. Trainers understand what an effective weight load is and will choose that weight load, even if it makes the trainee a little uncomfortable at the start of the exercise. They know when the member has gotten stronger or is too strong for the previous weight load. Trainers also know why challenging weight loads are important.

A female member from The Perfect Workout exercising on the Lat Pulldown

What Does a “Challenging” Weight Mean?

“Challenging” can be tough to define, especially when every exercise results in muscle failure (the inability to lift the weight again). Muscle failure can happen with heavy or light weights. Light weights simply require more time to reach that end point.

Here are two ways that you can gauge if your weight load is heavy enough:

Rate the difficulty on the first repetition.

An ideal weight load should present some challenge on the first rep. During the first rep, rate the difficulty on a scale of 1-10 (1 = “I can do this all day” and 10 = “This is impossible”). The ideal weight should fall in the 6-8 range on the first rep.

You reach muscle failure within 60-90 seconds.

This is a better indicator of how to determine if the weight choice is correct. If you reach muscle failure within 60-90 seconds, the weight is the perfect balance between light enough to allow for proper form while being heavy enough to improve strength and bone density.

A trainer guiding a member through the preacher curl exercise at The Perfect Workout

Summary: Lifting Heavy Weights vs. Light Weights

If you prefer strength training with weights that are “easy” or “comfortable,” you are like most people. Push past that initial reaction and embrace more challenging weight loads! Light weights won’t lead to achieving all of the benefits that strength training can provide. Specifically, if you want to maximize your strength and bone density, use weights that are moderately difficult from the start of the set. If you can leg press 200 lbs, leg press 200 lbs – not 140 lbs.

Your weight should lead you to achieve muscle failure in the 60-90-second time range.

Thankfully, if you’re training with The Perfect Workout, this is one of the biggest values of having a trainer. Your trainer will find the right weight load and increase the resistance as you gain strength- all while keeping you safe. You simply just have to trust your trainer and put forth your best effort.

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a FREE workout with us.

We know strength training is important, but nutrition is also a huge piece of your wellbeing. If you'd like help learning how to implement these new habits alongside your workouts, schedule a Nutrition Intro session today! Email [email protected] to get started.

  • Dos Santos, W. M., Junior, A. C. T., Braz, T. V., Lopes, C. R., Brigatto, F. A., & Dos Santos, J. W. (2020). Resistance-trained individuals can underestimate the intensity of the resistance training session: an analysis among genders, training experience, and exercises. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
  • Fisher, J., Steele, J., & Smith, D. (2016). High- and low-load resistance training: interpretation and practical application of current research findings. Sports Medicine, 47(3), 393-400.
  • Gray, S.E. & Finch, C.F. (2015). The causes of injuries sustained at fitness facilities presenting to Victorian emergency departments – identifying the main culprits. Injury Epidemiology, 2(1), 6.
  • Jenkins, N.D., Miramonti, A.A., Hill, E.C., Smith, C.M., Cochrane-Snyman, K.C., Housh, T.J., & Cramer, J.T. (2017). Greater neural adaptations following high- vs. low-load resistance training. Frontiers in Physiology, 8, 331.
  • Kerr, D., Morton, A., Dick, I., & Prince, R. (1996). Exercise effects on bone mass in postmenopausal women are site‐specific and load‐dependent. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 11(2), 218-225.

Featured Trainer Niraj Patel

Image of Regional Manager Niraj Patel instructing a member on the leg press

Like many staff at The Perfect Workout (including our CEO), Niraj began as a Personal Trainer in our Newport Beach studio. He quickly grew within the company, taking on roles such as Facility Manager and now he is Regional Manager of all 11 locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here is his story…

Niraj graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Kinesiology. He was working as a physical therapist for about a year and a half when he decided to make a career change and went to culinary school.

Despite it being a great life experience, Niraj craved a career that allowed him a better work-life balance. So, he went back to his kinesiology roots and pursued a path to Personal Training.

When he was introduced to The Perfect Workout, he was skeptical but wanted to learn more about the method.

“The message that Matt [Hedman] was conveying was amazing. It really resonated with me. And the workout… The Workout kicked my butt! I was very surprised at how difficult it was.”

After doing more of his own research around the science behind slow-motion strength training, he felt like it made perfect sense. Now, six years later Niraj has helped hundreds of members change their bodies and lives at The Perfect Workout.

“When I was training at the Newport Beach studio, I worked with a member who was suffering from dystonia, so she could not control her arms. She had a very difficult time doing any type of exercise other than walking. When she came into The Perfect Workout, she had the assumption that this wasn't going to be for her. I told her we can always work around any of the issues we might be dealing with on the machines. And the number one thing that she didn't think that we could overcome is her inability to grasp anything. So, I worked with her to overcome all of her mental and physical hurdles around working out.

Not only was she able to complete the exercises, she had an AHA moment after she left the studio. She mentioned how after the workout, her dystonia was less limiting than it was prior to the workout. She was able to control her upper body. She was crying when she told us this, which were tears of happiness! She was very excited to just see progress in her ability to workout, and with the dystonia itself.”

Image of a The Perfect Workout manager training a member on the lat pulldown machine

Niraj has personally experienced the incredible benefits of slow-motion strength training with his own limitations.

“Prior to utilizing our method, I did a lot of Olympic lifting, a lot of bodybuilders style workouts, and a lot of “bro science” workouts. Unfortunately, I had severe shoulder mobility issues, I had bursitis in my shoulders, tendinitis, and also a frozen shoulder.

My sleep was getting worse and worse, every night. I was waking up every night just to turn over because my left side of the body was going numb, and then I'd sleep on my right side for a few hours, and then my right side of the body would be going numb. It was a slippery slope. And I thought it was because I wasn't training hard enough.

After about six months of consistent slow-motion training, my mobility started to come back, and I was sleeping better. On top of that, I wasn't spending two hours in the gym anymore. I had time back on my calendar – and money can buy a lot, but it can't buy time!”

Image of a San Francisco Bay Area trainer helping a member of The Perfect Workout on the ab machine

After a few different career changes and an immense amount of professional growth over the last few years, Niraj feels like The Perfect Workout is home.

“As a trainer, I was able to change our members’ lives by putting them through effective workouts and guiding them through diet and nutrition. Now I get to positively impact my staff's lives, whether it be financially, professionally or personally. Anytime I hire someone, I let them know, ‘I want you to leave this company, either by growing up into a different position or going out and expanding. And if you don't leave this company with better tools in your toolbox, and you did when you entered it, and I didn't do my job correctly.’

Niraj believes that if he wasn’t a part of The Perfect Workout team, he’d be missing out on quality of life.

“I don't think I would be the professional leader that I am today. I think the quality of life that The Perfect Workout has been able to provide me and my wife is immeasurable. I really can't put it into words.”

Niraj Patel
Regional Manager
San Francisco Bay Area

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a FREE workout with us.

We know strength training is important, but nutrition is also a huge piece of your wellbeing. If you'd like help learning how to implement these new habits alongside your workouts, schedule a Nutrition Intro session today! Email [email protected] to get started.

Member Feature: Lois Williams

Member Feature: Lois Williams

Member Feature: Lois Williams

The Perfect Workout member, Lois Williams

The idea of losing her independence was looming over Lois Williams' head when she had so many wonderful things to look forward to – like twin grandsons and traveling. Until she found The Perfect Workout. Here is her story…

“I was feeling less and less independent and a bit worried about traveling by myself, and I didn't like that. I wanted to be able to help with the twins after they were born.

In the past I had tried to do strength training on my own, with limited success. I would struggle with correct form and pull or strain muscles, and I would give up. I needed help finding the right exercises for me, and someone to help me learn how to do them safely.”

A co-worker who tried The Perfect Workout loved it, and recommended it to Lois. She began her journey with Hannah at the North Dallas studio, and switched to virtual when the pandemic came along.

Together, Lois and her trainers set out to achieve some very specific goals.

“I wanted to easily put my roller bag into the overhead bin when I traveled by myself. And I had new twin grandsons who lived in a multi-story home. I wanted to be able to comfortably carry a baby up and down the stairs.”

Image of Lois doing a plank exercise during her virtual training session with The Perfect Workout

Having been consistent with her slow-motion strength workouts for years now, Lois’ goals of gaining strength and being the present grandmother she wanted to be have come to fruition and then some…

“Putting the roller bag in the overhead bin is no problem now. I'm able to keep up with the twins, who are now active 5 year olds!

And I have gone from a 30-second plank being a struggle, to being able to do a 2 1/2 minute plank.

I am stronger and have better balance than I've had in a long time. I know that I can improve, and I'm excited to continue on that path.”

Nowadays, Lois slips in an occasional in-studio workout but loves her virtual sessions at home now that she’s experienced just how effective they are.

“I would never have tried this had my co-worker not encouraged me to. No matter where you are, when you start, the program gives you an opportunity to improve. I've improved my balance and overall strength significantly, and am continuing to make progress.”

Lois Williams, 66
Dallas, TX | Virtual Member
4+ Years at The Perfect Workout

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New to The Perfect Workout? Book a FREE introductory workout to learn more about our method and how it can help you.

Featured Trainer Merry Konardi

image of Merry Konardi as the Featured Trainer

Merry used to own a gymnastics gym for kids which laid the foundation for her coaching career, but it was her husband’s support and mom’s injury that became the catalyst for helping people improve their health. Here is her story…

“In 2014 I was 30 pounds overweight and ridden with chronic inflammation all over my body. When my husband took me to the gym one day and said, “We are going to start weight training.”

I was hesitant. I thought, ‘I am a gymnast. I don't weight train!’

He actually coached me through some exercises, and coached me to lift slowly. Even though it made sense to do it slowly after experiencing it, I realized I couldn’t lift with fast speed anyway because it hurt. It hurt my elbow. It hurt my shoulder. It hurt everywhere.

I found out quickly that slow-motion strength training wasn’t just a preference, it was a necessity for me.

In just three months, I started seeing results. I lost my first 15 pounds, just two months later, and the weight just came off. And my inflammation was under control.”

Image of Trainer, Merry, coaching Carelle on the compound row

Back in 2019, Merry’s mom was traveling when she experienced a scary fall. She came back home with a busted knee and couldn’t walk up the stairs. Merry became her daily caregiver, helped her with physical therapy, and began doing exercises with her at home.

“The transformation was amazing. Within a week, she started walking and was so happy! And it was just so gratifying. I thought, if I can help more people have this kind of experience, it'd be such a rewarding career.”

Merry began working toward a Personal Training certification and ultimately found The Perfect Workout – a home to help people 1-on-1 and do it with a method she wholeheartedly believed in.

“Every time I finish training somebody, I always feel that I achieved something and that’s very important.

One of our members, Carelle, is a perfect example of that. Currently, we are working with a big ceiling, which is her vertigo. Many times the intensity of the workout makes her feel nauseous.

So, I have to find a balance with different exercises, and it changes every time. But we work together and she comes here and trains hard. It's a challenge, but each session feels like an achievement.

Any time I feel like someone has had a successful workout with me, it's gratifying. And it doesn't make me feel that this is just another job. At 50 years old, that’s important at this point in my life.”

Merry Konardi
San Mateo, CA
Trainer at The Perfect Workout

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New to The Perfect Workout? Book a FREE introductory workout to learn more about our method and how it can help you.

Member Feature PJ Elsner

Member Feature PJ Elsner

Member Feature PJ Elsner

Image of PJ doing the preacher curl at The Perfect Workout

Five years ago, a now retired PJ Elsner was working full time, and working out at a big box gym. She decided to swap in her traditional workouts for 20-minute strength training sessions. But little did she know, that decision would one day save her life. Here is her story…

After regularly exercising at a 24-hour fitness with a trainer, PJ didn’t feel like the workouts or the time commitment was working for her.

“It didn't seem like it was making much difference. I never felt like I'd really worked out. I didn't know what parts of my body I should be focusing on. And I wanted to be sure that I didn't start gaining weight like most older people do.

I needed a lot of personalized attention and a coach to figure out exactly how to help my body age appropriately. Because I don't act or look my age. But at the same time, I don't want to.” 😏

Finding a more effective workout was already on PJ’s mind when she heard about a more time-efficient way to exercise – at The Perfect Workout. She went into the San Mateo studio as a curious customer, and came out a motivated member.

Image of a female being coached by a trainer on the leg extension machine

Five years after joining The Perfect Workout, PJ has experienced a number of ways in which this workout has made a difference in her health, starting with the belief that it may have saved her life…

“I think The Perfect Workout saved my life. In 2018, I was on a golfing trip and had been under a lot of stress. I was taking quite a bit of Advil, I was tired a lot, and my legs got really sluggish. After seeking medical advice it turned out that my esophagus had been irritated by the stress and Advil use. My hemoglobin count had gone down to 5.9 (normal range is 12.1-15.1) with my esophagus dripping blood into my stomach. I ended up in the ICU within three hours after that.

The doctors were absolutely astonished that I did not go into cardiac arrest on the golf course.

They said, ‘How? How are you so strong to have kept on going?’

I said, ‘I do this thing called The Perfect Workout… ‘

And you know what they said?

That may just have saved your life.

Image of PJ being coached by a trainer

And living is exactly what PJ is doing these days…

“I have more stamina. I'm stronger. I think that I have actually probably been able to fend off things that might have taken me down earlier, because of being in better shape.

In fact, most people my age tire out in the afternoon. I don't have many people that I can hang around with because otherwise, they just can't keep up!

Emotionally, this is a big boost. Because not only are you proving that you can do something that you never thought you could do, you’re getting stronger mentally too.

I would highly recommend The Perfect Workout to almost anybody. At this point in my life, it's worth it.”

PJ Elsner, 78
The Perfect Workout Member
San Mateo, CA

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a FREE workout with us.

Featured Trainer Jeremy Aguirre

Image of The Perfect Workout's June 2022 Featured Trainer - Jeremy Aguirre

Jeremy has known his entire life he’d have a career in helping people. After almost joining the military he eventually became a certified EMT and joined the Firefighter Academy. But after hours spent in ambulances, emergency rooms, and in high-stress situations, he realized he wanted to help people before they ended up in the hospital. Here is his story…

“The EMT life caught up to me, and it wasn’t for me anymore, but I still wanted to help people.

I found physical therapy and I eventually began a job at an orthopedic rehab clinic. I worked there for many years where I was able to help so many people by treating basic health, injuries, anything you can imagine. Then COVID hit and I was forced to leave.”

Jeremy wanted to stay in the preventative care field and with his background in healthcare and physical therapy, he decided to get his Personal Trainer Certification. He ultimately found a home at The Perfect Workout where he now trains members in the San Mateo studio.

The Perfect Workout has been a perfect fit for Jeremy because he still gets to work 1-on-1 with people and focus on each member at a time.

“I get to know so much about so many of my members and many of their stories are just amazing. So while I am still helping people, and I've seen amazing progress with their exercises and their goals, it's the interpersonal connection that makes it worth it.”

Image of Jeremy training a TPW member

Jeremy has been able to help dozens of members at the San Mateo studio. Here are a few of their wins…

“One of my members, Brooke, came to me with all of these knee and shoulder injuries. In eight months of working together she's gained so much more external rotation for her shoulder, much more strength and overall movement. She recently told me something fell out of the cabinet at home and she caught it, not even thinking about her shoulder. So, her being able to transition to more alertness and confidence in her shoulder, just from the workouts we do, it's been amazing.

Another member of mine, Stephanie, has been training at The Perfect Workout for a long time. But after giving birth to her child, she put on 30 pounds of weight, and was feeling very self conscious about it. In almost a year, she's lost all that weight and improved her strength immensely. And she was almost in tears when we had a weigh-in for her the other day. She was jumping around and hugging everybody, it was so cool.”

“Vesna, another San Mateo member who has rheumatoid arthritis in her hands (which makes some machines difficult for her to use) was very hesitant when she first started to do anything besides lower body exercises. But as I guided her through the workouts, she gained more confidence in variations with certain machines. Now she's skyrocketed on all her weights, she's gotten so much stronger. She's leg pressing about 2.5 times her own weight, and she's not a big person. I can see a little bit more of a sparkle in her eye every time she comes in here.”

Jeremy laughing with a member as they look at a tablet

Jeremy believes it's important for people to try something like The Perfect Workout because it teaches you how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, which is not a bad thing.

“At the end of the day, [that discomfort] will strengthen you. It'll humble you. This worked even intimidated me a little bit in the beginning. But now I'm so much better because of it- stronger, healthier, and even more aware of myself.”

Jeremy Aguirre
The Perfect Workout Trainer
San Mateo, CA

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a FREE workout with us.