Lifting heavy is NOT the secret to building muscle, according to this bodybuilding coach

Expert lifting coach Ron Jones took to YouTube for a comprehensive video on how lifting light can help build muscle

Woman training in gym to build muscle
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking to build muscle? You might be tempted to opt for the biggest weight you can pick up in an attempt to bulk or tone up very quickly, but this isn't the way. Not only will you be risking injury by attempting exercises with improper form and too great a load, but you'll also gain for more muscle by taking the weight down a notch. 

Whether you're using a set of the best adjustable dumbbells at home (and if you don't have any, we recommend checking out the Black Friday weights deals for a real bargain) or you're just using the weights available to you at the gym, you should be opting for a weight that's manageable. "Big" Ron Jones, a veteran bodybuilding coach  with 250,000 followers on Instagram, took to YouTube to explain why – in one of the best, most articulate bodybuilding videos we've ever seen. 

Jones said: "'Big muscles come from using big weights, while little muscle comes from using little weights'. That couldn't be more wrong. 

"If the weight's too heavy, I'm forced to heave the weight up a lot faster than usual, whereas with smaller weights which are actually lighter, I allow my mind to communicate to the muscle in play, so I can have more muscle fibers recruited for that contraction. 

"If the weight's not too heavy, I can squeeze the muscle at the top of that contraction." 

Watch Ron Jones' video here:

Jones espouses the idea of the "mind-muscle connection", but his point about proper form is also well worth listening to. He says: "if the weight's too heavy, it requires too much momentum, meaning we have to recruit other muscles... Proper form and great contractions mean bigger, stronger muscles."

Choose a weight that's manageably heavy, rather than unreasonably so – one you can still lift with perfect form for reps, but can be a challenge over several sets. In that way, you'll avoid injuries and be able to execute those muscle-building moves with better form. 

Jones' theories are backed up by science: research from the University of Central Florida found that using 70% of your maximum lift for 10 reps is by far the best way to build muscle, resulting in greater muscular thickness and strength than people who trained with 90% of their maximum. That's "manageably heavy".

Why do resistance training at all?

It's hugely beneficial for everyone, not just bodybuilders. If you're just an average person looking to shed a few pounds, building muscle will help raise your body's base metabolic rate, which helps you burn fat at rest. You'll also be fitter and stronger, and so more capable of doing exercise for longer. 

Building muscle also improves your bone density, which can weaken with age and lack of use. Building muscle around your joints, such as your knees, protects them from the rigors of life, while it also fights against the process of atrophy.

When a muscle begins to waste away with age, it "atrophies". Maintaining a steady muscle routine, especially supplemented with the best protein powders for weight loss, actively fights against this process, keeping you strong, healthy and mobile well into your twilight years. 

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.