Should You Lift Heavy or Light Weights First?


Both heavy-weight lifting and light-weight lifting provide distinct benefits for you and your workout routine. When used correctly, both forms of weight lifting can significantly contribute to muscle growth and strengthening.

You should start by lifting lighter weights and progressing to heavier ones. This will give you the advantage of warming up your muscles first while improving your endurance. Your body will be more prepared to take on heavier weights later in your workout to build strength. 

In the rest of this article, we will explore the benefits of lifting heavy weights versus light weights. We will see what is most advantageous depending on your personal fitness goals. We will also take a look at some best practices for your weightlifting workout routine. 

Lift Light Then Heavy

While there are plenty of ways of building an effective workout routine, beginning a lifting session with lighter weights and making your way to heavier ones is a standard practice. Both types of weight lifting accomplish different goals, and including both types of weights in your fitness plan is ideal for overall improvement and growth.

Starting off with light weights with more repetitions is a great way to warm up your body while building your endurance. You will get the blood flowing to your muscles during these sets, warming them up as effectively as possible. 

Once your muscles are warmed, it is safer to take on heavier weights. Cold muscles are more prone to tearing, making it important to lift heavy weights only after an extensive warmup. 

This principle also applies on a macro level. If you are beginning a weightlifting journey that will encompass several months, you might begin the journey by lifting lighter weights for more repetitions. As you ease your way into a regular weightlifting routine, you will give yourself a chance to get the hang of the form and technique.

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After a few weeks of light weight lifting, you might feel more prepared to introduce heavy weight lifting into your routine as well. Combining the two will give you the best results, but doing it on a timeline that works for you and your body is important. 

Weight Lifting Best Practices

There are many accepted ways to build muscle through weight lifting. Combining how heavy the weight is with how many reps you perform is the key to effectively building muscle. Lighter weights can be used effectively with more repetitions, while heavy weights can be used with fewer reps. 

The best way to think about this combination is through an equation to find the work volume. To get an idea of this numerical value, multiply the number of repetitions times the weight times the sets. 

The higher the work volume number is, the more you have to gain from your weight-lifting session. You can use this target work volume number to figure out how many reps and sets you should do at the right weight for you.

Even though both light and heavy weights have similar potential for muscle building, research has found the type of muscle that is built can vary. Each type of weight lifting offers distinct benefits, and combining the two weight categories can optimize your overall strength and endurance building. Let’s take a look at the benefits of each type of weightlifting. 

Benefits of Lifting Heavy Weights

When lifting heavy weights, you will predominantly build Type II and Type IIx muscle fiber types. These are your stronger muscle fiber types that are prone to feeling fatigued when used. This muscle fiber type has a bigger potential for growth than Type II muscle fibers. 

While both heavy and light weight lifting have the potential for substantial muscle growth, heavy weight lifting is the best for improving your strength. If you are looking specifically to get stronger, the key will lie in lifting heavier weights for fewer repetitions.

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The SAID principle explains the reasons for this accurately. Standing for the “Specific Adaptations for Imposed Demands,” this theory explains that if your specific adaptation is to get stronger, you need to impose a demand on your body to meet this adaptation. Lifting heavier is an effective demand to place on your body to meet this goal. 

When you participate in heavy lifting, you maximize mechanical tensions that stimulate your Type II muscle fibers. It is also giving your body a chance to improve its neuromuscular adaptations. This will contribute to stronger muscles that are able to handle more weight over time. 

For a detailed explanation of what happens to your muscles when you are lifting heavy weights, you can check out this informational YouTube video:

Additionally, you can enjoy the benefit of burning calories when lifting heavier weights. This can help contribute to an overall toning of your body and general weight loss through your exercise. 

How to Lift Heavy Weights

When you use heavy weights, you will be lifting shorter sets compared to lighter weights. Your ideal heavy-weight set might consist of only four to six repetitions. 

You will feel your muscles getting fatigued quickly, but this is a good sign. In order to reap the benefits of the heavy weight lifting practice, you will experience muscle fatigue during your weight lifting sessions. 

Benefits of Lifting Light Weights

When lifting lighter weights with more repetitions, you will be targeting muscle fiber Type I growth. This muscle fiber type is fatigue-resistant but not as strong when compared to Type II and Type IIx. 

While lifting lighter weights is not as effective at building strength as lifting heavy weights is, it is great for endurance. As you use lighter weights to lift more reps, you will be improving your endurance and ability to continue using your muscles without experiencing extreme fatigue. 

As you lift lighter weights, you are improving your metabolic adaptation as well as your lactate threshold. As these improve, you will not experience muscle fatigue the way you once did. 

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Additionally, starting out with lighter weights is a great way to build a solid foundation. With lighter weights, you can focus on your form and technique. This is especially important if you’re a beginner. As you begin to train your body on how to lift weights correctly and safely, it will be easier to move into heavier weights without risking injury. 

How to Lift Light Weights

If you’re just getting started with light weights, remember you want to use higher repetitions to see results. If you are aiming to build muscle, you will want to aim for 8-10 reps at the minimum. If muscular endurance is your goal, you should be aiming for 12-15 reps. 

Remember to start slow if you are a beginner. You can build up to higher reps over time or work to increase the number of sets you can perform. Choosing the correct weight will depend on you and your body. You will want to feel like the last rep in your set is the very last possible one you are capable of performing. 

If you are breezing through your set without feeling the challenge toward the end, the weight is too light. If you are severely struggling to complete your intended number of reps, the weight is too heavy. Over time, you will need to readjust your ideal weight as your strength and endurance improve. 

Final Thoughts

Lifting a combination of both light and heavy weights is a great way to improve your overall strength, endurance, and physical fitness. As a general rule, start light and work your way up to heavy. This applies to individual workout sessions as well as your overall fitness plan. 

Light weight lifting gives you a chance to warm up, practice technique, and build endurance. Heavy lifting gives you a chance to push yourself and really develop your strength while burning calories. 



Empowering minds and bodies through my fitness journey! Passionate fitness enthusiast and blogger on a mission to inspire and motivate. Transforming lives one post at a time with evidence-based workouts, nutrition tips, and a sprinkle of wellness wisdom. Join me on this sweaty adventure to unlock your full potential and cultivate a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Let's break a sweat, embrace the grind, and celebrate the victories together! ✨ #FitLife #WellnessWarrior #FitnessBlogger"

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