Lifting Light Weights?


This was originally published February 27th, 2008

No one has ever gotten better lifting light weights. Light weight is an oxymoron. A weight should be appropriate to the goal but, rarely, if ever, intentionally light. The load should be based on the strength level of the person. The reality is if you are lifting a weight ten times, numbers nine and ten should be difficult. If you can lift a weight 20 times but choose to do only ten, you are wasting your time. Period.

The essence of effective strength training is a concept called progressive resistance exercise. This means that that even if the resistance may be light to begin with, it should not stay that way.

I go crazy when someone tells me about the routine they’ve been doing with their eight-lb hand weights. (P.S. Call them dumbbells. Calling them hand weights is a dead giveaway that you are clueless.) My first question is this. How long have you been doing this? Often, people respond with something like, “I’ve done this three times a week for three months.” The doctrine of progressive resistance says that the first two weeks were beneficial and that 10 weeks were wasted. It’s no wonder people stop working out.

Once you have passed the first three weeks of training, you should lift a weight that is heavy but allows perfect form. Be wary, however, of another all-too-common mistake. When we say the load should be heavy, people begin to cheat. We are not encouraging cheating. Strive for perfect technique in all exercises AND progressively increase the resistance. SportBlocks, from PowerBlock, are perfect for this as are the Bowflex Dumbbells. SportBlocks are a small version of the popular PowerBlock dumbbells that increase in three-pound increments. If you don’t want to buy SportBlocks, get a good selection of dumbbells. Beginners will need 2.5-, 5-, 7.5-,10- and 12-lb dumbbells in order to progress.

Point 4 – Work on basic strength in basic exercises. If your trainer has you practicing your golf swing with a dumbbell in your hands, get a new trainer. Do not wave dumbbells around and call it strength training. Learn to bodyweight squat, learn to do a push-up. Good basic training should strongly remind you of the calisthenics you used to do in high school.

Here’s the truth. The secret is, there is no secret. If you want to hit a golf ball further, you need to get stronger. You will not get strong lifting a five-pound dumbbell. Next time we’ll talk about two more pet peeves. Stretching. And worrying about getting too big.

Mike Boyle’s Fat Loss Secrets DVD is available at


15 Responses to “Lifting Light Weights?”

  1. […] muscles. In fact, you may even lose the little muscle you already have. Light weight training (an oxymoron, as Mike Boyle says) with high reps is a type of aerobic exercise and it may raise cortisol, the stress hormone which […]

  2. […]  Lifting Light Weights? […]

  3. mboyle1959 Says:

    Doing exercises fast that are designed to be done slow is dangerous. Trying to lift weights as fast as possible is a great way to damage joints.

  4. Why couldn’t you be doing the ten lift series silly fast? Push up as quickly as possible and pull them down too trying to beat your previous time. If that’s not a good exercise then what is?

  5. “Here’s the truth. The secret is, there is no secret….Next time we’ll talk about two more pet peeves. Stretching. And worrying about getting too big.”

    Great write up Coach Boyle, I couldn’t agree with you more. I come across this problem quite a bit especially with the female athletes I work with at the university I coach at

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