“This should be easy,” I thought to myself as I grabbed the heaviest weights I saw on the weight rack and set up my workout space. I tightened my ponytail. My five-pound weights and I were ready for my first barre class.
It was actually a blessing that I fixed my ponytail right before class because it ended up being the exact ponytail I sported to work the following day. I couldn’t imagine washing my hair. Heck, I couldn’t even imagine simply stepping into the shower. Every muscle in my body hurt so good – muscles I had yet to discover during my typical weight lifting sessions. But how could I be so sore from five-pound dumbbells? Could lighter weights possibly make that much of a difference?
I spoke to Susan Rothman, owner of Pure Barre in the West Loop, about the effectiveness of lighter weights. “When using weights, we focus on making the mind-body connection with every contraction of the muscle, taking out any momentum, and finding your best form,” Rothman explained. “Likewise, we focus on both concentric and eccentric movements of the muscle. For example, squeezing the bicep as you curl in as well as squeezing the triceps on the extension to create opposing forces.”
As a result, most clients use lighter weights to ensure that they last through the long holds while maintaining good form. “Basically, there’s no way to cheat, so light weights start to feel heavy very quickly, and what seem like small or simple movements start to tone your muscles in just a few classes!” Rothman continued.
I was amazed as I listened to Rothman describe the success that Pure Barre “regulars” typically experience. Trimmed midsections, reduced lower back pain, improved posture and toned arms, shoulders, upper back, seat and legs were all benefits and achievements that her clients experience. “It’s truly a full body workout every single class,” Rothman said.
As an avid heavy weight lifter, I was curious to learn more about how training with lighter weights can help to improve other types of exercise people participate in. Rothman explained, “Pure Barre is excellent, low-impact cross training. Runners tend to love that we incorporate just the right amount of stretching. They also like having a low impact alternative to give their joins a rest while still building strength.” Rothman continued, “Those who focus on traditional weight lifting or boot camp style group fitness find that Pure Barre helps them build muscle endurance and challenge their balance and coordination.”
To learn more about light lifting and muscle endurance, I spoke with Dustin Hogue, a fitness trainer at Studio Three in River North. “The true benefit from light lifting comes from working until muscle failure or fatigue,” Hogue explained. “This makes it more about the effort level rather than the load you are lifting. High repetitions of about 30% of your “one rep max” until failure for two to three sets promote muscle growth and muscular endurance.”
Other benefits that Hogue described include injury prevention and convenience. “Heavier lifts lend themselves to limited range of motion and compensation which can lead to injury. With light weights and high repetitions, you are more likely to be able to maintain proper form and line of pull.” Hogue explained.
Hogue concluded our discussion by explaining how lighter weights are easy to keep around the house as well as transport, especially if you travel a lot.
No matter how you pick your poison, be sure to find ways to include resistance training into your weekly routine in order to increase bone density, promote fat-free body mass, as well as many other benefits that can be found here.