Fitness Tips

4 Reasons to Lift Lighter Weights

The other day, I came across a cool article calling for women to drop the cutesy pink dumbbells and start lifting heavy like a man. It is an excellent piece that points out training like a man will not make a woman look “bulky” because a woman’s physiology and hormone profile are completely different from a man’s.

I wholeheartedly agree that women shouldn’t be afraid to lift heavy. In fact, I bought a heavier set of dumbbells just a couple of weeks ago to help take my lifts to the next level.


There is a time and a place for light weights, and I think they don’t always get the credit they deserve.

Regardless of whether you’re a woman or a man, there is no shame in using light weights. In fact, it might even be better than lifting heavy in some situations.

This is my ode to the 2–5 lb dumbbell and how incorporating them can enhance your fitness routine.

1. Avoids Overwhelm

When I first started resistance training, I was terrified of dumbbells. I didn’t know what I was doing, and exercise seemed hard enough without introducing added resistance.

When I finally committed to my first home training program, I was incredibly intimidated because the lightest pair of dumbbells in my boyfriend’s home gym was 8 lbs. I could barely even one rep of flies or front raises at this weight, and I ended my first workout feeling very weak and discouraged.

I gave up, and it was months before I tried again. The second time around, I went out and bought a set of 3s. I remember feeling slightly ashamed as I approached the Sport Chek cash register with my dainty, neon-orange weights.

But cute as they might have been, they were weights I could manage, and thanks to them, I made it through my first 12-week program.

Over time I moved up to heavier weights, but without those 3s to start with, I would have never stuck to it long enough to get there.

My little orange 3s don’t get as much use these days, but I fondly keep them in my collection because they remind me of the beginning of my journey and how far I’ve come.

2. Reduces the Risk of Injury

I’m a relatively ambitious person, but that’s not always a good thing. Once I got into the habit of resistance training, I became eager to push myself to my limits.

I ended up grabbing those 8s before I was ready, and I pulled a muscle in my neck that took two months to heal.

Light weights lend some assurance that you aren’t pushing your body past what it can handle. It may take you longer to train to fatigue (more on that later), but it’s still faster than lifting too heavy and finding yourself out of commission for weeks.

I find light weights are particularly helpful for upper body exercises because I am prone to neck, shoulder, and arm injuries.

3. Facilitates Better Form

When you’re new to lifting weights, form is everything. Proper form not only reduces the risk of injury but increases the effectiveness of the workout.

For example, there’s no point in doing eight reps with heavy weights if those reps aren’t actually engaging the intended muscle. You end up using other muscles to pick up the slack, which is ineffective for hypertrophy and a pulled muscle waiting to happen.

Experts agree that it’s far more effective to do two sets with light weights and good form than four with heavy weights and bad form.

Even if you prefer to exercise at home (like me), I highly recommended getting 2 or 3 sessions in with a personal trainer just to get familiar with the proper form.

But if that’s not an option for you, you can watch tutorials on YouTube to get pointers on what to do.

Then use your phone’s camera to record yourself doing the exercise — with light weights — to ensure your form is correct. Trust me when I say this is a necessary step; often, it’s easier to see what we’re doing wrong than feel it.

4. Builds Endurance — And Muscle, too!

High reps with lower weights will help build more muscular endurance than lifting heavy will.

The more reps you do, the more aerobic it becomes; typically, anything more than 15 reps is considered a high-rep exercise. If you can do more than 30, it’s time to increase the weight.

Muscular endurance is beneficial for improving functional fitness or the ease with which you perform day-to-day physical activities. It also helps burn calories and manage your weight.

But what’s interesting is that lifting light can build muscle, too! A but 2012 study found that low-weight, high-rep exercises can build muscle just as effectively.

There are two critical factors for low-weight exercises effective:

The first is training to fatigue, which means the final 2–3 reps should feel difficult.

The second is implementing progressive overload, when you gradually increase the weight or the reps over time. Your gains will plateau if you never change the weight or number of reps.

However, lifting heavy is better for isolating specific muscles and building maximum strength. It also saves you time since you don’t have to do so many reps to fatigue.

I always incorporate a mix of both heavy and light weights in my resistance training.

Final Thoughts

There is no shame in lifting light. Especially if you are new to resistance training, those 3 lb dumbbells could be one of the best investments you ever make.

Remember that any kind of resistance training is good exercise and beneficial for your muscle and your health.

As you become a more seasoned athlete, you can start incorporating heavier weights. To this day, I find my best workouts involve a mix of heavy and light weight exercises.

So go ahead and wield those cute 3 lb dumbbells with pride!

Corrie Alexander is a former ISSA-certified personal trainer, home fitness advocate, and founder of The Fit Careerist. A proponent of personal growth and a self-proclaimed fitness app-junkie, Corrie shares tips and product reviews with the goal of helping others on their own fitness journey.

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