Many people have reported anecdotally that if they go to the gym over a long period of time, they gradually feel themselves getting stronger, but their muscles do not necessarily increase in size at the same time. According to a new study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, there is a reason for that, and it has to do with the brain. This study provides an example of how training with the same weights for more reps does not necessarily have much of a positive effect, but instead, increasing the weight lifted most definitely is able to create changes in the body.
The study was led by Nathaniel Jenkins and has come up with several answers that evaluate how motor neurons are able to adapt to heavier weights. According to the study, if you try to lift heavier weights, more motor neurons are stimulated, which will increase your strength: “If you want to gain strength, whether you are an athlete, a gym rat or any other person, training with greater weights will help you adapt better,” Jenkins said.
The study was conducted by studying 26 men who were asked to train for 6 weeks on a leg extension machine. The participants were split into two groups, one who gradually tried to increase the weights they lifted, and one who did not increase weights but performed more reps instead. Speaking of the group that increased weights, Jenkins says, “they were more efficient. They were able to produce the same force, but by activating fewer motor cells. For practical purposes, exercises with greater weight will give better results in your body. It is not only an adaptation of the force, but also of the neurons.”
The result of the study is clear: to continually improve, it’s not sufficient to just do more reps. You have to increase the weight as well.
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