Big Gains From Light Weights? - AnabolicMinds.com
    • Big Gains From Light Weights?



      by Brad Schoenfeld, PhD T-Nation

      Here's what you need to know...

      • New research on the growth of type I and II fibers suggest we may have been selling our slow-twitch fibers short by only training heavy.

      • Type I fibers are maximally stimulated with longer duration sets requiring lower loads. Type II fibers respond best with short sets with heavy weights.

      • There are a lot of ways to vary intensity in your program, like periodizing training rep ranges over time, as well as using heavy weights with multi-joint exercises and using lighter weights with single-joint movements.

      "Lift heavy to grow" is a favorite mantra of coaches and gym rats alike. Heavy weights maximally recruit the large motor units associated with type II fibers, and since the type IIs are strength-related fibers with the greatest growth potential, focusing on their maximal recruitment is the key to getting swole, right?

      Well, not so fast.

      Don't Short-Change Your Slow-Twitch

      Type I fibers are like the Rodney Dangerfield of the bodybuilding world – they get no respect. Slower, weaker, and often smaller than their fast-twitch counterparts, the type I's only claim to fame is an ability to contract repeatedly, albeit without much force.

      Relegated to a life of 5K's, marathons, and unsettlingly tight running shorts, at first glance this fiber type's ability to resist fatigue seems to be more of a bodybuilding curse than a blessing. As such, training philosophies typically revolve around stimulating and annihilating the type II fiber, with little consideration for the lowly slow-twitch fibers.

      However, new research on the effects of different training intensities and the growth of type I and II fibers suggest we may have been selling our slow-twitch fibers short and, in the process, missing out on pounds of potential muscle (1).

      It's time to re-think our training philosophies in the context of fiber-type specific hypertrophy.

      Big Weights and Type II Fibers

      Certainly, a wealth of studies suggest type II fibers do, in fact, grow more with high intensity strength training (2). The caveat here is "high intensity." It's not necessarily that type II fibers have an innate ability to outgrow their slow-twitch relatives, but that they show superior growth when trained at higher intensities (>50% 1RM).

      Our current understanding of the hypertrophy of each fiber type may be more a consequence of the way we've studied them (high intensity) than what actually happens in the gym (2, 3). The best summary of this relationship is a 2004 paper from Dr. Andrew Fry, who compiled the data from various studies on the growth rate of fiber types and found that, at most training intensities, the type II fiber reigns supreme.

      As training intensity decreased below 50% 1RM, the type I fibers eventually outgrew the IIs, but the rate of growth in this range was still nowhere near what was achieved at higher intensities, regardless of fiber type. After reading a study like this, not much would change in our training recommendations, but there are limits to the type of analysis (regression) performed by Fry (2).

      The biggest limitation is that there just weren't that many low-intensity training studies out there to compare (2, 3), and a paucity of any that directly compared high-intensity against low intensity training while accounting for growth of the different fiber types.

      Add to that recent evidence on the growth rates of muscle fibers in response to differing training intensities (1) and you'll soon see that our type I fibers are capable of more than we give them credit for.

      The Case for Type I

      While they may be rare, there are enough studies for us to infer we've probably underestimated the hypertrophic capacity of our type I fibers. Recently, Mitchell et al. (1) performed a now infamous training study demonstrating that, when taken to failure, training with low loads (three sets at 30% 1RM) can produce comparable hypertrophy to training at higher intensities (three sets at 80% 1RM).

      Looking at the individual fiber types, while the data may not be statistically significant, we see that the type I fibers responded slightly more to low intensity training (19% change versus 14%) and type II fibers more to the high intensity training (15% versus 12%).

      Ultimately this suggests there's more to the equation than the number of plates you have on the bar and tentatively supports what may be intuitively obvious: Type I fibers are maximally stimulated with longer duration sets requiring lower loads, while Type II fibers respond best to short sets with heavy weights.

      A common complaint with most training studies is that the researchers use untrained college students. What happens in these guys' underdeveloped physiques may not represent what would happen in highly trained muscle. Fortunately, when we look at the muscle fibers of various trained athletes, we see support for our fiber type hypertrophy theories.

      Bodybuilders typically emphasize volume, fatigue, and use moderate repetition ranges (4), while their powerlifting (5) and Olympic weightlifting counterparts emphasize load and/or movement speed. Not surprisingly, bodybuilders display significantly greater hypertrophy of type I fibers compared with the strength-oriented athletes (2).

      Taking all evidence into account, it seems reasonable to conclude that differing training intensities can produce comparable whole muscle hypertrophy (1, 6-8), but the fiber-types affected may differ.

      As with most things in the scientific world, it's not a cut and dried issue. Two additional studies have investigated this topic – albeit with slightly different designs – and both found high-intensity training to be superior for growth irrespective of fiber type (9,10).

      Here's where it gets interesting. While there are exceptions, studies that equate work between high and low intensity conditions tend to favor high-intensity training for both fiber-type specific and overall muscle growth (10,11). Those that don't match the work performed between conditions find equivalent results across training intensities.

      Ultimately, the idea that we've short-changed the growth potential of type I fibers (and the ability of low-intensity training to stimulate hypertrophy) depends on the argument that, a) hypertrophy requires a certain minimum of time-under-tension that varies based on training intensity; and, b) this time-under-tension is greater for type I than II fibers.

      Burd et al. (12), while not testing any fiber-type specific effects, compared the acute protein synthetic response to four sets at three training conditions – 90% 1RM to failure; 30% 1RM so that total work was equivalent to the 90% 1RM condition; and 30% 1RM to failure.

      The protein synthetic response differed slightly in time-course, but was generally similar between the failure conditions, regardless of intensity. However, muscle protein synthesis in the 30% 1RM work-matched condition – which had substantially less total time-under-tension than the 30% 1RM to failure – was approximately half that of the other two conditions.

      Bottom line: While the protein synthetic response to a single training session may not be predictive of the adaptations, the fact that two studies have shown comparable hypertrophy when low-intensity training is taken to failure lends further support to this idea (1,6).

      Does Size Matter?

      The use of heavy weights is justified based on the fact that there's compelling evidence that they induce substantial hypertrophy, regardless of fiber-type consideration (2,9,10,13-17).

      This is consistent with Henneman's size principle of recruitment, which states that motor units are recruited in a specific order based on their size – small motor units are recruited under low force conditions and large motor units come into play as force requirements increase (18,19). Big weights require more muscle mass to produce force so, therefore, you'll need to recruit more motor units initially than if you were to lift a light weight.

      That said, this argument doesn't account for the fact that fatigue may stimulate growth and that its onset can directly influence motor unit recruitment (20). When you lift a relatively light weight, motor unit recruitment is lower initially in the set than if you started with a heavy weight.

      Once fatigue sets in, however, you progressively recruit more fast motor units as the force-producing ability of the slow-twitch fibers drops (21). The size principle is preserved, as you recruit motor units from smallest to largest, but you end up using fast twitch fibers with a lighter load once you're fatigued.

      This partially explains how the fast twitch fibers grew in the low-intensity training study of Mitchell et al. (1) and why maximizing time-under-tension through fatigue and failure may be important to this concept.

      Potential Pounds of Muscle?

      The idea that you're sacrificing pounds of muscle by ignoring lighter-load training may seem like an exaggeration, but a quick survey of the fiber-type composition of various muscles may change your mind.

      Granted, fiber-type proportion can vary by individual and is influenced by genetics and training (22), but given that many of the major groups have a substantial percentage of type I fibers – on average, humans have a roughly equal amount of fast and slow-twitch fibers – means it may be worth tweaking your approach to optimize slow-twitch fiber growth.

      Multiple Rep Ranges Means Maximal Stimulation

      For those who want to maximize their hypertrophic potential, it makes sense to train across the continuum of repetition ranges. While there may be validity to focusing on the so-called "hypertrophy range" (6-12 reps), both high (15-20+) and low (1-5) repetition ranges should also be incorporated into your training program.

      Not only does such an approach ensure full stimulation of the spectrum of muscle fibers, but it also serves as preparatory work for optimizing performance in the hypertrophy range. Low rep work enhances neuromuscular adaptations necessary for the development of maximal strength so that heavier loads (and thereby greater mechanical tension) can be used at moderate training intensities.

      Conversely, performance of higher-rep sets help over time to raise lactate threshold, staving off the onset of fatigue and thus increasing time-under-tension during moderate-rep training.

      There are infinite ways in which varied intensities can be integrated into program design. Perhaps the best way to ensure continued progress is by periodizing training rep ranges over time. Both linear and non-linear models are viable alternatives here. It really comes down to personal preference as well as individual goals (i.e., whether you're looking to peak for a specific event).

      Another option is to base loading strategies on the type of exercise performed. You might decide to focus on low to moderate-reps (~1-10) for multi-joint movements such as squats, rows, and presses while prioritizing higher rep training (15+) for single-joint, isolation type exercises that may be better suited to lighter training loads.

      There are no hard-and-fast rules here. The response to training varies by the individual and ultimately you need to experiment with different approaches and find out what works best.

      Slow and Steady Wins the Race?

      The type II fibers may beat out the type I's for hypertrophic superiority, but are you willing to take a chance and underestimate the potential of type I's? It seems that an optimal hypertrophy training program would give your fast-twitch fibers the heavy weights they crave, while providing your type I fibers the extended time-under-tension they deserve.

      Note: Dan Ogborn, PhD, CSCS contributed to this article.


      References

      1. Mitchell, C. J. et al. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. J Appl Physiol 113, 71-77 (2012).

      2. Fry, A. C. The role of resistance exercise intensity on muscle fibre adaptations. Sports Med 34, 663-679 (2004).

      3. Wernbom, M., Augustsson, J. & Thomeé, R. The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Sports Med 37, 225-264 (2007).

      4. Hackett, D. A., Johnson, N. A. & Chow, C.-M. Training Practices and Ergogenic Aids used by Male Bodybuilders. J Strength Cond Res (2012). doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e318271272a

      5. Swinton, P. A. et al. Contemporary Training Practices in Elite British Powerlifters: Survey Results From an International Competition. J Strength Cond Res 23, 380-384 (2009).

      6. Ogasawara, R., Loenneke, J. P., Thiebaud, R. S. & Abe, T. Low-load bench press training to fatigue results in muscle hypertrophy similar to high-load bench press training. International Journal of Clinical Medicine 4, 114-121 (2013).

      7. Léger, B. et al. Akt signalling through GSK-3beta, mTOR and Foxo1 is involved in human skeletal muscle hypertrophy and atrophy. J Physiol (Lond) 576, 923-933 (2006).

      8. Lamon, S., Wallace, M. A., Léger, B. & Russell, A. P. Regulation of STARS and its downstream targets suggest a novel pathway involved in human skeletal muscle hypertrophy and atrophy. J Physiol (Lond) 587, 1795-1803 (2009).

      9. Schuenke, M. D. et al. Early-phase muscular adaptations in response to slow-speed versus traditional resistance-training regimens. Eur J Appl Physiol 112, 3585-3595 (2012).

      10. Campos, G. E. R. et al. Muscular adaptations in response to three different resistance-training regimens: specificity of repetition maximum training zones. Eur J Appl Physiol 88, 50-60 (2002).

      11. Holm, L. et al. Changes in muscle size and MHC composition in response to resistance exercise with heavy and light loading intensity. J Appl Physiol 105, 1454-1461 (2008).

      12. Burd, N. A. et al. Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men. PLoS ONE 5, e12033 (2010).

      13. Aagaard, P. et al. A mechanism for increased contractile strength of human pennate muscle in response to strength training: changes in muscle architecture. J Physiol (Lond) 534, 613-623 (2001).

      14. Charette, S. L. et al. Muscle hypertrophy response to resistance training in older women. J Appl Physiol 70, 1912-1916 (1991).

      15. Harber, M. P., Fry, A. C., Rubin, M. R., Smith, J. C. & Weiss, L. W. Skeletal muscle and hormonal adaptations to circuit weight training in untrained men. Scand J Med Sci Sports 14, 176-185 (2004).

      16. Kosek, D. J., Kim, J.-S., Petrella, J. K., Cross, J. M. & Bamman, M. M. Efficacy of 3 days/wk resistance training on myofiber hypertrophy and myogenic mechanisms in young vs. older adults. J Appl Physiol 101, 531-544 (2006).

      17. Staron, R. S. et al. Strength and skeletal muscle adaptations in heavy-resistance-trained women after detraining and retraining. J Appl Physiol 70, 631-640 (1991).

      18. Henneman, E., Somjen, G. & Carpenter, D. O. Excitability and inhibitability of motoneurons of different sizes. J. Neurophysiol. 28, 599-620 (1965).

      19. Henneman, E., Somjen, G. & Carpenter, D. O. FUNCTIONAL SIGNIFICANCE OF CELL SIZE IN SPINAL MOTONEURONS. J. Neurophysiol. 28, 560-580 (1965).

      20. Schoenfeld, B. J. Potential Mechanisms for a Role of Metabolic Stress in Hypertrophic Adaptations to Resistance Training. Sports Med (2013). doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0017-1

      21. Adam, A. & De Luca, C. J. Recruitment order of motor units in human vastus lateralis muscle is maintained during fatiguing contractions. J. Neurophysiol. 90, 2919-2927 (2003).

      22. Simoneau, J. A. & Bouchard, C. Genetic determinism of fiber type proportion in human skeletal muscle. FASEB J 9, 1091-1095 (1995)

      23. Tirrell, T. F. et al. Human skeletal muscle biochemical diversity. J. Exp. Biol. 215, 2551-2559 (2012).

      24. Johnson, M. A., Polgar, J., Weightman, D. & Appleton, D. Data on the distribution of fibre types in thirty-six human muscles. An autopsy study. J. Neurol. Sci. 18, 111-129 (1973).

      Source: http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=5794287
      Comments 14 Comments
      1. EatMoar's Avatar
        EatMoar -
        As long as you're stimulating muscle hypertrophy you can use any weight you want. I see large monsters using light weight and just look at Kai Greene.
      1. easye7's Avatar
        easye7 -
        Originally Posted by EatMoar View Post
        As long as you're stimulating muscle hypertrophy you can use any weight you want. I see large monsters using light weight and just look at Kai Greene.
        I've looked WAY too much at Kai Greene if you know what I mean. Poor grapefruit.



        This article perked my interest, as I'm limited weight-wise for the next few weeks. I have access to DBs going up to 50, a few old machines, and adjustable benches. I'm trying to figure out the best workout I can get in. 50lbs is well short of what I can do for bench or shoulder press for 10 reps, or to use for squatting. Anyone mind throwing in some exercises that don't really require a ton of weight, but still work decently well? I was thinking maybe complexes was the way to go, or plenty of supersets. Ugh, I miss barbells.
      1. cainb96's Avatar
        cainb96 -
        Dude knows his **** and should diffidently be listened to!
      1. aLinux's Avatar
        aLinux -
        I've always trained 'super light weight' - Saves my joints.
      1. easye7's Avatar
        easye7 -
        Originally Posted by aLinux View Post
        I've always trained 'super light weight' - Saves my joints.
        Mind posting routine? Like I said, looking for a workout with lighter weights than I usually use.
      1. EatMoar's Avatar
        EatMoar -
        Originally Posted by easye7 View Post

        Mind posting routine? Like I said, looking for a workout with lighter weights than I usually use.
        Take what you normally do and slow down the movements with lighter weight you'll feel the stimulation. It'll feel great. Weight isn't a concern for a bodybuilder only for a powerlifter.
      1. fueledpassion's Avatar
        fueledpassion -
        Lunges. 50lb DB are plenty for lunges. Do sets of 20 steps on each leg for 4-5 sets. You'll be smoked afterwards and your hams will get huge over time.

        Speaking of "low intensity", I hardly consider deep squats of 225 X 20 a "low-intensity" workout just because it is a higher rep range. In fact, it is hands down the hardest workout I can do for legs.
      1. Tbryant6220's Avatar
        Tbryant6220 -
        Originally Posted by easye7 View Post
        I've looked WAY too much at Kai Greene if you know what I mean. Poor grapefruit.



        This article perked my interest, as I'm limited weight-wise for the next few weeks. I have access to DBs going up to 50, a few old machines, and adjustable benches. I'm trying to figure out the best workout I can get in. 50lbs is well short of what I can do for bench or shoulder press for 10 reps, or to use for squatting. Anyone mind throwing in some exercises that don't really require a ton of weight, but still work decently well? I was thinking maybe complexes was the way to go, or plenty of supersets. Ugh, I miss barbells.
        Just my 2 cents here but how about doing alternating shoulder and bench presses? Do them kind of how people do static bicep curls or whatever it's Called where you hold the contraction with one arm while the other arm performs 7 reps and then you switch which arm is holding the contraction while the other knocks out 7 reps, and then do 7 more reps, that's just an example though you can do whatever reps you want :P, I think those are called 21s but I'm not sure. The imbalance of weight being moved should also work your core a bit too.
      1. easye7's Avatar
        easye7 -
        Originally Posted by fueledpassion View Post
        Lunges. 50lb DB are plenty for lunges. Do sets of 20 steps on each leg for 4-5 sets. You'll be smoked afterwards and your hams will get huge over time. Speaking of "low intensity", I hardly consider deep squats of 225 X 20 a "low-intensity" workout just because it is a higher rep range. In fact, it is hands down the hardest workout I can do for legs.
        Ooh forgot about lunges (because I hate them so). I suppose step-ups is another viable option. And yeah, 20 rep squats are brutal. I'm much worse off the next day from something like that vs 5x5 at 315 or so. I guess I'm thinking workout wise I've got plenty to work with.

        Legs - Lunges, step-ups, RDL (one leg?)
        Chest - Flys, incline/flat press (slowly)
        Back - Rows, pulldown
        Delts - Slow presses, side/front/rear raises, upright db row
        Biceps/Triceps - curls curls curl french press press down


        Originally Posted by Tbryant6220 View Post
        Just my 2 cents here but how about doing alternating shoulder and bench presses? Do them kind of how people do static bicep curls or whatever it's Called where you hold the contraction with one arm while the other arm performs 7 reps and then you switch which arm is holding the contraction while the other knocks out 7 reps, and then do 7 more reps, that's just an example though you can do whatever reps you want :P, I think those are called 21s but I'm not sure. The imbalance of weight being moved should also work your core a bit too.
        Oh I have plenty of weight for bicep and tricep work, no worries there. Now that I think about it, I guess it's just chest work, specifically pressing. I haven't done high rep work in some time though, so it should be a nice change of pace. Not sure how I wanna split it up, maybe just go push/pull. Thanks for the help.
      1. aLinux's Avatar
        aLinux -
        Originally Posted by easye7 View Post
        Ooh forgot about lunges (because I hate them so). I suppose step-ups is another viable option. And yeah, 20 rep squats are brutal. I'm much worse off the next day from something like that vs 5x5 at 315 or so. I guess I'm thinking workout wise I've got plenty to work with.

        Legs - Lunges, step-ups, RDL (one leg?)
        Chest - Flys, incline/flat press (slowly)
        Back - Rows, pulldown
        Delts - Slow presses, side/front/rear raises, upright db row
        Biceps/Triceps - curls curls curl french press press down


        Oh I have plenty of weight for bicep and tricep work, no worries there. Now that I think about it, I guess it's just chest work, specifically pressing. I haven't done high rep work in some time though, so it should be a nice change of pace. Not sure how I wanna split it up, maybe just go push/pull. Thanks for the help.
        AsEatmoar and fuledpassion mentions... and that's all i do are lunges; but I'm weaker, so I use just 35lb dumbbells and a weighted vest and sometimes a backpack with another 20lb - but for the rest my workout I only use the 35lb dumbbells and NEVER increase the weight anymore. I use to have ripped shoulder, sore knees, tendonitis in elbow and whatever else that came along with using heavier dumbbells. Some people are perhaps smarter and built better to with-stand heavy weights; but over time it just killed me; so i dropped to 35lb dumbbells and let myself heal up 100% - Now I'm actually using what they say "muscle mind connection" so when you curl lighter weight; concentrate more on the squeeze motion and your body will grow larger as if using heavier weights and it saved my damn tendons.... My routine isn't written down (as i don't know name for the various motions) but I follow a strict routine, simple as this:

        Mon-Tue (rest days - ab work 7 min total)
        Wed - (shoulders, back - 30 second HIIT between sets 45min total)
        Thur-Fri - (rest days - ab work 7min total)
        Sat (arms - 30 second HIIT between sets - 25min total)
        Sun (legs 45min total)

        and of course most crucial being diet - i eat the exact same simple foods every day - never changes (unless i cheat :) but I even work cheat days into my overall daily macros so it comes out close (usually just salt and fats off by small margin) - so it's always good weigh up your food and use crono nutrient-like app to know exactly what works best for you.
      1. easye7's Avatar
        easye7 -
        Originally Posted by aLinux View Post
        AsEatmoar and fuledpassion mentions... and that's all i do are lunges; but I'm weaker, so I use just 35lb dumbbells and a weighted vest and sometimes a backpack with another 20lb - but for the rest my workout I only use the 35lb dumbbells and NEVER increase the weight anymore. I use to have ripped shoulder, sore knees, tendonitis in elbow and whatever else that came along with using heavier dumbbells. Some people are perhaps smarter and built better to with-stand heavy weights; but over time it just killed me; so i dropped to 35lb dumbbells and let myself heal up 100% - Now I'm actually using what they say "muscle mind connection" so when you curl lighter weight; concentrate more on the squeeze motion and your body will grow larger as if using heavier weights and it saved my damn tendons.... My routine isn't written down (as i don't know name for the various motions) but I follow a strict routine, simple as this:

        Mon-Tue (rest days - ab work 7 min total)
        Wed - (shoulders, back - 30 second HIIT between sets 45min total)
        Thur-Fri - (rest days - ab work 7min total)
        Sat (arms - 30 second HIIT between sets - 25min total)
        Sun (legs 45min total)

        and of course most crucial being diet - i eat the exact same simple foods every day - never changes (unless i cheat :) but I even work cheat days into my overall daily macros so it comes out close (usually just salt and fats off by small margin) - so it's always good weigh up your food and use crono nutrient-like app to know exactly what works best for you.

        Did you leave out chest intentionally? I tried the "slower reps, MMC" approach with a "push day". Definitely felt the burn, though I haven't lifted in a few weeks.

        Also, I dig the idea of doing some HIIT in between sets.
      1. EatMoar's Avatar
        EatMoar -
        Originally Posted by fueledpassion View Post
        Lunges. 50lb DB are plenty for lunges. Do sets of 20 steps on each leg for 4-5 sets. You'll be smoked afterwards and your hams will get huge over time.

        Speaking of "low intensity", I hardly consider deep squats of 225 X 20 a "low-intensity" workout just because it is a higher rep range. In fact, it is hands down the hardest workout I can do for legs.
        Agreed just because its higher reps doesn't mean its easy. A burn is a burn. All rep ranges should be attacked but it isn't even required. I love lunges, I do them when my.lower back is dead and too tired from doing squats
      1. 12345's Avatar
        12345 -
        This article is missing an important bit of info...
        Light-to-medium weights can be beneficial for hypertrophy and restoration for an advanced or perhaps even an intermediate lifter; however, if your strength deficit is too high - the difference between your maximal strength and absolute strength - and your inter- and intramuscular coordination is too low, you probably won't be able to recruit enough muscle fibers to illicit the desired training effect.
        Think of it this way, when Kai Greene does a set of bench presses, he is able to call upon 99-100% of the muscle fibers in his chest, shoulders and triceps and coordinate the movement to effectively stimulate each muscle group properly. But when a junior lifter does a set of bench press, and form is sloppy, the bar is jerky, his elbows are moving left and right and his feet are coming off the floor, he is maybe using only 50-70%~(just a ballpark figure), making for an ineffective exercise. So, for the junior lifter, more weight is necessary to stimulate more muscle fibers and to a greater degree. For the novice lifters and everyone in between, it's less extreme but still true just on a smaller scale.

        Personally, I feel taking a slow tempo to complete failure - doing as many reps as possible without the help of a spotter - and aiming for 20+ reps on non-core lifts, such as dumbbell exercises, body-weight exercises, machines, etc., as well as going heavy in the barbell lifts and multi-joint exercises, is best way to cover all your bases!

        Hope my info and opinion is useful!
      1. aLinux's Avatar
        aLinux -
        Originally Posted by easye7 View Post
        Did you leave out chest intentionally? I tried the "slower reps, MMC" approach with a "push day". Definitely felt the burn, though I haven't lifted in a few weeks.

        Also, I dig the idea of doing some HIIT in between sets.
        Nah I just forgot - but I hardly touch chest, on arm day I do 30 pushups x2 then 1 set of light dumbbell presses or whatever there called. (i actually hate doing chest, bigger chests just look more gyno-like to me) Oh, and I only do 1 set for each exercise vs the norm 3 sets, cept for pushups - I go all out and do 2 sets : ) Joints are perfect - Good luck.