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How To Build Muscle Using Light Weights

Follow These 2 Tips To Make Light Weights Feel Heavier

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m showing you how to build muscle using light weights.

This topic will be very helpful for people who travel a lot, and workout in hotel gyms.

Especially if you believe you can’t get in a good workout, because the 50 pound dumbbells aren’t heavy enough in your hotel gym.

If this is you, I’m going to show you how you can still build muscle using light weights by using your mind and tempo.

Let’s Be Real, Life Is Not Always Perfect For Staying Fit

If it were, we’d all have access to a fully equipped gym, healthy foods, and the time and energy to do it all.

Unfortunately work schedules, family obligations, and of course travel, can throw a wrench in your workout gains.

But, that doesn’t mean you can use these minor inconveniences as excuses.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been traveling all over the US and Canada.

This meant I didn’t have access to my regular gym or kitchen.

But fortunately for me, most of the places I stayed had access to some variation of “a gym”.

I put “gym” in quotes because these gyms really didn’t provide me with enough weight to hit my personal bests, or even come close to them.

Our 1 Rep Max For Squat, Bench, and Deadlift

Here’s the great million dollar question.

Can you build muscle using light weights?

Yes you can.

Although light weight may not be optimal, you can still tear down the muscle, by following these 2 golden muscle building tips.

2 Tips On How To Build Muscle Using Light Weights

To demonstrate these tips, I’m going show you how to do this on the dumbbell flat bench press.

Typically on this exercise, I would go with heavier dumbbells, up to a 100 pounds.

However, here’s how I make 50 pound dumbbells feel like 100 pound dumbbells.

#1. Time Under Tension a.k.a Tempo

Time under tension simply means keeping tension on the muscle for an extended period of time.

The tempo refers to the amount of time it takes to lower and lift the weight.

what does tempo mean in working out

An example of a typical muscle building tempo would be shown as four numbers, i.e. 4011.

These four number are broken down as follows:

  • First number: the eccentric lowering of the weight.
  • Second number: the pause at the bottom of the lift.
  • Third number: the concentric lifting of the weight.
  • Fourth number: the pause at the top of the lift.

Based on this, a 4011 tempo would mean:

  • 4 seconds to lower the weight.
  • 0 second pause at the bottom of the lift.
  • 1 second to lift the weight.
  • 1 second contraction pause at the top of the lift.

When your goal is muscle building, but you only have access to light weights, it’s important to make the muscle work harder.

You can do this by intentionally making the light dumbbells feel heavier.

5 Ways To Make Light Dumbbells Feel Heavier

One way to make light weights feel heavier is by simply increasing the time under tension.

Here’s How To Increase The Time Under Tension

Start the movement by getting into the standard starting position, then press the dumbbells up over your body.

Next, focus on increasing the time under tension by lowering the dumbbells slowly.

Typically, the eccentric lowering would be a 4 second count, followed by pressing the dumbbells back up with a 1 second count.

However, when you only have access to light weights, the goal is to make the weights feel heavier.

You can make the dumbbells feel heavier by increasing the tempo of the eccentric lowering to a 6 second count.

After lowering the dumbbells for 6 seconds, press the dumbbells up following a 3 second count, then a 2 second contraction at the top.

This means you’ll be switching from a typical 4010 tempo to a slow 6032 tempo.

A 6032 tempo represents:

  • 6 second controlled count to lower the weight.
  • No pause at the bottom of the lift.
  • 3 second count to lift the weight.
  • 2 second pause at the top to contract the muscles.

Once you give that a try, there’s no way you’ll think those 50 pound hotel dumbbells are too light.

#2. Focus on Accentuating The Contraction

The other tip I want you to focus on is accentuating the contraction during the lift.

After pressing the dumbbells back up, really focus on keeping the muscles in your chest contracted for a 2 second pause.

To build muscle using light weights, it’s important to also focus on accentuating the intensity of the contraction of the working muscle.

You can make any weight feel heavy just by accentuating the mind to muscle connection.

What is Mind to Muscle Connection?

Tighten and squeeze your pecs together as hard as possible so your arms begin to shake.

This really forces your muscles to contract and work hard, regardless of how light the weight is.

To increase the intensity of the contraction, focus all of your energy on feeling the muscle go through the motions.

In other words, as your lower and raise the light weight, feel the muscle growing and getting stronger.

Don’t forget to squeeze hard and feel the pump.

Bottom Line On How To Build Muscle Using Light Weights

Next time you are in a less than optimal hotel gym, use these 2 tips to build muscle with light weights.

Time under tension and contraction is key.

That’s how you make 50 pound dumbbells feel like 100 pound dumbbells.

By following a slow tempo combined with hard contractions, you’ll be sweating after just 3 reps.

Simply pick the heaviest weight you have access to, then use your mind to muscle connection to make that weight feel heavier.

Follow these tips and you’ll have no more excuses the next time you workout at a hotel gym.

I promise you’ll be breaking a sweat and feeling the delayed onset muscle soreness (i.e. DOMS) after the workout.

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Today’s Question Of The Day:

  • Do you still workout when you’re traveling?
  • What do you do on the road when the weights are not quite heavy enough?

Be sure to share your answers in the comment section below.

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15 responses to “How To Build Muscle Using Light Weights

  1. Diet Tips for Bodybuilding Spread your daily calories out evenly over at least 6 meals per day, so that you ‘stay hungry’. This will help regulate your insulin levels and optimise and maximise nutrient absorption. Diet Tips For Bodybuilders

  2. You just explained it very well. Kudos for this awesome post! I really like the video you posted here and I totally agree with you that in order to build muscle using lower weights, we really need to accentuate and feel the contraction of the working muscle.

    1. Yep…slow pushups – extra slow – when you don’t even have weights (say you’re on vacation with no access to a gym at all) and slow pullups if you can grab a rope and tie it around a wide tree branch that’ll support your weight – are good tricks to get chest & back muscles worked in absence of a gym.

  3. Great tips! I find that with my new gym I can’t always find the weights I need, will definitely be using these! I usually try to keep my workouts up when on vacation and if they don’t have a weight room, I use resistance bands!

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