How To Build Muscle With Smaller Weights: Five Intensity Strategies Using Low-Weight

  • 4 min read

How To Build Muscle With Smaller Weights: Five Intensity Strategies Using Low-Weight

These five strategies can be used in any workout and they're great for not only adding strength and size but are also convenient for anyone that has limited equipment at home and needs to make the most of, for instance, a set of 30-pound dumbbells. However, you can still use these techniques no matter how well-equipped your gym is! So let's get into it!


This is an easy one that you may have come across already. You can use it with virtually any exercise. A dropset is simply going to failure on a movement with a given weight and once you hit that point, without any rest, you reduce the weight by 30-40% and go till you hit failure once more.

Depending on how you use this technique, you can do a single drop set, or you can just keep going and keep decreasing the weight. So maybe you do one set, reduce weight by 30-40%, and then proceed to failure again. Then repeat however many times you'd like. These would be called double, triple, or even quadruple dropsets. Simple, but effective.

Pulsing Reps

This technique is one of my favorites. I do them a lot and they're definitely a fan favorite. I like to use a resistance band because I really, really like doing these with lateral raises. But, again, this is something that you can do with every exercise. The idea is that you do pulsing reps, or partial reps that are not going through the full range of motion. The idea behind it is to keep that blood in whatever muscle you're working so it doesn't get to lose tension. So if you think of a lateral raise, when you come up, the delts are always being worked. When you come down, the blood goes away and the muscle starts to lose tension. But with pulsing reps, the muscle never gets to relax. So you're just filling the blood up in those muscles and completely exhausting them. And again, you should do these till absolute failure.

Play with Tempo

Slow down your reps. This is great for anyone that works out at home, and maybe doesn't have dumbbells that go up to 100lbs+. So you need to make those 40-50lbs feel a lot heavier. A great way to do this is to simply slow the reps down. The negative portion of a movement is called the eccentric, and the positive portion is called the concentric. On the way down, try doing a 4-5s pace. If you don't have a heavy weight, doing these can make even 25s feel really heavy. Adding it on the way up is also really going to help you work on your stabilizer muscles.

Isometric Hold

Another way to add intensity is an isometric hold. This means you're at peak contraction and you're gonna keep it at peak contraction and not move. So say you're done a couple of sets of 10 or 12 reps. On the last one, try adding an isometric hold where you try to hold the weight as long as possible. Again, the idea is to just create as much blood and volume and completely exhaust the muscle. That's how you grow and that's how you get stronger.

Another tip with isometrics holds is to add manual resistance. I've done this a lot on leg extensions, leg curls, all sorts, even lateral raises. If you have a partner, you'll do your regular reps and then you're gonna hold at the top. Then your partner is then going to push against you lightly, not with all their weight, but they're gonna add some extra pressure and you're going to hold. So you're still doing an isometric hold, but with a bit of added resistance.


This is something I love to do on the very last set. You can, of course, do it for more sets, but it is a great finisher. What you do is your regular set for however many reps, and you'll make it as you possibly can until failure. Then, all you do it pause for five to 10 seconds, and then you're gonna go again. You're not changing the weight in any way. All you're doing is giving your body a little bit of a break but then going right back in.

So for instance, I'll do my lateral raises and I know I can get more if I just take five seconds. So I pause, focus, let the blood come out. And then I can get a couple more. So you can do this once or twice until you literally can't go again.

These five techniques can be pretty much used across the board for every single exercise. So if you wanna gain some strength, if you want to gain some muscle size, you don't always have to just throw extra weight on yourself. Make these weights feel heavier by using these techniques. Let's get strong and build some muscle!

Don't forget to follow Dana on Instagram @danalinnbailey and subscribe to her YouTubeChannel DanaLinnBailey for more videos!

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