Surely you’ve heard the myth that low weight / high reps are best for ‘toning’ and fat burn while heavy weight / low reps are best left to those wishing to gain muscle mass and strength. And of course we all have our favorite way to train, while sometimes high reps and the burn feels great and other times a heavy set is just what’s needed.
So today I’m asking you – Which rep range works best for you?
I can honestly say there is no rep range I haven’t tried over the last 20 years. I’ve performed single max lifts, sets of 25, 50, 100 or more! I’ve literally challenged by body with every variable possible and I believe that to truly maximize your fitness, you need to as well.
But first let’s just dismiss the low weight / high rep BS that many trainers push as best for fat burn and shaping muscles (are you listening Tracy Anderson?) Muscle by definition is toned and lifting 2 pound weights for 50 reps won’t do much to help make you stronger of improve bone density. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for this style of training, but in my opinion it should be used in drop-set fashion or as part of a program. To really benefit from weight training and all that it offers, you need to challenge yourself and make your body want to change. Basically, the stimulus has to be great enough to warrant your body to adapt. Makes sense right?
It’s no secret and science had shown that for the best all around benefit, meaning a balance of strength and muscle gain, the reps used should be in the 8 – 12 range. Go below these numbers and you’ll be tipping the scales more in favor of strength gain, go above and you’ll be working more on endurance and conditioning. Again, both can have a place in your program.
I need to discuss something with relationship to reps and when you finish a set. Have you heard the term “work set”? What that means is that if you perform 8 reps on dumbbell bench press and stop at 8, it’s because you couldn’t get 9 with good form. I see too many people end their set because they hit a number, say 10, 12 or 15. That’s NOT a work set, that’s called counting. Basically a work set is WORK, meaning you stop when your muscles are too fatigued to continue.
I usually perform 3 or 4 work sets per exercise and 3 or 4 exercises per body part when training in a weightlifting / bodybuilding routine. And as I mentioned earlier, drop and super sets are a great way to have the best of both worlds. You can start off with 2 sets in the 6 – 10 rep range and then use a ‘finishing’ set of higher reps, maybe as much as 25. Like everything in fitness, there are no rules and your only limitation is your imagination. Even now, with my bodybuilding show just about 2 weeks away, I constantly switch up how many reps I use. Of course my stand by scheme will always include 8 – 12 reps in some fashion , but you can’t deny a set of 25 feels great and the pump you get is addicting. And hoisting a huge weight for 1 or 2 reps is quite empowering. Plus who doesn’t like looking in the mirror and see what looks like muscle growing before their eyes? Sorry, that’s the knucklehead in me talking!
As with everything in fitness, variety is key with which reps you choose in your workout. Chances are you probably do the same thing each time you exercise and use the same number of sets and reps. Now may be a great time to switch it up and use a totally different range. It’ll provide a new stimulus and represents a new challenge for your body. So, are you going to try something new?
Which rep range do you use and why? Have you seen results using your current program?
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