I’m sure you all know the ‘conventional wisdom’ when it come to training reps – low weight and high reps for toning, heavy weight and low reps for building muscle. Well for today’s Change It Up it’s time to shake things up a bit!
Most trainees are creatures of habit and even I have to force myself out of my traditional routine. I go to work each day only to see the same people, doing the same exercises for the same number of reps. It’s like they’re programmed into thinking that any deviation from the plan will upset the balance of the universe!
But a really great way to throw a fresh variable into your workout is to change your number of repetitions. Why not take a week or two and use heavier weights in the 4 – 6 range and then the following two weeks go the exact opposite way – maybe shoot for sets of 25 or even 50 repetitions! Each one of these training styles has value and if you’re getting bored in the gym, this plan may be just what you need to start seeing results again and get out of a rut.
With the high rep range you’re surely going to be building more endurance, stamina and tapping into your cardiovascular system. I mean have you ever performed a set of 50 air squats – full range of motion air squats that is, below parallel and all the way up? By the time you hit 30 your legs will be screaming! How about pushups for 50 reps? Sit-ups? Pull-ups (even modified are super tough!) You get the idea. You’ll be challenging those slow twitch muscle fibers and testing your will all at the same time.
With lower reps and a heavier weight, you’ll be focusing predominantly on strength and those all-important fast twitch fibers. I’d personally go with big exercises like deadlifts, squats, squat and presses, chest press, pull-ups and dips – you know the multi joint compound exercises to really develop total body strength. And if you think that lower reps means you won’t get out of breath – think again. Here too you’ll again be challenging yourself with a bit of cardio and endurance as well.
The key is to use weights that are challenging. So if you’re on a heavy set, you choose weights that prevent you from doing more than the allotted number of reps with good form. For example if you’re squatting, pick a weight that allows for 6 good reps that are hard to achieve and maybe shoot for 4 – 6 sets per movement. With the higher rep sets it’s a totally different story as you may need to use drops sets and multiple weights to get to 50 reps. It’s unlikely that the weigh you start with can be used for all 50 reps. So plan ahead and line up some lighter dumbbells or barbells nearby.
And if you want to really spice it up, after 2 weeks of each style try 2 weeks of workouts that contain both high AND low reps. So in the same workout, with each exercise, change the amount of weight you use so half the sets come from each of the rep ranges. Trust me it’s super tough! So give the high rep/low rep program a try and let me know how you like it!
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