Monday, November 19, 2012

More reps, less benefits

Most people I talk to are aware of the benefits to strength training but the questions are always the same: how many reps should I be doing? Will I bulk up if I lift heavy?

Typically, according to most personal trainers, high reps are between 12 and 15 reps. Reps beyond 15 and closer to 30 can actually increase the likelihood of joint injury depending on the movement.

I really like this Livestrong article because they hit a lot of main points so clearly:

"Workouts consisting of two to six repetitions are considered low-rep, high-weight training. This type of workout is best for building muscle and developing significant increases in strength. Workouts consisting of 10 to 15 repetitions are best for developing muscular endurance. The 7- to 10-rep workout is a moderate repetition range, which represents a compromise between building muscle mass and developing muscular endurance." 

Here are a few more pieces of advice:

"A number of factors should be considered when choosing between a high-rep or a low-rep/heavy-weight workout. Your training goals are an important consideration. For example, if you are training for an endurance sport, you should consider a higher-repetition workout. If you are training for a bodybuilding competition, go with the low-rep, heavier-weight workout. Keep in mind that the ability to build or define muscle is often genetically predetermined. Some people will build muscle after performing 10 push-ups, while others can work out for years and show only minimal muscle gains.

The weightlifting tempo, otherwise called "time under tension," has a profound influence on the efficiency of the workout. Momentum is always discouraged. People who perform heavy-weight workouts sometimes have a tendency to "throw" the weight into position, whereas people who perform high repetitions often perform the exercises too quickly. For maximum efficiency, the exercises should be performed in proper form. The core muscles should assist the movement, but there should not be any superfluous movement in the lower back. While there are many workout tempos, some trainers advise a 4-count lift, a 1-count pause at the top of the movement and a 4-count return. When using this technique, you may discover that you cannot lift as much weight or perform as many repetitions. The benefits, however, will be much greater."

So in summary, focus on lifting a challenging weight while still being able to keep proper form. Once form begins to falter the benefits become compromised. Injuries are NEVER worth getting in an extra set or lifting a heavier weight.

How do I select the proper weight to use?

This varies depending on the chosen exercise, body parts involved, etc. When I interned at a local gym we would ask people after they finished the first set, "how many more reps do you feel like you could do?" If they said that they could have done 1-2 more reps we kept them at that weight. If they felt as though they could have done 4+ more reps we increased the weight. It will be slightly trial and error at first but you'll quickly be able to gauge for yourself the proper weights to use. 

What about the "bulk"?

That "bulk" most people are referring too is typically from an improper diet. The quick and dirty for getting rid of the "bulk" or just to simply lean out a little is to drink lots of water, limit salt, starchy carb and sugar intakes (this includes high glycemic fruits). It's obviously not fool proof but will definitely get your body transitioning in the right direction.

Overall, I think it's best if people devise a plan of attack based on their own individual goals. If your goal is just to lean out and lose fat (this is probably the majority of people who e-mail me) focus on improving your diet before worrying too much about weight training. When I was my leanest I didn't even go to the gym! Proper diet will lean you out quicker than exercise hands down.

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