Archive for the tag - reps

Strength Training Myth: More Volume Is Better!

weight-lifterWhen it comes to exercise, more sounds better – but that’s not always the case. Especially when it comes to volume.

Volume refers to the total number of sets and repetitions performed in various exercises. In a nutshell, it’s the amount of work being done in a workout. If you do an additional rep or add another set, you increase the volume.

We’ve all seen men and women perform insane amounts of volume at the gym. They do a zillion sets with a zillion repetitions of a zillion exercises. These individuals are misguided in their belief that more is more – and their results will undoubtedly be limited by this common strength training error.

By pushing volume too high, these individuals are limiting training intensity.

When we talk about intensity, we’re talking about how hard you’re exercising. And there’s no way to do a zillion sets without turning down the dial and making things… well, less intense.

If increasing muscle size is one of your workout goals, keep the volume low and the intensity high. If you can do more than four sets of eight reps of a given exercise, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Crank things up. Not only will you dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend exercising, you’ll signal to your body that more muscle is needed. It’s a time-tested strategy that works.

Heavy Weights, Fewer Reps: Does it Build Muscle?

Hey Davey,

Using free weights, I currently stick to 3 sets of 10 reps. For some exercises, I’d like to increase the weight that I’m lifting. But I am finding that I can’t quite manage 3 sets of 10. Instead, I can squeeze out 3 sets of 8.

Will I build more muscle by increasing the weight and dropping the reps from 10 to 8, or should I stick with the lower weight and increase the reps to 12 or 14?


Hey Gareth,

Your question is actually a very common one – and I’m happy to share some insight.

In general, here are the rep ranges that trainers will recommend for various goals:

  • Low reps (1 – 6): Builds strength
  • Medium reps (7 to 12): Builds size and strength
  • High reps (12 – 15): Builds endurance

Since you’re looking to increase muscle size, 10 reps is a great target for you. Moving into higher rep ranges (like 12 or 14) means building endurance more than size.

Of course, we know that muscles only grow when they’re forced to grow – and that means you’ll constantly have to overload your muscles with more and more resistance. In other words, you’ll need to progress to heavier dumbbells or add heavier weight plates.

As you add more resistance, it becomes harder to maintain your 10 rep target for each set. But that’s fine. Keep pushing yourself and eventually you’ll reach the 10 rep target – and then you’ll be ready to add even more resistance, thereby starting the whole process all over again.

I hope that helps!


New Study: Light Weights Good for Building Muscle, Too?

Conventional wisdom holds that heavy weights and 7 - 12 reps is best for muscle growth - but a new study suggests that light weights and high reps works, too.

So you’re trying to build muscle? Great.

If you ask any personal trainer about the number of repetitions of each exercise that you should perform, the trainer would most likely advise you to target somewhere between 7 and 12 reps until you experience muscle fatigue. In other words, you’ll be using a heavy weight for a fairly low number of repetitions.

A new study suggests that there’s another way to build muscle – and it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. According to the study, performing light weights for a high number of repetitions until fatigue also results in similar muscle growth.

For the study, researchers calculated the maximum load for each individual and then broke the participants into one of three groups as follows:

  1. Exercisers perform one set at 80% of the maximum load until fatigue, or
  2. Exercisers perform three sets at 80% of the maximum until fatigue, or
  3. Exercisers perform three sets at 30% of the maximum until fatigue.

Performing sets at 80% of the maximum load usually results in rep ranges of 7 – 12. Training at 30% of the maximum load, on the other, results in much higher rep ranges of 25 – 30.

According to their data, participants in groups 2 and 3 gained the same amount of muscle mass. In other words, training with heavy weights and low reps resulted in the same muscle growth as light weights and high reps. Notably, participants in group 2 – whose training most closely mimics conventional muscle building strategies – resulted in larger strength gains than group 3. Participants in group 1 experienced approximately half the muscle growth as groups 2 and 3.

Because group 2 exercisers experience increased gains in strength, rep ranges of 7 – 12 are still ideal. And, fewer reps means less time at the gym – so lower rep ranges with heavy weights make for a more efficient workout.

But because lower repetition ranges require heavy amounts of resistance, they can be intimidating for beginners. Moreover, heavy amounts of resistance can prevent people with joint issues – and, in particular, older populations – from utilizing the heavy resistance/low rep training strategy.

The implication of this study is obvious: Don’t let current strength training guidelines deter you from lifting weights and thus receiving the associated health benefits. If the heavy levels of resistance associated with lower rep ranges is a limiting factor for you, this new research suggests that light loads can also yield great results.

How Many Sets Should You Do?

People and fitness clients often ask me about the number of sets that they should be doing while exercising.

A “set” is the number of times you perform a group of reps or repetitions. Here’s a quick video with everything you need to know:

The number of sets can largely be influenced by your goals and the amount of time you have available. More than 70% of the benefits of an exercise are realized after just the first set. If you are pressed for time and your goals don’t have you wanting to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, this is great news. After two sets, you’ve realized almost all the benefits you stand to gain. The gains on the third and fourth sets are fairly minimal, and are only important to fitness enthusiasts that are looking for maximized results.

High Reps / Low Weight Vs. Low Reps / High Weight.

Which is better: Light weights and high reps or heavy weights and low reps? Well, it depends on your goals.

But first things first, let’s define low and high reps. A “rep” is one repetition of an exercise. For example, if you do three push-ups, you just performed 3 reps. Low reps are anywhere from the 6 to 10 range – that is, performing 6 – 10 push-ups, presses, curls, etc. High reps are anything including and above 10, usually the 10 to 15 range.

High Reps / Low Weight

Some trainers (i.e., Tracey Anderson) are big fans of using light weights performed at high reps. The truth is, it depends on the goals of the client. If you can curl a dumbbell 15 times, for example, the weight is generally too light to actually break down your muscle fibers. It is the body’s repairing of muscle fibers that builds muscle – so high reps will do little to increase muscle mass. On the other hand, high reps will get your heart pumping and a cardio effect occurs and you’ll burn calories and fat. In addition, high reps build muscle endurance which helps muscles work under stress. If you’re training for a triathlon, for example, high reps and light weights could be very useful. 10 – 15 is generally considered high rep.

Low Reps / High Weight

Lifting heavier weights at lower reps is the best method for building muscle mass. Increased muscle mass boosts metabolism and heavier lifting increases bone strength. There a lot of great benefits here, but again, it depends on the goals of the client. In general, you should select a weight that fatigues your muscles (in other words, you can’t do one more rep) in 6 – 10 repetitions.

The bottom line: Which is better? It depends on your goals. If you want to build muscle endurance and get some cardio, then high reps of low weights are for you. If you’re looking to increase your muscle mass, boost your metabolism and strengthen your bones, low reps of higher weights are your cup of tea.

Questions? Leave ’em in the comments, below.