Weight and Resistance Training - Less reps more weight or more reps less weight?




Candeka
01-24-2012, 12:49 AM
Hey everyone! I'm starting to add strength training to my workout but I'm not sure about one thing. Am I supposed to do more reps with less weight or less reps with more weight? My goal is to tone more (I still have fat to lose though). Also, please provide how many reps I should be doing with your answer since I really have no idea.

Thanks guys!


indiblue
01-24-2012, 01:48 AM
HEAVY weight, fewer reps!

I am not an expert, but I do know that doing more than 3 sets of 15 reps is a total waste of time. Very, very generic recommendations: beginners usually do 2 sets of 15 reps, as you get into a routine aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps. The weights should be sufficiently heavy that the last few reps of each set are difficult to complete.

Your goal (whether it is building muscle or losing fat) impacts more your diet rather than your lifting. Eating above maintenance will help build muscle, below maintenance will help lose fat. Either way you want to lift HEAVY. Lifting heavy in a caloric deficit will help maintain and tone muscle during weight loss. Lifting lighter for more reps will do nothing! :)

pattyhues
01-24-2012, 02:10 AM
If you want to gain more muscle, then you have to work the muscles harder, which means lifting heavier weights. As you know, the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn.

On the flip side, as ultimately, weight loss is connected to calorie burn v. intake, nearly any type of exercise will make you lose weight if you do it long enough to burn the right amount of calories.

A very circular answer, I know! It all depends on how you physically want to look - more obviously muscular, which comes from more weight less reps, or more subtly muscular/toned - which comes from more reps less weight.


indiblue
01-24-2012, 03:33 AM
It all depends on how you physically want to look - more obviously muscular, which comes from more weight less reps, or more subtly muscular/toned - which comes from more reps less weight.

This is the myth about lifting that I tried to counter in my previous post.

There is NO difference between lifting and toning. This is an unfortunate myth perpetuated by Shape, Women's Health, and other disappointing magazines that suggest it is possible to gain that "long lean toned" look like Gwyneth Paltrow, and that it requires lifting lighter weights at lower reps. Lifting heavy with larger reps is for people looking to build muscle, they claim, like men.

Lifting HEAVY either builds muscle or drops fat. It depends on if you are in a caloric deficit or surfeit. You CANNOT build muscle (except possibly a very small amount if you are a total beginner) if you are in a caloric deficit, as the above poster is implying. It doesn't matter how heavy you are lifting, it is just impossible.

Lifting lighter at higher reps doesn't really do much. It doesn't fatigue and tear the microfibers of muscle necessary to cause building of muscle (if you are eating above maintenance) or fat loss to repair muscle (if you are in eating below maintenance).

There are some good articles on Stumptuous.com like this one: http://www.stumptuous.com/lies-in-the-gym. Any decent lifting book, like New Rules of Lifting for Women, will quickly dismiss the myth that there is such thing as "toning" and that it is done with higher reps/lower weights.

InsideMe
01-24-2012, 04:16 PM
My trainer has me doing the following to build strength and I'm telling you I SWEAT SO MUCH!

I do 3 reps with a heavy weight (right now deadlifting 95lbs) 3 times, then I do 3 man pushups and rest for 1 minute, repeat 10 times.

It builds strength and I have noticed a huge difference in my strength and inches lost doing this.

ETA: Mind you I didn't start off this way, I've been strength training for 4 months now. I started using body weight before I even started using weights.

InsideMe
01-24-2012, 04:19 PM
HEAVY weight, fewer reps!

I am not an expert, but I do know that doing more than 3 sets of 15 reps is a total waste of time. Very, very generic recommendations: beginners usually do 2 sets of 15 reps, as you get into a routine aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps. The weights should be sufficiently heavy that the last few reps of each set are difficult to complete.

Your goal (whether it is building muscle or losing fat) impacts more your diet rather than your lifting. Eating above maintenance will help build muscle, below maintenance will help lose fat. Either way you want to lift HEAVY. Lifting heavy in a caloric deficit will help maintain and tone muscle during weight loss. Lifting lighter for more reps will do nothing! :)

Yeah this! You reminded me of where I started! LOL Yup I did 2 sets of 15 reps when I started without weights then gradually added weights. Like lunges for instance.

lin43
01-24-2012, 08:58 PM
HEAVY weight, fewer reps!

I am not an expert, but I do know that doing more than 3 sets of 15 reps is a total waste of time. Very, very generic recommendations: beginners usually do 2 sets of 15 reps, as you get into a routine aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps. The weights should be sufficiently heavy that the last few reps of each set are difficult to complete.

Your goal (whether it is building muscle or losing fat) impacts more your diet rather than your lifting. Eating above maintenance will help build muscle, below maintenance will help lose fat. Either way you want to lift HEAVY. Lifting heavy in a caloric deficit will help maintain and tone muscle during weight loss. Lifting lighter for more reps will do nothing! :)

I probably do not know as much about this subject as you do, but all I can say is that I do not lift heavy. In fact, my "strength training" is mainly comprised of fitness-class type workouts--circuits and some light lifting (body bar, etc.). I definitely have built muscle over time. I can see definition in my shoulders, arms and legs. So, while I may have developed much more muscle lifting heavy, it those workouts definitely did do something in terms of muscle gain.

indiblue
01-24-2012, 11:45 PM
lin I think the difference is you are in maintenance and the OP is looking for fat loss. Body weight, bars, circuits, etc are fine for keeping muscles engaged and reaping benefits of weight-bearing activity. My recommendation was specifically to the OP, who is looking to preserve muscle and lose fat while she is dieting/in a caloric deficit.

Again, not an expert on the subject, but I think both approaches are perfectly fine. Lifting heavy is generally ideal I think, but both are great. I only urged heavy lifting because of the OP's stated goals.

Beach Patrol
01-25-2012, 01:11 PM
thanks indiblue, for your input.

I have a question...what about people who use their own body for weight bearing exercising? - how does this fit into the equation? for instance, like when doing lunges or squats. do you have to add weights as you progress? won't there come a time when you simply cannot add any more weight? what then?

lin43
01-25-2012, 02:29 PM
lin I think the difference is you are in maintenance and the OP is looking for fat loss. Body weight, bars, circuits, etc are fine for keeping muscles engaged and reaping benefits of weight-bearing activity. My recommendation was specifically to the OP, who is looking to preserve muscle and lose fat while she is dieting/in a caloric deficit.

Again, not an expert on the subject, but I think both approaches are perfectly fine. Lifting heavy is generally ideal I think, but both are great. I only urged heavy lifting because of the OP's stated goals.

Okay, I see. Thanks for the clarification. (But since I read this post, I'm thinking of mixing it up a bit and going heavier once a week :) ).

RaisingThemLeft
01-25-2012, 04:39 PM
thanks indiblue, for your input.

I have a question...what about people who use their own body for weight bearing exercising? - how does this fit into the equation? for instance, like when doing lunges or squats. do you have to add weights as you progress? won't there come a time when you simply cannot add any more weight? what then?

I use heavy weights when I do lunges and squats. If you want to make progress, you do increase the weight, but at some point, you would probably just decide that you like the way you look and keep lifting the same to maintain it, rather than increase the weight you are using in order to build more muscle.

GatorDeb
02-29-2012, 09:29 AM
Depends on what you want. Heavy weight short reps adds bulk, low weight high reps adds endurance. Heavy and short or lighter and longer?

DietVet
02-29-2012, 11:46 AM
Depends on what you want. Heavy weight short reps adds bulk, low weight high reps adds endurance. Heavy and short or lighter and longer?

This is not true. As Indieblue was explaining earlier in this thread, building muscle and toning muscle are the same thing. Additionally, muscles only come in one shape: you can't choose to build short, bulky muscles or longer, leaner muscles. You just can build muscles. Doing more reps does get you endurance (like the way that cycling or walking gets you muscular endurance), but the goal of lifting weights is to build and maintain strong muscles. For that, fewer reps with heavier weights is more effective. (Also, for my money, way more fun.)

berryblondeboys
02-29-2012, 11:50 AM
Just wanted to add that you still gain muscle with doing more reps with less weight, but still trying to max out. You have to do what you like to do and will continue to do. So, if you try lifting heavy and hate it, try something different.

I HATE machines and doing weight work alone so I take a class. I take bodypump which is lower weights with more reps. I do that 2 times a week and I keep pushing myself so that I keep increasing the weights. If I don't get to the point of muscle fatigue, then my weights are too light. I have developed good muscle definition and have dropped inches. It might not be as fast as if I did heavy weights, but I know I would never do heavy weights as that would mean doing it alone and not in a class which never works for me.

Like everything else, doing SOMETHING is far better than doing nothing.

fitness4life
03-12-2012, 02:41 PM
I agree about lifting heavy and myth busting the whole "getting too bulky" b.s.

However, as a personal trainer who is also going out with a former body builder, I have to say that there is something to be said for mixing up a routine with less weights and more reps.

I didn't think so before I was with this guy, but I've seen the results in clients. His body building routine involved heavy weights galore mixed in with high reps and super sets. Mind you, his idea of high reps is 5 sets of 20 reps. It's killer.

EagleRiverDee
03-12-2012, 03:27 PM
Definitely heavier weight, fewer reps. The recommendation I've read most often is to find a weight that will fatigue your muscles in 8-10 reps. If you can do more reps than that, you need to up your weight. Most women simply do not have enough testosterone to bulk up. The bulky women weight lifters use steroids to achieve that look. The average woman who works out HARD several times per week is lucky to put on 1-2 lbs of muscle per month. There is also no such thing as "toning". You are either building muscle, or losing fat. If someone wants more shapely muscles, that comes from muscle building. If someone wants better definition of those shapely muscles, that comes from losing fat.

puneri
03-12-2012, 05:27 PM
I lift max 25 lb and i thought no woman can go above that!!!!!
Now, I will try and push myself to 30 or 40.

threenorns
03-12-2012, 05:28 PM
my two cents - speaking as someone who's been into bodybuilding and powerlifting:

MYTH: you cannot change the shape of your muscle. you CAN but only to an extent. take a look at the hind end of a marathon runner - long, skinny, even corded muscles. now look at the hind end of a sprinter - thick, chunky, bulky muscles.

that's because the marathon runner's muscles are developed to emphasis slow-twitch (endurance) muscle fibres. she's not "built" more of them - the fast-twitch fibres she's got are acting like slow-twitch. they're not very thick because they don't need to hold so much ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the only fuel your muscles actually use - the muscles use ATP that's in the cell, then they get tired; they replenish from glycogen (long-chain sugar) stores around the liver and when that's gone, they scavenge further afield; but whether it's glycogen, blood sugar, or body fat, it all gets turned into ATP) the sprinter's muscles, however, are developed to emphasize fast-twitch (explosive movement) muscles - these muscle fibres need to hold more ATP at a time in order to get that "BAM!" power explosion. that's why sprinters tend not to do so well over the long haul and why marathon runners tend not to do very well over the quarter-mile.

you also cannot change the shape of your muscle by doing an exercise in a particular fashion. iow, doing pronated bicep curls isn't going to build the "centre mass" of your bicep. your muscle is exactly like a rubber band: it fires or it doesn't and it fires the entire length. you can't make "this" part of the muscle fire and not "that" part.

that being said, do not do reps over 15. you're not stressing your muscles enough for any good - you're basically doing a form of cardio that will leave you open to RSI (repetitive strain injury) that can be permanent.

for big muscles - lats, quads, hams, glutes - use a heavier weight in the 8-10 rep range; for smaller muscles - arms, delts, abs, calves, etc - use a lighter weight so you're in the 10-12 or 12-15 range.

fitness4life
03-12-2012, 08:52 PM
my two cents - speaking as someone who's been into bodybuilding and powerlifting:

MYTH: you cannot change the shape of your muscle. you CAN but only to an extent. take a look at the hind end of a marathon runner - long, skinny, even corded muscles. now look at the hind end of a sprinter - thick, chunky, bulky muscles.

that's because the marathon runner's muscles are developed to emphasis slow-twitch (endurance) muscle fibres. she's not "built" more of them - the fast-twitch fibres she's got are acting like slow-twitch. they're not very thick because they don't need to hold so much ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the only fuel your muscles actually use - the muscles use ATP that's in the cell, then they get tired; they replenish from glycogen (long-chain sugar) stores around the liver and when that's gone, they scavenge further afield; but whether it's glycogen, blood sugar, or body fat, it all gets turned into ATP) the sprinter's muscles, however, are developed to emphasize fast-twitch (explosive movement) muscles - these muscle fibres need to hold more ATP at a time in order to get that "BAM!" power explosion. that's why sprinters tend not to do so well over the long haul and why marathon runners tend not to do very well over the quarter-mile.

you also cannot change the shape of your muscle by doing an exercise in a particular fashion. iow, doing pronated bicep curls isn't going to build the "centre mass" of your bicep. your muscle is exactly like a rubber band: it fires or it doesn't and it fires the entire length. you can't make "this" part of the muscle fire and not "that" part.

that being said, do not do reps over 15. you're not stressing your muscles enough for any good - you're basically doing a form of cardio that will leave you open to RSI (repetitive strain injury) that can be permanent.

for big muscles - lats, quads, hams, glutes - use a heavier weight in the 8-10 rep range; for smaller muscles - arms, delts, abs, calves, etc - use a lighter weight so you're in the 10-12 or 12-15 range.

I agree with all of the above. I just wanted to add another tip about pace. Mix up the pace of lifting from time to time. Concentrate on lowering the weight slowly as well as lifting the weight slowly. Studies show this can increase the effectiveness of lifting up to 50%.

threenorns
03-12-2012, 09:03 PM
oh, heck yah - they're called "concentrics" or "negatives".

for example, to do negative bench press, you power up as usual but on the way down, you count to ten as opposed to the usual power-up-let-'er-down rhythm.

another way to make things more fun is to add rubber bands to the barbell - loop the power band around the barbell and hook it under the bench, rack, some really big dude's foot. this way, you are forced to control the barbel every cm of the way - gravity and inertia are taken totally out of the picture.

chains also make things even more interesting: get a length of chain on each end such that when the barbell is in the fully extended position, there is still 6-8" of chain puddled on the floor. what happens here is as you extend (iow, push up for the barbell or stand up for the squat or deadlift), the weight increases (because you're lifting more and more chain) and as you lower, the weight decreases (because more and more chain is puddling on the floor).

these techniques will allow you get even more "oomph!" out of smaller amounts of weights and they emphasize a whole-body participation - you're less likely to run into imbalance issues, such as "chicken legs" (you've seen him: Buddy with the *massively* developed upper torso and then little itty-bitty chicken legs underneath).

fitmom
03-13-2012, 10:04 AM
You can't get bulky or manly from lifting weights. I've been lifting for 6 months and I'm in no way, shape or form, any less feminine. DH tells me I look more compact since lifting weights.

I wish more women could see all the health benefits related to regular weight training and not be so tied to all-cardio workouts. But that's a discussion for another thread...

ddc
03-13-2012, 10:50 AM
I would just like to add that if when you try to use heavy weights and it hurts you-don't do it!!

I'm one that would read all the advice to lift heavy and then I'd get elbow tendonitis or a shoulder injury and then I couldn't strength train at all.

There's a fine line between lifting enough to see results and getting injured.
Listen to your body.

I stick with light weights (3-5 lbs.) or resistance bands, and higher reps now. If I do a set until I feel the burn, I can see results.

Good luck :)

berryblondeboys
03-13-2012, 11:13 AM
So, what is BodyPump considered? I do that twice a week and if I come out looking like the instructors? That is FINE WITH ME! Each muscle group is one song - for reps - some singles, some slow, some middle, some low...For squats I use 20kgs, , Chest, 10kgs, Clean press and rows (for back), I use 18kgs. For triceps, 10kgs, and for shoulders - depends on the exercise. but about 7kgs, and biceps, 7kgs. For lunges, again, depends on the routine, but about 7-8 kgs. And then sometimes we use weights for abs (5 kgs on the shoulder or overhead).

sumire
03-13-2012, 11:49 AM
3) if your goal is to build muscle, eat at calorie surplus, do heavy weights, low reps

(snip)

Am I correct? Can you ever become bulky if you ate a calorie surplus and lift heavy (as in (3) above)?

If a female is eating at a surplus and lifting heavy weights, she may start to look bulkier. This is almost certainly not because she is gaining large amounts of muscle. It is because she is gaining fat along with muscle, and her body fat percentage is getting higher. Bodybuilders often do a "bulk" (eat at a surplus while training to build muscle), followed by a "cut" (eat at a deficit, presumably while training & eating a relatively high amount of protein, to minimize muscle loss during the dieting process), to build more muscle mass and then shed the fat to look leaner.

Here's an article I've seen posted on 3FC before. The photo of a woman's thighs in cross-section is really illuminating:
http://www.stumptuous.com/honesty-is-the-best-policy

InsideMe
03-13-2012, 11:51 AM
So, what is BodyPump considered? I do that twice a week and if I come out looking like the instructors? That is FINE WITH ME! Each muscle group is one song - for reps - some singles, some slow, some middle, some low...For squats I use 20kgs, , Chest, 10kgs, Clean press and rows (for back), I use 18kgs. For triceps, 10kgs, and for shoulders - depends on the exercise. but about 7kgs, and biceps, 7kgs. For lunges, again, depends on the routine, but about 7-8 kgs. And then sometimes we use weights for abs (5 kgs on the shoulder or overhead).

That bodypump class is amazing (I'm assuming you go to GoodLife?) I've been to the class a few times and I'm always sore afterwards. I find the reps with a low weight really work and builds up on endurance. I do heavier weights to build up muscle. I think it's good to change it up a bit and challenge your muscles, so although the bodypump is a great class, I also like the challenge of conditioning.....such as:

1) burpees up into a squat, lift up then down for 4 man pushups (do 10 of these) gets your heart rate up and builds strength and stamina!

2) burpees, then with 2 12lbs weights lift up into a shoulder press, drop weights and do a burpee. Do 20 of these. Less if you can't and build up to 20. Do 2 sets.

3) Planks on your elbows, then up on your palms (do 10) then back down into a plank on elbows and do an overhead reach. No break in between! Gets heartrate up and strengthen's your core

4) Milkmaid walk. This one kills haha....take 2 20lbs weights in each hand, shrug your shoulders as hard as you can, hold it and walk as fast as you can about 40steps.

Lower weights if you need to and build up.

Blueberries
03-15-2012, 11:46 AM
Okay, so from what I've read:

1) becoming "bulky" is a myth
2) if your goal is to lose fat, eat at calorie deficit, do heavy weights, low reps
3) if your goal is to build muscle, eat at calorie surplus, do heavy weights, low reps
4) if you goal is to "tone" muscle (get that lean look AFTER losing fat), eat at maintenance, do light weights, high reps

Am I correct? Can you ever become bulky if you ate a calorie surplus and lift heavy (as in (3) above)?

Forget about 4. Focus on heavy weights for fewer reps, no matter the goal. As somebody mentioned earlier, "toning" as we know it is a made up concept.

DietVet
03-15-2012, 05:39 PM
Forget about 4. Focus on heavy weights for fewer reps, no matter the goal. As somebody mentioned earlier, "toning" as we know it is a made up concept.

I'm glad you posted this because I was thinking the exact same thing.

The thing is that your diet will really control how much muscle you gain (well, that and your hormones) and how much fat you lose. After your newbie gains, you'd have to be working really hard AND eating at a surplus to keep adding much muscle.

Heavy weights with fewer reps is the way to go. (Though it can be good to mix things up from time to time: like alternate workouts between low reps and higher reps. It's called periodization.) But there's really no good reason do be doing more than 12 of anything. "Toning" is just a euphemism for "building muscle."