The war over choosing reps over weights, or vice versa has existed for decades. You’ll find loyal disciples on either side of the argument preaching the benefits of their approach, and of course, why you would be mistaken to take the other side.
However, what if we shake the boat a bit? The fact of the matter is that one cannot exist without a measure of the other.
You did 50 reps? That’s great. 50 reps of what? It can be 5 lbs, or it can be 50 lbs. The same can be said when attempting to quantify resistance. Moving 500 lbs is impressive, but doing so for 8 reps is arguably a much bigger accomplishment than doing half of a rep.
Do you see where this is going? Great!
Below, we attempt to clarify the misinformation as it pertains to the two schools of thought, and why they each have particular use cases that make them unique and co-dependent in many ways.
Understanding the Basics
In the fitness world, the two terms you will frequently come across are 'reps' and 'weights'. But what exactly do these terms mean?
'Reps', short for repetitions, refers to the number of times you perform a specific exercise without rest. For example, if you're doing bicep curls and lift and lower the weight 10 times, that's considered 10 reps.
On the other hand, 'weights' refers to the amount of resistance you're working against. This could be a dumbbell, a barbell, your body weight, or any other source of resistance.
Now, you might be wondering, why do reps and weights matter in strength training? Well, both play integral roles in your workout's effectiveness. The number of reps you do typically determines the result of your exercise.
Lower reps with higher weight tend to build muscle strength, while higher reps with lower weight improve muscle endurance. Weights, in contrast, are about the intensity of your workout. Lifting heavier weights causes your muscles to work harder, resulting in increased strength and size over time.
Understanding these basic concepts is key to creating a workout that will help you reach your fitness goals. It's not about choosing reps over weights or vice versa. Rather, it's about finding the right balance between the two.
Once you understand the function of reps and weights, you can better tailor your workout routine to fit your specific needs and objectives. Remember, every individual's body responds differently to exercise, so don't be afraid to experiment until you find what works best for you.
Comparing Reps vs Weights
As we alluded to, it would be remiss of you to neglect one at the cost of the other. Rather, to make an informed decision about which one to prioritize, it's essential to understand how reps and weights impact different types of muscle fibers, the physiological responses they elicit, and their effects on muscle hypertrophy.
Firstly, our muscles consist of two primary types of fibers: slow-twitch (Type I) and fast-twitch (Type II). Slow-twitch fibers are more resistant to fatigue and are used predominantly during lower-intensity, endurance activities – think long-distance running or high-repetition, low-weight training.
Conversely, fast-twitch fibers fatigue more quickly and are recruited during high-intensity, short-duration activities like sprinting or heavy weightlifting. So, when you lift lighter weights for higher reps, you primarily engage your slow-twitch fibers, promoting muscular endurance. On the other hand, lifting heavy weights for fewer reps targets fast-twitch fibers, enhancing muscular strength and power.
Secondly, reps and weights induce different physiological responses.
Higher reps with lighter weights tend to increase the time muscles spend under tension, enhancing metabolic stress and promoting muscular endurance. Moreover, this type of training often leads to greater lactic acid build-up, triggering a significant growth hormone response that can contribute to fat loss and muscle growth.
Meanwhile, lifting heavy weights for fewer reps places more mechanical stress on your muscles. This stress stimulates the body's repair response, leading to increased muscle size and strength over time. ATP regeneration is important for these high-intensity type of exercises, which is why supplements that include creatine and Peak ATP are so useful here.
High-intensity training also elicits a potent testosterone response, which further contributes to muscle growth.
Finally, regarding muscle hypertrophy - the process of increasing muscle size - both reps and weights play crucial roles, albeit in slightly different ways.
High-rep, low-weight training can increase muscle size by causing a swell in muscle cells, often referred to as a 'pump'. This is mainly due to the accumulation of metabolic byproducts like lactic acid. However, this type of hypertrophy, known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, primarily increases the muscle's fluid-filled space and doesn't contribute much to muscle strength.
On the other hand, low-rep, high-weight training leads to myofibrillar hypertrophy, where the actual muscle fibers increase in size. This results in a denser, stronger muscle with more contractile elements, contributing significantly to increases in strength.
It's also worth noting that the distinction between these two types of hypertrophy is not absolute, and both forms of training will result in a combination of both types to some degree.
Considerations Based on Individual Goals
When it comes to designing your strength training routine, understanding the interplay between repetitions (reps) and weights is important, but so too is considering your individual fitness goals. Whether you're aiming for bodybuilding, weight loss, or enhancing athletic performance, the balance you strike between reps and weights can significantly influence your results.
Firstly, let's discuss bodybuilding. The primary goal in bodybuilding is hypertrophy, or increasing the size of your muscles. Both reps and weights play integral roles in achieving this.
Traditionally, bodybuilders often focus on a moderate range of reps (8-12) with a challenging weight. This range is thought to strike a balance between intensity and volume, optimizing the muscle damage and metabolic stress that contribute to hypertrophy.
However, it's important to remember that bodybuilding should not be about lifting heavy weights alone. Proper form and full range of motion are crucial to effectively target the desired muscles and prevent injury. Periodically incorporating higher rep ranges with lighter weights can improve muscular endurance and promote better form, thereby enhancing overall muscle growth and development.
Next, let's consider weight loss. The key to weight loss is creating a caloric deficit, meaning you burn more calories than you consume. Both high-rep, low-weight training and low-rep, high-weight training can aid in this goal, but in different ways.
High-rep, low-weight training often keeps your heart rate elevated for longer periods, leading to a higher caloric burn during the workout itself. This type of training also enhances muscular endurance and boosts your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories even at rest.
On the other hand, low-rep, high-weight training, while burning fewer calories during the workout, promotes greater post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This means your body continues to burn calories at an accelerated rate for hours after your workout.
Additionally, this type of training leads to greater muscle mass, and since muscle burns more calories than fat, increasing your muscle mass can raise your basal metabolic rate, further aiding in weight loss.
Combing them both, with nutritional and supplemental support like Brickhouse Lean will help you see an accelerated rate of calorie burning and accomplishment of your target weight faster.
If your goal is to enhance performance, the balance of reps and weights will largely depend on the specific demands of your sport. Sports that require short bursts of power and strength, such as sprinting or weightlifting, might benefit more from lower-rep, higher-weight training. This type of training enhances neuromuscular efficiency, allowing your body to recruit more muscle fibers simultaneously and generate more force.
Conversely, for endurance sports like long-distance running or cycling, higher-rep, lower-weight training might be more beneficial. This type of training enhances muscular endurance, enabling your muscles to resist fatigue over prolonged periods.
However, it's important for athletes of all sports to incorporate a mix of training modalities. Even endurance athletes can benefit from the increased muscle strength and power that comes from heavy weightlifting, while power athletes can improve their work capacity and recovery from higher-rep, endurance-focused training.
General Health and Fitness
If your goal is to maintain general health and fitness, a balanced approach between reps and weights is usually beneficial. This involves incorporating a mix of high-rep, low-weight exercises and low-rep, high-weight exercises into your routine.
High-rep, low-weight exercises can help improve muscular endurance and cardiovascular health, while low-rep, high-weight exercises can enhance strength and bone density. However, always remember to listen to your body and adjust your routine accordingly. If you're new to strength training, starting with lower weights and higher reps is a safe way to build your baseline strength and technique.
Our top-rated Field Of Greens superfood powder taken daily can also help supply essential phytonutrients that help optimize your health, making each workout a little bit more efficient.
Now, if you're a senior or have physical limitations, the balance may tilt more toward reps than weights. Lifting heavy weights can pose a higher risk of injury, especially if you have joint issues, osteoporosis, or other age-related conditions. High-rep, low-weight exercises can provide the benefits of resistance training, like improved muscle tone and strength, without putting too much strain on your body.
Low-impact activities such as swimming, yoga, or Pilates could also be beneficial, providing strength and flexibility benefits while being easy on the joints. It's crucial, though, to consult with a healthcare provider or a fitness professional before starting or modifying your exercise program, to ensure it's safe and suitable for your needs.
How to Choose Between Reps and Weights
The decision to prioritize repetitions or weights in your strength training routine is a significant one that can shape the direction and outcome of your fitness journey.
This decision isn't a binary one – it's not about choosing reps over weights or vice versa. Instead, it's about finding the right balance that aligns with your specific goals, needs, and capabilities.
Here are several factors to consider when deciding on reps and weights, along with tips to help you find the right balance.
#1- Your Goal
Firstly, clarify your fitness goals. If your primary aim is to improve muscular endurance or tone your muscles, focusing on higher reps with lighter weights can be beneficial. These workouts typically engage your slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are built for endurance. On the other hand, if you're aiming to boost your strength or power, or if you want to increase your muscle size significantly, heavier weights with fewer reps might be the way to go. This approach primarily targets your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for strength and power.
#2- Fitness State
Another important factor to consider is your current fitness level. Beginners might benefit more from starting with lighter weights and higher reps. This approach can help in mastering the correct form and technique, which is crucial before moving on to heavier weights to prevent injuries.
Or, if you are of advanced age and nursing prior injuries, using collagen protein can help mitigate some of the risk of training.
As you grow more comfortable and your strength improves, you can progressively increase the weights while reducing the reps.
Next, take into account your personal preferences and enjoyment. If you dread your workouts, it's unlikely that you'll stick with them for long. Some people enjoy the feeling of lifting heavy, while others prefer the prolonged effort of high-rep sets. Remember, the best workout is the one you enjoy and can stick with consistently.
Furthermore, consider your available time for workouts. High-rep workouts can often take longer since you're doing more repetitions of each exercise. If you're pressed for time, heavier weights with fewer reps can give you a quick, intense workout.
The Balancing Act
To find the right balance, consider incorporating high-rep and low-rep workouts into your routine. This method, known as periodization, involves varying your training volume and intensity over time.
For instance, you might focus on high reps and low weights for a few weeks, then switch to lower reps and higher weights for the next few weeks. This approach can provide the benefits of both workout styles, prevent plateaus, and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
Also, listen to your body. It will often tell you whether you need to adjust your weights, reps, or both. For instance, if you can easily complete your reps with perfect form, it might be time to increase the weight. Conversely, if you're unable to complete your sets or your form is suffering, it might be wise to reduce the weight or the number of reps.
Common Mistakes When Deciding On Reps and Weights
As you navigate your journey toward strength and fitness, it's important to be aware of some common pitfalls that can hinder your progress.
Emphasizing One Over The Other
One mistake that you might fall into is overemphasizing either repetitions (reps) or weights at the expense of the other. While it might be tempting to focus on lifting heavier weights or increasing your reps, the key to a successful strength-training regimen is balance.
High repetitions with lower weights can help improve muscular endurance, whereas lifting heavier weights for fewer reps is great for building strength. Both are vital components of a well-rounded fitness program. Hence, maintaining a balance can provide you with the full spectrum of benefits that strength training offers.
Increasing Weight Too Rapidly
Another common error is increasing weight too quickly. It's natural to want to challenge yourself, but lifting weights that are too heavy for your current capabilities can lead to injuries. Avoid the temptation of ego lifting – using weights that are too heavy in order to impress others. Instead, prioritize proper form and gradual progression.
When you increase the weight you're lifting, do it gradually. A good rule of thumb is to increase weights by about 5% once you can comfortably perform two additional reps beyond your target in your last set.
Sticking To The Same Weight/Rep Range For Weeks
Lastly, a common mistake many make is sticking to the same rep range or weight for too long. It's comfortable and human nature to stick with what we know, but in fitness, this can lead to a plateau. Our bodies are incredibly adaptable and will get used to a workout routine after a while, making it less effective.
This is why it's important to vary your workouts regularly. This doesn't mean you have to change your entire routine. Simple modifications, like adjusting your rep range or the amount of weight you use, can be enough to challenge your muscles and reignite your progress.
Over time, many people tend to “specialize”, or place their focus on one particular aspect of training, at least for a period of time. This might involve weight loss, gaining muscle, or just general health improvement.
As such, the prescribed limits of reps/ weights will take precedence over the other at any point in time. What this goes to show is that neither is more important than the other. It just depends on what you are trying to achieve.