Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reps and Sets - On Weight Training

World Fitness Network has a useful post up on which rep ranges to use for specific goals in weight training. The author presents the standard views, which are basically true for the average lifter. Here is what he recommends:

Let’s take a look at what each rep range can be useful for:

  • 1-3 Reps: Best suited to boosting your overall strength. The focus here is improving the maximum amount of weight possible for a single repetition. You’ll see powerlifters use these ranges frequently.
  • 3-5 reps: Best for developing power, meaning that this rep range is good for the combination of both strength and speed. This is particularly useful for athletes training for sports performance. See stronglifts for more on strength training.
  • 8-12 reps: This is the magic range touted by bodybuilders as being the most useful for adding lean muscle mass. Your muscles will enlarge the most in this range and feel a “pump” as you workout. Building muscle mass and looking/ feeling better is the focus of this site.
  • 10-20 reps: Very useful for building mass in your legs. Your legs generally are able to handle more stress than your arms can handle.
  • 20+ reps: Best for endurance. Not great for what you’re trying to accomplish if you’re like most readers of this site.

One of the basic errors in this approach is that it is assumed one is doing three to four sets of any given exercise. But what if that isn't the case?

Rather than worrying about reps per set, we should be thinking about total reps per exercise. For example, many people -- if not most -- work in the ten rep range, doing 3 sets of ten for any given exercise. So, in this case one does 30 total reps for, let's say, the squat.

But because you have to get 10 reps per set, the weight you can use is lighter than if you were doing 3 reps per set. So let's say you increase the weight and do three reps in each set for ten total sets. You still have done thirty reps total, but you have used A LOT more total weight and therefore have increased your total workload.

Then let's say you drop the weight by 25-35% and rep out as many squats as you can in perfect form. You will have fatigued all the muscle fibers and completed enough reps to build both strength and size.

The ideal rep range for building size (for most people) is 24-40 total reps. If you want to build strength as well, then use heavier weights for fewer reps and do more sets. Simple math.

The author of the article ends with the recommendation that you try different rep schemes and see what works for you -- wise advice. Every body is different and what works for me may not work for you.

1 comment:

zebing said...

Just wanted to drop by and say thanks for linking and also adding a good point of view. You've made some good points ;)