When it comes to building muscle and changing body composition, one of the key factors to consider is the amount of reps and sets being performed in a given workout. Reps and sets refer to the number of times an exercise is performed in a row (reps) and the number of times that set of reps is repeated (sets).
The general rule of thumb is that higher reps and lower weight (also known as "lighter" weight) are better for building muscular endurance and definition, while lower reps and heavier weight are better for building overall strength and size.
Let's take a closer look at how these different approaches impact the body.
Low Reps and Heavy Weight
When performing exercises with a low number of reps (usually between one and six), and using heavy weight, the goal is to increase strength and muscle size. This is because the heavy weight causes muscle fibers to break down and then rebuild stronger during recovery.
This type of training is called "maximal effort" training and it requires a high level of intensity. This means longer rest periods are needed between sets to allow for recovery.
The benefit of this type of training is that it leads to larger, stronger muscles. However, it may not be the best approach for those looking to achieve a leaner physique, as heavy weightlifting can lead to increased muscle mass and overall body size.
High Reps and Light Weight
On the other hand, high rep training typically involves performing between 12-15 reps per set, and using lighter weight. This type of training focuses on building muscular endurance and toning the muscles, rather than building size and strength.
High rep training causes the muscles to become fatigued over time, leading to an increase in muscular endurance. It also stimulates blood flow to the muscles, which can help improve overall muscle tone and definition.
The benefit of this type of training is that it can help to create a leaner physique, as it focuses on toning the muscles without adding significant size.
Mixing it Up
While low rep, heavy weight training and high rep, light weight training are two distinct approaches to building muscle and changing body composition, it's also important to note that mixing up your training approach can lead to better results.
For example, using a moderate weight and performing 8-12 reps per set can provide a balance between building muscle size and muscular endurance. This type of training is called "hypertrophy" training and it can be effective for those looking to build a more balanced physique.
Another approach is to use a combination of low and high rep training within the same workout. For example, performing 3-4 sets of heavy weight, low rep exercises for one muscle group, followed by 2-3 sets of lighter weight, higher rep exercises for another muscle group. This approach can help to provide a well-rounded workout that targets both strength and endurance.
The Importance of Progressive Overload
Regardless of the type of training you choose, it's important to incorporate progressive overload into your workouts. This means gradually increasing the weight, reps, or sets over time to continue challenging the muscles and stimulating growth.
Without progressive overload, the muscles can adapt to the same weight and reps, leading to a plateau in results. By gradually increasing the weight and/or reps, the muscles are forced to adapt and grow, leading to continued progress.
The amount of reps and sets performed during a workout can have a significant impact on body size, composition, and overall fitness goals. Low rep, heavy weight training is best for building muscle size and strength, while high rep, light weight training is best for building muscular endurance and toning the muscles.
However, a balanced approach that incorporates both low and high rep training, as well as progressive overload, can provide the best results over time.