ONE OF THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS I AM ASKED…
when teaching resistance exercises, be it body weight or free weights, is ‘how many reps should I do?’ Repetition or rep refers to the number of times you repeat a movement when performing a specific exercise.
A very good question! And my answer largely depends on several factors…
First, the number of repetitions and sets you perform ultimately depends on your training goals. For example, are you undertaking a resistance training programme to increase muscle mass? To correct muscular imbalances? To improve sports performance? Or is your primary goal weight loss (that’s right I just suggested that a weight training programme could be undertaken to promote weight loss – didn’t expect that did you!)
Second, once you have established your reasons for undertaking a resistance training programme, it can be useful to establish your ‘one-rep max’ on one, or several, exercises. The one-rep max is basically the maximum amount of weight you can lift correctly for one full repetition – as the description suggests.
There is a number pros and cons when it comes to using the one-rep max method, which I will talk more about in a future post. But for now, let’s assume you have safely and accurately established your one-rep max with the assistance of a trained professional.
The table below shows the ideal number of repetitions for different muscular adaptations to occur:
||% of one rep max
|| Number of repetitions
||2 – 4
||very heavy load
||75 – 85%
||4 – 8
|Strength + endurance
||60 – 75%
||8 – 12
||40 – 60%
||15 & above
Third, and most important of all, RESISTANCE TRAINING AND MUSCLE BUILDING ARE NOT THE SAME THING. Body building or hypertrophy training is a separate discipline centred mainly on nutritional habits. STRENGTH TRAINING WILL NOT STIMULATE LARGE AMOUNTS OF MUSCLE MASS (don’t just take my word for it, any credible source will validate this point).
Avoiding resistance training because you are afraid of developing large muscles is like avoiding learning to drive because you are afraid of becoming a formula 1 driver.
To tone muscle tissue, ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibres must be placed under regular tension. Fast twitch fibres are anaerobic in origin and require moderate to heavy resistance to be stimulated into action. By establishing your ideal rep range and applying the principle of progressive overload (increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system by challenging the body to do more over time), adaptations will occur (assuming your nutrition is in place of course).
The American College of Sports Medicine recommend a minimum of 2 strength training sessions per week. Whether the resistance is from weight training (external) or body weight training (internal) is entirely up to you.
If your goal is to achieve a toned lean physique, cardio alone is NOT going to cut it. Swap the cross trainer for the squat rack and the results will speak for themselves!
Get lifting and get lean!
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