Trying to build muscle/strength can be hard, so we're here to help let you know what’s more important in the gym when it comes to more reps…more weight…or more sets?
Before we get into things, we’d like to mention that rep ranges/ weight being used/ sets will ultimately be determined by your fitness level/goals.
So let’s get started!
In general, the number of reps should be determined on your goals, if strength is the goal rep ranges between 3-6 are probably for the best, if hypertrophy is the goal then a little more reps is usually optimal somewhere between 8-12. So, when choosing a rep scheme think about what goals you’d like to accomplish so you can better target them.
*However, if you are new to lifting, I’d suggest staying in the rep range of 8-15. Newbies will experience both strength gains and hypertrophy anyway. Going heavy with low reps will be too risky for a beginner which can result in a drastic decrease in form. So, it will be more beneficial to get reps in and take things slow to avoid injuries. *
When it comes to weight you should never be lifting something you can’t handle and if you can’t lift it efficiently then drop the weight immediately. Lifting too much weight is a mistake almost everyone has made at some point, so best thing to do is put the ego aside. Try lifting with a couple reps in reserve and increase weight by 2.5-5 pounds as you progress weekly-if you can lift it with good form. There is no rush in lifting, take your time and build a foundation around yourself.
Reps and weight being used is very important…but another important factor in lifting is the number of sets being used as well. Sets being used can be based on fitness level, as you get more experience you can handle more sets in the gym. If you're a beginner just do a couple sets for each exercise and as you get more advanced sets can be added in.
When we take all three of these factors into account (reps, weight, sets), we get training volume. Volume is the amount of work you accomplished in the gym, it’s the grand total at the end of your training.
Volume plays a big role and here’s the reason why…
Volume can help cause hypertrophy aka MUSCLE GROWTH so if that’s your goal in the gym take this into account and work your body up to handle more volume.
Overall, at the end of the day training needs to be effective and disruptive enough to force your body to grow. Doing a ton of reps with not enough weight and telling people “you are toning” is probably not the best way to train. There will ultimately not be enough overload there to cause damage in the most optimal way. We need to hit some kind of sweet spot where you're working in the rep ranges of your goals, mixed with a challenging weight, with sets you can handle that you can lift effectively to get the best strength gains/muscle growth.
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Author: Patrick Reckner- Certified Personal Trainer/ Sports Performance Specialist