With advice constantly changing about how we can get the best from our workout, it’s no surprise that most of us are left feeling confused and unsure where to start, resulting in most of us giving up at the first hurdle. Questions fly around about how many reps we should be doing, how may sets of those reps, how long should the workout be and so on and so on.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to those questions and each individual will have a different answer in tune with their own personal objectives. So, what you firstly need to establish is, what are your main goals?
You may want to lose weight, or build muscle mass or simply to tone up what you already have. All of these require a different rep range. You must also take into account where you are in your training program. If you are a beginner and only just starting out, having not really done much exercise before then the amount of reps and strain you can put your body under is going to be a lot less and you will need to build this up gradually.
It may be that you have multiple goals in mind, so what then? You need to sit down and work out the best exercise plan for you. By alternating between rep ranges; less one day, more the next, it is possible to get bigger and stronger whilst also improving the endurance of those muscles. It is worth keeping a fitness diary so that you can keep track of what you are doing each day and record your progress so that you can see how well you are doing. It may be that your body responds better to one type of training than another, in which case you can change your plan accordingly.
As a general rule of thumb the following rep ranges will act as a great guide:
1 – 5
This rep range is great for building up strength but doesn’t build up too much muscle. A good start for beginners as it allows longer rest periods between sets and there is less overall training. This range is also suited to advanced gym-goers who have already built up a certain muscle tone that they won’t to maintain without adding more bulk. Think of it as a streamliner.
5 – 8
This number of reps helps to develop what is known as functional hypertrophy, which is where we gain equal amounts of strength and muscle. The weights used in this range will be relatively lighter than in the 1 to 5 rep range. It allows a person to gain strength, whilst also building up muscle.
8 – 12
This is the most common and traditional muscle building range. Combined with a heavier weight,the increased reps will cause more muscle damage. Although this sounds bad, it will promote a greater need for repair and subsequently there is more muscle building. Doing this number of reps allows you to tone your muscles and develop the type of strength you need for everyday life, such as moving furniture or shovelling snow. This is also the optimum rep range for allowing your body to become as strong and as big as your body type will allow.
12 – 20
This is for building strength and endurance, but is also good for muscle building. The only reason it is advisable to go beyond 20 reps is if a person needs specific rehab requirements or for more advanced muscle-building strategies e.g for body building competitions.
An important thing to remember is to keep changing your plan so that your body doesn’t get too used to it and essentially gets lazy. Change to a strength programme with heavier weights and a lower number of reps for a short period of time and then go back to developing strength with lighter weights and higher reps to see greater results. In doing this you will keep your body second guessing and make it have to work much harder for you.
It is useful to have a range of different weights available to use in your workout as different muscle groups have different requirements. In general, larger muscles like your thighs, chest, and upper back need heavier weights, and shoulders, arms, and abdominals should be exercised with lighter weights.