If you go to many gyms today, you will find that the weights used by men and women are quite different.
Some women will do 25 reps of 5-pound dumbbell curls to tighten their arms, while some men will lift massive weights for only a few reps to build muscle and increase intensity.
The idea is to lose fat and make the muscles more “toned” with high reps. On the other hand, you can build muscle and increase strength with low reps.
Is it really that simple? High reps to lose fat, low reps to build strength and muscle?
In this article, you will learn why it makes sense to use both low and high reps in your training program if you want to build muscle, lose fat, or improve your overall fitness.
You will also learn that while any range of reps will help you build muscle, increase strength, and reduce fat, some reps are more optimal than others for each training outcome.
More Reps Or More Weight For Fat Loss
Most people know that cardio is important for fitness and body composition, but they may not know how important strength training is for burning fat.
A single session of weight training does not necessarily burn as many calories at once as aerobic exercise, and of course, aerobic exercise is also important for weight loss (but dietary changes are much more effective). However, muscle training is also necessary for weight loss. Plus, there are many other benefits.
More Reps Or More Weight For Fat Loss
This framework is also consistent with our understanding of muscle fiber types. High repetitions develop type 1 (slow twitch) muscle fibers, which have excellent endurance and fatigue slowly. Low repetitions activate type 2 (fast-twitch) muscle fibers, which are powerful but tire quickly.
High vs. Low Reps for Strength
For optimal strength gains, research conclusively supports the use of low reps with heavy weights and high reps with light weights, but high reps also lead to strength gains1.
For example, in one study, 23 cyclists were divided into high resistance/low repetition (LR), low resistance/high repetition (HR), and cyclist-only groups for a 10-week program2.
Both the LR and HR groups showed significant strength gains in all four resistance exercises tested, but the LR group showed “significantly” greater strength gains than the HR group in the leg press exercise. Interestingly, muscle hypertrophy and overall endurance were relatively equal.
As this study and many others have pointed out, for optimal strength gains, relatively heavy weights need to be lifted with a low number of repetitions. This is consistent with the way powerlifters train in preparation for competitions to improve neuromuscular adaptations or the efficiency of the brain in controlling the muscles. The muscles get bigger OR the neuromuscular adaptations get stronger.
High Reps Vs. Low Reps For Fat Loss
Some people think heavyweights are only for building muscle, but what about fat loss? Will lifting heavier weights help you burn more fat or turn you into a hulk?
A study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that dieters who lifted heavier weights lost the same amount of weight as dieters who did only aerobic exercise, but the weight lost by those who lifted was all fat, and the aerobic group lost some fat as well as muscle We found3 that the aerobic group lost some fat as well as muscle.
It is generally believed that high reps magically eliminate fat. Fatiguing the muscles by doing high reps with light weights may produce a muscle response, but it does not necessarily remove fat any better than doing low reps with heavy weights.
Although more research is needed to compare the fat loss effects of high and low reps, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is not necessarily the weight used or the number of reps that help burn the fattest, but the intensity of the training.
The goal is to create muscle failure with less rest between exercises, which can have a powerful hormonal, metabolic, and calorie-burning effect (see: afterburn effect). In addition, proper nutrition will have a much greater impact on fat loss than a specific range of repetitions or workouts.
High vs. Low Reps for Muscle Building
Like fat loss, the optimal number of reps for building muscle is debatable and research is inconclusive. Many studies suggest that 15 reps or less is optimal for building muscle, but other studies have shown that higher reps with lighter weights are just as effective for building muscle.
For example, a recent study of resistance-trained young men showed that doing high reps with light weights to failure was just as effective in stimulating muscle protein as heavy weights with low reps.4
It is a common misconception that lifting heavy weights will automatically build muscle. This is not the case at all. In fact, it is the combination of the amount of food you eat, the overall volume and intensity of your workout, and the fact that it gets harder over time that makes the difference, not necessarily the weight/rep count.
If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will most likely not gain an ounce of muscle mass, even if you lift very heavy weights. This is especially true for women since they have 1/10th the amount of the muscle-building hormone testosterone as men. In the case of caloric deficiency, the increase in muscle strength is likely due to neuromuscular adaptations and not to an increase in muscle mass.
Now that we know that all ranges of reps are effective for strength gains, muscle gain, and fat loss, which range should we use? What should we focus on? The following table suggests the best repetition ranges for specific goals5.
the primary goal – increase the strength
- Strength – 6 reps or less (80-100% of exercise volume)
- Hypertrophy – 6-15 reps (0-20% of exercise volume).
- Endurance – 15+ reps (0-10% of exercise volume).
The best strength athletes in the world spend most of their time lifting very heavy weights for low reps. We know that strength gains are possible in the higher rep ranges, but lower reps are optimal.
Main Goal – Optimal Reduction Of Fat
- Strength – 6 reps or less (0-15% of exercise volume).
- Hypertrophy – 6-15 reps (70-85% of exercise volume).
- Endurance – 15+ reps (15% of exercise volume).
As mentioned earlier, workout intensity is more important than specific rep ranges for fat loss, but what follows is a clever approach that combines what I consider the “sweet spot” of 6-15 reps, further divided into 6-10 and 10-15. Non-experts and the general public can modify these ranges slightly to 8-12 or 12-15.
The 6-15 rep range has some very compelling advantages. First, there is much less risk of injury and much more muscular stimulation than lifting very heavy weights for low reps (6 reps or less). Second, it takes less time to train and provides less additional benefit than consistently using 15 or more reps. Beginners are advised not to do less than 12 reps.
If you don’t want to overdo it with low reps, you should not go below 6 reps, and if you are older or concerned about injury, you should not go below 10 reps. Lifting weights in multiple rep ranges will stimulate as many muscle fibers as possible, burn fat, and improve overall body fitness.
So how do you incorporate high and low rep ranges into your training? (The main Options.
Main Goal: Build Muscle
- Strength – 6 reps or less (30% of exercise volume).
- Hypertrophy – 6-15 reps (60% of exercise volume).
- Endurance – 15+ reps (10% of exercise volume)
As we learned last time, research shows that it is possible to build muscle with lighter weights, but the traditional method is to lift relatively heavy weights and increase that weight over time. Of course, genetics also play an important role, and the composition of muscle fibers varies from muscle to muscle and from individual to individual.
If you want to increase strength, build muscle, and increase fat loss at the same time (not a good idea for the reasons explained here – can you lose fat and gain muscle at the same time?) ), stick to the optimal fat loss section ratio.
I hope this article has dispelled some common myths about weights and provided some useful information that can be applied to your current exercise routine.
More Reps Or More Weight For Fat Loss | Video Explanation
Do I Need To Do More Reps Or More Weight To Lose Fat?
In terms of weight loss, lifting heavier or lighter weights can help burn fat and reduce weight. In fact, one study showed that after 8 weeks of strength training, people who lifted heavier weights for fewer reps were stronger.
What Is The Optimal Rep Range For Fat Loss?
- For fat reduction: 1-3 sets of 10-12 reps, using enough weight to do as many reps as you want.
- For muscle building: 3 or more sets of 6-8 reps until fatigue…
- For health and endurance: 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps, using enough weight to do only the desired number of reps.
Is It Better To Do More Reps And Less Weight For Weight Loss?
The optimal number of sets of repetitions for building muscle as well as reducing fat is debatable and research is inconclusive. Many studies suggest that 15 reps or less is optimal for building muscle, but other studies have shown that higher repetitions with lighter weights are just as effective for building muscle.
The size of dumbbells varies from person to person. We recommend that you follow the advice above and use your own judgment. For beginners, if in doubt, go light.
Dumbbells can always be more effective by slowing down the pace, shortening rest periods, increasing the number of reps or sets, or increasing the volume of training.
You can also focus on building a solid base with proper form, which you cannot do with dumbbells that are too heavy for you. If you have the money, purchase a wide range of dumbbells that you think will work for you. This is the best way to do it.
Hi, I am Matt Storace and I am a former personal trainer and founder of Beast Biceps. We had to find ways to train at home. When I started looking for the equipment I needed, I quickly realized that there were no good resources online. So I created Beast Biceps. It is a treasure trove of information developed from my experience and research. Read More Here