High vs low reps

High vs low reps

Today I started my new training program. I’m still doing a five day split but I’m doing a lot more high rep sets. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.

My last program was a good mix of high and low rep exercises. I much preferred the latter, mainly because it was easier for me to increase my weights every couple of weeks and I loved the feeling of reaching failure where my muscles physically could not complete one more rep. With high rep exercises, my progress tends to be quite slow and those days seem to be much more exhausting, particularly mentally.

There is so much controversy out there about whether lifting weights using low or high reps is better. The idea that low reps “bulk” you while high reps “tone” you is complete BS, just for the record. Doing 100 repetitions with a 2 kilo dumbbell is going to do absolutely nothing for your body. You will not see definition unless you build muscle, and to do that you need to lift!

You won't get a butt like this doing 50 body weight squats...

On the other end of the scale, some people are strictly in favour of low reps and think that if you’re doing more than 6-8 reps you’re not lifting heavy enough. Sure, that may be true for some, but I really think it comes down to what works best for your body. To be on the safe side, I would recommend incorporating both into your program.

I would estimate that my new program is 75 per cent medium to high reps (10-20) and 25 per cent low reps (4-8). I’m also doing a lot more body weight exercises such as chin ups, static squats, jumps and push ups. And I’ve scrapped my whole day devoted to abs; instead tacking it on to the end of back day. I’m ecstatic about that to say the least.

Today I did legs, which I’m now doing twice a week. In this instance, I’m glad I’m doing more high rep exercises as they generally leave me feeling less sore. BUT I really don’t need any more junk in my trunk so it will be interesting to see how my legs cope.

Seated calf raises – 1×20 @ 65kg, 1×15 @ 75kg, 3×10 @ 85kg
Standing calf raises – 5×10 @65kg then 75kg
Squats – 1×20 @ 20kg, 1×15 @ 25kg, 3×12 @ 30kg
Leg extension – giant set of 30, 20, 20, 15, 10 dropping the weight each time
Jump squats – 5×30 seconds
Leg curls – 1×12 @ 25 kg, 3×6 @ 40kg, drop set
Good mornings – 4×20 @ 20kg

I hesitated before posting my weights because they were quite a bit lower than what I would normally lift – but for good reason! Whenever I have done these exercises in the past, the rep range has been completely reversed – for example, I usually do low reps with squats but high reps with leg curls – so I had to figure out my appropriate weights all over again.

Secondly, on Monday I decided to create my own leg workout while I waited for my new program. I lifted as heavy as I could and only did low reps for my working sets. I don’t think my lower body has ever been in so much pain! I was still struggling to walk this morning (three days later!) so I knew doing legs again would be a suicide mission.

I don’t think my legs stopped shaking for at least an hour after I was done. Doing jump squats after regular squats is hell – don’t let the 30 seconds fool you. And I wasn’t even lifting heavy on my squats. Eek.

I also did my first ever giant set today, otherwise known as the time I did leg extensions for 95 straight reps! Ouch. Starting at 35 kilos was also a big mistake. If you’re looking for a burn, I would recommend doing giant sets!

I felt something tweak slightly when I was doing my leg curls and, sure enough, when I stood up my hamstrings were screaming. That made my good mornings equal parts painful and relieving.

The good news is I’m finally feeling hungry on my new eating plan. It took about two weeks before I moved from feeling grossly overstuffed and now I’m finding myself ravenous about an hour before my afternoon and evening meals. It’s a weird feeling going from extremely full in the morning to starving in the afternoon, but hopefully it means the fat is burning!

Do you prefer to lift weights using high reps, low reps or both?

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