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It seems that the vast majority of gym goers are all making exactly the same mistakes.
Take a look around during your next workout and you’ll see two types of weight training. There are those lifting weights no bigger than pencils for a ridiculous number of repetitions while others lift lumps of iron heavier than their cars for one or two reps, then collapse in a quivering, red-faced heap.
For years, the misnomer that you should do high rep sets with light weights to lose weight and burn fat and heavy weights for lower reps to build muscle has been plaguing gyms across the land.
The whole notion that rep ranges make a difference to body composition is laughable.
In practice, it makes sense – when you lift a light weight for a high number of reps, you really feel the burn. Take a dumbbell should press for instance. If your 10 rep maximum is with 30-lb dumbbells, and you decide to go all out with a pair of 15s, you’ll probably hit 20, 25 or maybe even 30 reps. You’ll get an intense burn in your shoulders, and triceps too, and feel like you’re literally torching the fat away. The increased blood flow to the muscles will also make your veins stand out as blood fills the tissue and makes your muscles look ripped. This is what bodybuilders call “the pump.”
Those trying to build muscle on the other hand have always been advises to keep their reps slightly lower. Not super-low powerlifter style training, but certainly lower than the standard fat loss ranges. Bodybuilding magazines usually prescribe sets of eight to 12 reps, using a weight that causes you to reach muscular failure somewhere within those guidelines.
The trouble is, there’s not much truth in either of these gems of perceived expertise.
It’s true that tough high rep sets will burn calories and fat, but then so will any weight training. While cardio is often considered the daddy of fat loss training, lifting weights burns calories too. Half an hour of lifting might not burn as many calories as half an hour on the treadmill, but weight lifting has a powerful effect on metabolism that cardio doesn’t have.
Due to the damage caused to the muscles weight training, your metabolic rate is elevated during the recovery process, and you burn more calories for up to 72 hours after a session.
The number of reps you do doesn’t matter though – it’s all about intensity – work hard and you’ll burn fat and create that metabolic advantage.
The lactic acid produced from high rep sets can have a positive effect on fat loss, as it causes a slight spike in testosterone and growth hormone, but again, heavy lifting can also do that.
When performing high rep sets, the weight may be lighter than it would be when you’re going heavy, but at no point should it feel light or easy.
There are issues with always lifting heavy too.
If you’re building muscle, you’ll probably do well sticking in the 8 to 12 range, but always going heavy can cause a plateau in results as you’re not stimulating all your muscle fibers correctly. There’s also the temptation to keep pushing the weights up, leading to poor form and potential injuries.