Low Reps or High Reps?

It’s a common question: which is better, high reps or low reps? I get asked it often in the gym.

The answer, like almost always, is: it depends.

But, there is most certainly an order in terms of which should be prioritized for a beginner to training. Let’s address this:

Firstly, what is considered a low rep range is anywhere between 1-5 reps. The low volume means heavier weight can be handled and this is generally considered the best rep range to work in to build strength.

A high rep range is considered 15 and above reps in a set, and this is termed best for muscular endurance.

In between these 2 ranges we have the moderate rep range or 6-14, or more commonly 6-12, as it’s rare to find someone doing a 13 or 14 rep set. This is known as the hypertrophy rep range and is deemed best for increasing muscle size.

So, it would seem pretty straight forward that you simply choose your rep range based on what outcome you want, right?

Possibly. But I’m going to make a case here for why everyone, regardless of goal, should begin their training by straddling 2 ranges with low-to-moderate reps, say between 5-10 reps in a set.

See, although these rep ranges have titles indicating the primary result of working in the confines of that range, none of these things: strength, hypertrophy, or endurance, are exclusive to the ranges that bear their names.

If you go from lifting nothing to lifting something you will get stronger, regardless of whether you’re lifting a relatively light weight a bunch of times; if you’ve never lifted before, you will get stronger. That’s not the ideal way though. Imagine you begin bench pressing 40kg for sets of 15. In order to progress to 45kg you have to be able to lift that extra 5kg 15 times, totalling an extra 75kg over the course of a set. Now, if you can bench 60kg for 5 reps and want to increase to 65kg for 5, you have a much greater likelihood of doing so saying as you’re lifting “only” an extra 25kg over the course of the set. This is one of the reasons why lower reps are better for getting stronger.

But, are higher reps the best place to start if you want to build muscular endurance? Maybe not.

Maybe the focus should be on getting strong first. See, jumping straight into sets of 20 as a beginner is a recipe for disaster. Firstly, chances are your form isn’t nailed on yet, so if you’re doing something wrong, even just slightly, that will accumulate over the course of multiple high rep sets and the repetition of poor movement could (and almost certainly will) over time cause injury.

Beginners rarely have the mental focus or the bodily awareness to tell if something is going wrong in a movement, so even if you start out correctly chances are that over the course of the set as fatigue builds and the mind starts to wander that your technique will break down somewhere along the line.

 

breakdown

 

It’s also generally not a good idea to focus on sets with too high of a weight and too low of a rep range in the beginning. Trying to grind out a heavy single with piss poor form is even more risky than shitty high reps. Your connective tissue simply won’t be prepared to handle it either = joint pain.

This is the reason I recommend a low-to-moderate rep range for beginners, and that you stick in this range until you can be considered an intermediate lifter. There’s no official pass mark to tell you you’ve reached intermediate status, but mastering the equivalent of your bodyweight in the big 3 is a good start (think bodyweight squat x10, bw bench press x5, 1.5 bw deadlift x5). If you can achieve these with good form, you’re probably there.

Build up a good level of strength in the 5-10 rep range, and only then think about going higher or lower. High rep sets are only beneficial if you are lifting appreciable weight. Getting stronger will certainly build your muscular endurance while simultaneously having the benefit of getting you jacked and feeling like a bad ass.

Put it this way: someone who can squat 120kg for 5 or 6 reps can quite easily squat 60kg for 15 reps. Someone who solely works at squatting 60kg for 15 reps will have no hope of squatting 120kg. It’s more efficient to do both.

There is simply a greater benefit for everyone in beginning by getting stronger in the low-to-moderate rep range first, then shifting your focus higher or lower, whichever way you be inclined.

Basic strength is your foundation. Hypertrophy, max strength, power, and endurance can, and should, be built on top.

The Key To Success

What if I told you the key to success? That if you could nail down this one little thing, you would be able to achieve anything you want?

Would you be interested?

Of course you would.

What I’m going to tell you is simple, but not necessarily easy.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

I have seen it time and again. The people who see success, are the people who take responsibility for their own shit.

You’re unemployed? Stop blaming circumstance, or immigrants.

You got an F? Stop blaming circumstance, or your teacher.

You’re overweight? Stop blaming circumstance, or Ronald McDonald for opening his restaurant on the corner of your block. Or donuts and ice-cream for being too damn tasty.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself

You can give yourself a million excuses about why you are the way that you are, or why you’re in the situation you’re in, and some, or all of them may be valid. But you know what they’ll do to change things? Jack shit.

Everybody has reasons why they can’t. Some people choose to shelter themselves behind these, and some people use them as motivation to succeed.

I used to be one of the former. I blamed everybody around me for my circumstances, some very vocally, and others more inwardly, but I blamed them.

Truth was, no one was responsible for the mess I’d made of my life other than me.

People may have done some real bad shit to you. I am not downplaying that, not at all. But for every bitter and resentful person out there blaming their past on why they are sad, alone, broke, fat, or whatever, there is another with similar circumstances who is living life with gusto.

What is the difference?

The individual.

 

Put Up Or Shut Up

Of course there are reasons why you are like you are, but there is a single reason why you stay where you are.  You keep giving yourself excuses. So unless you are willing to make a change, to take responsibility and take action, just be honest about it and say you can’t be bothered, or you’re afraid, or other things in your life are of higher priority.

Willingness to make a change is not a single decision. It’s not a one time thing. It is a mindset. It is an attitude. You see something in your life that you’re not happy with and you set yourself about improving it regardless of how you got that way.

Instead of moping and feeling sorry for yourself, you take action.

This can be learned, but it will take effort. It’ll take you to look at the exact same things with a new set of eyes.

You must train yourself to see obstacles not as excuses, but as challenges. I remember hearing that the Chinese had the same word for problem and opportunity. I have no idea whether this is factual or not but the precept is true. The difference is simply in the perspective of the looker.

Donald-Trump

Don’t be a whiner. It seems to be more prevalent than ever nowadays to blame surroundings, upbringing, or Donald Trump on your problems. Take responsibility for your own shit, there is something strangely liberating about it.

 

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training