The Fitness Guy - Building Muscle, High Reps or Low Reps?
Q: I want to build muscle and gain size quickly. Should I be doing high reps or low reps? What's the difference? -Eric C., Pompano Beach
A: The short answer is this: low reps of one to five (in combination with explosive moves and longer rest periods of one to three minutes) are ideal for building strength and power while higher reps in the eight to 12 range (in a faster-paced training regimen with shorter rest periods of 30 to 90 seconds between sets) are best for hypertrophy (muscle growth). Choose a weight that allows you to reach failure in each range.
However, there's much more to building muscle than how many reps you perform. The three critical factors are nutrition, rest and the volume of work performed in the gym -- that is, the total number of sets multiplied by the total number of reps. High volume workouts have been proven by exercise scientists to release more of the anabolic hormones which are vital for muscle growth.
So many guys at the gym complain about hitting a plateau and finding it difficult to make gains. The common reason is usually that they are doing the same familiar exercises in the same (boring) order with the same number of reps. The reason they can't make gains is that their muscles have adapted to the routine and need to be "shocked" and "confused" in order to grow.
Our muscles are made up of different fiber types which respond differently to stimulation, so the best approach is to constantly change, not only intensity and volume levels, but the exercises themselves, making sure the target muscle is worked from different angles.
This style of training is called Periodization and it has been scientifically proven to be effective in muscle gains. Your program in a given week might look like this: Workout #1: six to eight reps, Workout #2: eight to 10 reps and Workout #3: 10-12 reps. Again, for the lower rep ranges you will want to go heavy with the weights and progressively lighter with the higher repetition sets. Be sure to rotate through different exercises. Use this training protocol over a 12-week period, track your results and I'm sure you'll experience the gains you are seeking.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Here's a healthy, protein-rich breakfast that's perfect for a Sunday morning when you crave traditional pancakes:
SWEET POTATO PANCAKES
150 grams mashed sweet potato
1 scoop whey (I prefer vanilla)
3 egg whites
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp cinnamon
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until smooth. Cook batches in pre-sprayed skillet/waffle maker on medium-high temperature until bubbles form on the surface, then turn over and cook until dark golden brown. Serve with cinnamon and sugar-free syrup.
Nutrition Per Serving (without walnuts):
EXERCISE OF THE WEEK
SIDE-LYING LATERAL RAISE
1) Set an incline bench to an angle of about 15-20 degrees and lie on your left side with a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing down against your thigh. 2) Without bending your elbow, raise your arm until it's in line with your shoulder and rotate your palm outward, as shown.
3) Return to the starting position and repeat.