Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Strength, Size and Reps
by Rick Weil (1988)

The main objective of this article is to teach you to think through your training problems.

The question I am asked most often is, “How many reps should I do in my workouts to build power?” And, of course, the answer to that question is simple – I DON’T KNOW! The big problem with a question like that is that it can be answered differently depending on the individual who is asking it. Simply put, we are all different in our body structures and metabolisms and therefore respond differently to training stimulus. Also, we each train under different intensity.

Here are some simple, general guidelines to think about when setting up a training program for yourself.

Reps are more beneficial when trained intensely, regardless of the number, within reason. Intensity can be everything to your workout. Reps should be controlled by the weights used. In other words, if you are using heavy weight and going for 5 sets of 5, then make sure the weight is just the right amount for you to get those 5 reps, and keep in mind that I am speaking of 5 reps using perfect form.

There are really only three types of rep workouts I can think of. Low reps (1 or 2); high reps (10-15); and somewhere in between (4-7). I know you are already thinking of more variations, but to keep it simple those are the three rep workouts we will deal with for now.

Let’s start with the high rep workout of 10-15 reps. This can be a great way to strengthen muscle conditioning. The only real problem is that it is not possible to use much weight to shock the muscle into growing both larger and stronger. So, high reps are not the best way to build real muscle strength and power.

Let me remind you here . . . never cheat reps unless you are prepared to face injury at some point. Besides, when you cheat a rep you are also more than likely changing your position and working on movements and muscles entirely different than in previous reps.

Okay. So it must be low reps (1 to 2). I mean, it makes sense that if high reps mean light weights and heavy weight shocks the muscle to build greater strength and size, then I need to use low reps. NOT NECESSARILY. I used to believe the same thing, but the problem was that low reps didn’t seem to work for me. It was fine prior to peaking for a competition or personal record, but that was mainly because it prepared the muscles and tendons for heavy weight. This kind of training gets the body accustomed to what is expected of it when competing or lifting record amounts, but does not, for many people, build greater strength and size in itself. Strength and size come from training a muscle harder than before and giving it the time needed to recuperate and grow bigger and stronger.

So what is left? Somewhere in between! To build strength and size that will stay with you I have found that a program of 4-7 reps can develop the most in the least amount of time. Here again, the weight used is the max amount that you can handle with strict form for reps between no less than 4 and no more than 7.

The hardest thing for most inexperienced strength athletes is getting over the desire to always max out for a single. To put it simple, this is just really stupid. Try to set up a program right now doing no less than 4 reps and give it at least 2 months of intense training. Then go ahead and feed your ego and max out. I will wager you that the gains you see two months from now without maxing on singles and doubles are better than you have ever experienced.

There are many, many other aspects of training that will affect your overall progress, but for now start thinking about reps and how to use them to YOUR best advantage.

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