High Rep vs Low Rep Strength Training

The age old question:  high rep vs low rep strength training.  Which one is best for you and your goals?

The first thing we need to do is to create a definition as to what is high rep and what is low rep.  For our purposes, here is what we are going to use:

  • 1 to 6 reps = low rep
  • 7 to 12 reps = mid range
  • 12+ reps = high rep

This does leave a lot of gray but gives us a good skeleton to work with.  Also of note, we are going to assume you have some strength training experience because it is a terrible idea for a beginner to lift heavy without much experience.

The Benefits of High Rep Strength Training

If you are newer to lifting weights, you might find that performing sets containing higher reps (12+), at a lighter weight is a great way to go.  You can develop the body control [via repetitions] you need to really help you with safety and longevity in your training.  After all, if you’re injured you can’t train.

So what else is great about higher rep training?  High rep strength training can help with:

  • Building skeletal muscle
  • Building muscular endurance
  • Bone density
  • Improving your resting metabolism
  • Building strength
    • Especially for someone new to strength training via building the movements themselves
  • A bigger margin for error for poor quality reps
    • Don’t take this as you can do really crappy reps but there are less immediate consequences for poor lifting, here

All in all, for you low rep people, don’t sleep on high rep training.

The Benefits of Low Rep Strength Training

If you’ve been lifting for a while and know you move well, low rep strength training is really great tool for you!

So what are the benefits of low rep training?  Low rep strength training can help with:

  • Building top end strength and power
  • Building muscle
  • Bone density
  • Improving your metabolism
    • This includes something called EPOC (excess post oxygen consumption)
    • This means your metabolism is burning at a higher rate for an extended period of time.  Sometimes 10 to 12 hours after your workout is completed
  • Improvements your resting metabolism
  • Improvements in functional core strength

One important note:  for this type of training, you need to have good movements in place to begin with.  You also need to make sure you’ve spent a large amount of time making them automatic because as you get heavier, your quality movements are likely to not be as quality.

What Do You Notice?

The main thing you should notice is that there are a lot of similarities between the benefits of high rep strength training and low rep strength training.  That’s the point:  everyone should strength train and everyone should do a bit of high rep and low rep.

By varying your sets, your reps, your rest times, your tempos, etc. you can increase the likelihood you will always see results.

What Actually Matters

Intensity matters.

Intensity means it’s uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable means your muscles will need to change to support what you’re asking them to do.  In other words, results.

Intensity, in the context of lifting weights, means challenging for the rep range.  As you can imagine, heavy for low reps (1-6 reps) is not the same as heavy for high reps (12+ reps).  Those are hugely different.

What gets confusing is that just because something is high rep doesn’t mean it’s not supposed to be heavy.  It is most definitely supposed to be heavy but not maximally heavy.  This.  Is.  Key.

What Now?

You have three (3) steps ahead of you, here:

  1. Challenge yourself with intensity.  Don’t just lift for the sake of lifting.  Really challenge yourself to lift heavy for the rep range you’re working in
    • IMPORTANT NOTE:  This does not mean maxing out.  This simply means challenging
  2. If you are not comfortable lifting heavy without someone spotting you… find a spotter you trust!
    • Not all spotters are good spotters
  3. Find yourself a professional!
    • A coach or trainer might be the right avenue for you if you are struggling with getting results and dealing with little aches and pains you believe shouldn’t be there
    • How do you find the right trainer?  Read THIS to find out what to look for in good and bad trainers

If you are ready to get into some serious results-based training, click HERE.  Our goal is to teach you how to train and not just to get you to train.  While we’d love to work with you forever, it is important to know how to fish for yourself.

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