High Reps Vs Low Reps

High Reps Vs Low Reps

Which Is Better For You?

It’s pretty simple: do low reps with heavy weight if you want to gain strength and size and do high reps with low weight if you want to get toned… Wait a second, is it really that easy? 

Not exactly.

We often see gym-goers fall into the thought pattern that in order to get toned, they need to do tons of reps with a low amount of weight. However, as we will find out, this is not always the truth. Before jumping into our article, let me just clear the air on something:

Muscle is Muscle

high reps vs low repsThere is really no such thing as a muscle being “toned” or “untoned”. Muscle is simply muscle. Sure there are some people with bigger muscles than others, but if you are not toned, all that means is you have a layer of fat covering up your muscles. So in order to get toned, you need to work on building muscle and losing fat.

Even if you do not want to build muscle, that should still be your goal. Let me explain:

When your goal is to build muscle, what you are actually doing is replacing your unwanted fat with “toned” muscle. As I have mentioned before in previous articles, building muscle is very difficult so you should not worry about getting bulky. When you work on building lean muscle, you will start burning fat more efficiently causing you to be more toned and cut.

Muscle burns fat four times more efficiently than fat does. Therefore the more lean muscle you have, the less fat you will have. Your number one goal should be to gain lean muscle, even if you are trying to lose fat. They go hand in hand!

High Rep Vs Low Rep: Metabolism

When you are looking to get fit, one of the main things you must focus on is boosting your metabolism both inside and outside of the gym. Although doing long slow cardio and light weight lifting will burn calories while during your workout, the calorie and fat burning stops once your workout stops.

This means that your workout efficiency is very low when looking at the big picture. If you want to start getting serious results, you need to start looking at your workouts differently. Your goal should not be to just burn as many calories as you can while during your workout. Your goal should be to have a continued fat burn and caloric burn even after your workout is over.

The best way to make this happen is by keeping your workouts intense. Studies have shows that interval training, heavy lifting, and sprints are the best workouts to help you burn fat even after your workouts are done. So even though your workout was on Monday, you could still be burning fat on Wednesday.

So in terms of metabolism, heavy intense lifting takes the cake over high rep, low weight training.

High Rep Vs Low Rep: The Basics

high reps and low repsBefore jumping into the meat of the article, lets cover a little of the basics of high rep vs low rep training. First off, high rep training works the slow twitch fibers in our muscles which are built for endurance and fatigue less quickly. Low rep training on the other hand, works fast twitch fibers which are more explosive and fatigue more quickly.

Low rep (strength training) typically refers to doing anywhere from 1-5 repetitions while high rep work (endurance training) typically ranges from 12-15+ repetitions. The middle ground, 6-12 reps, is referred to as hypertrophy or muscle building. Each of these phases has a place when it comes to getting fit, but what is best?

Below we will discuss three separate categories when it comes to high reps vs low reps: Strength and power, fat loss, and muscle building.

Note: When I refer to heavy lifting I am not talking about a weight that you struggle to put up. When you lift heavy you should be able to control the weight with perfect form. For example, if you were to complete 8 repetitions with a heavy weight, you should not be able to complete 9 or 10 reps. The weight you choose should allow you to complete your full repetitions but not much more beyond that.

High Reps Vs Low Reps: Strength and Power

high reps or low repsFrom previous articles, we have seen that the best way to gain strength and power is by doing compound movements with heavier weight. When you lift heavy weights, you force your body to adapt, grow, and get stronger. And remember, when you start building muscle you will also start eliminating unwanted fat.

Heavy lifting really puts a ton of stress on your body forcing it to recover for hours after your workout is over. That means you will continue to burn fat after you finish your workouts and even as you sit on the couch later that night. Not a bad deal!

It is possible to build strength and power while doing lighter weights, but it is a little more complicated and it still involves doing some heavy lifting. In my experience, the best way to incorporate lighter weights in terms of strength and power is to combine them with heavier weights.

You are not going to gain much strength by doing 25 reps with five pound dumbbells. It just won’t happen. If you want to increase strength while doing higher repetitions, do a combination of high and low reps. This does not work for every exercise, but it will work for many of the most important exercises (i.e. squats, deadlifts, bench press).

Start your routine by doing 1-3 sets of 4-8 reps with heavy weight. After completing those sets, drop the weight down and then complete one set of 12-20 repetitions with a lighter weight. That’s pretty much it. Just be sure you are keeping perfect form when doing all the repetitions. For deadlifts I do not recommend doing more than 12 reps for your higher rep set.

In terms of gaining strength and power, high weight and low rep are where the results are at!

High Reps Vs Low Reps: Fat Loss

low reps or high repsWhen it comes to debate of high reps vs low reps in terms of fat loss, things get a little interesting. In a recent study, participants were put into two groups: one group did heavy lifting while the other group did cardio. At the end of the study, both groups had lost the same amount of weight. However, all the weight that the heavy lifting group lost was fat while the cardio group lost a combination of fat and muscle.

So in terms of results, I am sure you can see that this study proves that heavy lifting is very effective when it comes to burning fat. With that said, in terms of fat loss it always comes back to the intensity of your workout. Whether you are lifting heavy weights, lighter weights, or a combination of the two, the best fat loss results will come from workouts that are very high in intensity.

In my experiences, again it is the combination of heavy, low rep and light, high rep workouts that work best. Another great way to boost your fat burning in your workouts is to keep your rest periods shorter. Even if you choose to lift heavy, you can still shorten your rest periods. If you are scared about getting “bulky”, shortening your rest time will fully eliminate any chance of you getting you bulky.

So in the realm of fat loss and high vs low reps, it all comes back to the intensity of your workout. Again, doing 25 barbell curls isn’t considered very intense. Yes it may burn your muscles some, but compound exercises is much more efficient when looking for fat loss results. And remember, the more lean muscle you have the less fat you will have. So focus on building muscle and keeping your workouts intense, and watch as your fat starts disappearing.

High Rep Vs Low Rep: Muscle Building

When it comes to building muscle, you can do a few different things. As was mentioned earlier, hypertrophy (or muscle building) is stated to be done in the 6-12 repetition range. Studies have also shown that heavy lifting (1-5 reps) can bring similar results in terms of muscle growth.

When you are trying to gain muscle, your goal should always be to get stronger. Each day you go into the gym, you should be stronger than your previous workout. This will ensure that you keep challenging your muscles forcing them to grow. You want to make sure that you keep your muscles guessing so they can never fully adapt and get used to what you are doing.

As with anything, much of building muscle comes back to how you eat. If you do not eat enough you will find it very difficult to grow no matter what kinds of workouts you are doing.

Final Words

So what is better? Higher reps or lower reps…

As we can see, lifting heavier weights showed up a ton in this article. Not only will you be able to build lean muscle while lifting heavy, but you will also be able to burn tons of fat. Although higher reps with lower weight has a place in your workouts, they should never be the focus. They should simply be part of your workout.

As for repetition range, you can comfortably sit in the 4-8 rep range and see great results. You can then add in a few exercises with more reps and lighter weight if you feel the need. The main focus of all your workouts should be your intensity. If you keep your workouts intense, you will see results.

P.S. If you need a place to start, be sure to check out some of the resources below:

BodyFit Workouts: Tons of FREE workouts to choose from that are designed to get you incredibly fit!

BodyFit 7X7: 40-Day workout program to help get you in the best shape of your life, fast.

UltraCut Training Program: A little more advanced, but this provides a full 3 months of workouts and by the end you are guaranteed to be UltraCut.

How To Get Fit Fast: A book that I published on Amazon that has received some great feedback. For just $0.99 this is perfect for anyone.

Get Ripped 24/7 Blueprint: Free report on how to get ripped and start getting serious about your health.

Six-Pack Abs Series: A series that takes you step-by-step on how to get six-pack abs.

Questions or Comments?
I would love to hear your feedback below!

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    • Dennis

      Great question. This article refers to mainly resistance exercises (bench press, squats, deadlifts, etc.) As for push-ups, pull-ups, and other bodyweight exercises it again is always best to switch it up. Try maxing out, changing up the tempo speed, or doing circuit style workouts.

      What I like doing is performing a smaller amount of reps (lets say 10 push-ups and 5 pull-ups) per set, but will then do a ton of sets so I am getting in lots of overall reps. Then on other days I may just do 3-4 sets of maxing out. Switch it up so your body never knows what you are throwing at it!

      Tempo is another great way to get stronger and better at these exercises (and all exercises for that matter). For push-ups, one of my favorites is the tempo of fast down and a slow five count up. Give that a try and let me know what you think!

      When you get very comfortable doing pull-ups I would recommend adding weight to make them more challenging. Once you can do 12 straight pull-ups, start adding some weight to your routine to allow for more strength building. You can then still max out on your pull-ups a few times a week to continue building endurance!

  1. This Article is very informative.My GOAL is to increase my vertical, I should focus on strength and power.When focusing on strength and power I should use low repetitions. Could you please pick out a set of workouts and rest time in between to help increase my vertical jump? Thanks

    • Dennis Heenan

      Hey Ramiz, the best way to increase your vertical jump is to jump. Sounds simple but it works. Weight training will definitely help too but be sure to throw in some box jumps, leap ups, and exercises found in this video HERE. For weight lifting, explosive exercises like squats, kettlebell swings, and cleans are a good start.

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