Which is better to build bigger muscles? Do you prefer heavyweight with fewer reps or lighter weight with more reps? This is how it works.
For both men and women, lifting heavier weights is the best way to build muscle mass. Over time, you can also increase your weight. Powerlifters and competitive bodybuilders are at the extreme end of the spectrum. They pair extremely low reps (1-5), with very heavy weights (90-95% their one-rep maximum).
This is how it works. This is how it works: Lifting weights between 70-75% of your one-rep max activates Type 2 muscle fibers. These are essential in building strength and encouraging hypertrophy (muscle cell growth).
What could be the problem? The potential danger? They won’t be as effective at stimulating hypertrophy (muscle development) if they’re not under tension for long enough.
Many people find success with a moderate approach to lifting weights (8-12 reps at 70-75% your one-rep maximum). This allows you to lift enough weight for strength and power while also extending the duration of your set.
What happens if you increase your reps to the high range (15+ sets)? This range allows you to handle 50-60% of your maximum one-rep limit. This isn’t enough weight for Type 2 muscle fibers to respond, which has the potential to lead to big growth.
A high-rep/lighter-weight workout activates a different type of muscle fiber: Type 1. They are also known as “slow-twitch” muscle fibers. Although they have less power and endurance than Type 2, they are much more resistant to fatigue.
This means that lifting lighter weights and performing more reps will still result in strength gains, but a different type–muscular endurance. Longer, more intense workouts burn more calories and help you lose fat.
Low reps with heavy bodyweight tend to increase muscle mass, while high reps with lighter weight increase muscle endurance.
You don’t have to use one method alone. For long-term success, it may be a good idea to mix the two. Here’s why.
While lifting heavy weights builds muscle and exhausts the body, it can also be a great way to increase your strength. The new fiber activation in muscles also requires adjustments to the nervous system. You can build endurance and muscle tissue by lifting lighter weights and performing more reps.
You will eventually reach the “plateau” if you continue the same fitness routine for too long. Your body and mind adapt to the routine and it becomes less challenging. You can give your body and nervous system the boost they need to make progress again by changing things up.
You will eventually reach a point in your life where you are unable to lift more weight or for long enough to make a difference. You could end up with a compromised form, which can increase your risk of injury. You can make progress by switching to low reps/high weight for a while, focusing on your form, and building endurance to lift heavier weights again.
These workout change-ups need to be planned and strategically executed. Unstructured and unorganized approaches will result in inconsistent results.
Apart from your workouts, there are many other factors that influence muscle mass building. Your diet, genetics and metabolic rate, hormone levels, and body type all play a role in building muscle mass. There is no one right or wrong workout program.
Personal trainers can help you create a plan to safely and effectively build muscle. These professionals are highly trained and can customize the workouts to suit your needs and lifestyle. Apex Performance provides four sessions for free to all members.
This post was written by Darryl Johnson, Co-Owner of Apex performance. At Apex performance we are a community of highly trained experts looking to provide performance enhancement and a permanent lifestyle change for our clients in a fun and interactive environment. Members can take advantage of youth sports performance training near me, one-on-one training, small group classes, and specialized courses for a wide variety of athletics, sports training, and body goals!