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High Reps or High Weight?

We all hear someone claiming which one is best. But what is best?

585 lb Deadlift

As you can tell by the photo, I love lifting heavy! It is simply what I enjoy. How is it the most beneficial way to workout? Is it superior or inferior? Am I wasting my time? Damaging my body? Well, the answer may be more anti-climatic then you'd hope for.

The answer to how to workout is simple, do what you enjoy! If you hate heavy weights, rep it out! If you don't enjoy repping out, 3-5 reps will give you results too! Now clearly there are variables that need to be in place, in order to make sure what we are doing is optimal. 

First thing we need to get out of the way is volume! What is volume? Weight X reps = volume. So 10lbs x 10 = 100lbs in volume. From studies I've seen muscle hypertrophy is almost equal in both low rep, high weights vs high reps, low weights. If that's the case, why not grab a 5lb and curl all day? Very little studies have been done on that topic, but we do know intensity can create stress on the muscles, causing hypertrophy... You won't get intensity through 100000 reps with a 5 all day. So for the sake of this article, we will keep low weight at 50 percent of your max. 

Now if you love heavy weights, we need to understand a proper lifting session of 1-5 reps will mean a lot of rest time in between (to make sure ATP-CP is fully restored). So hitting the same level of volume you would hit with a typical bodybuilding 8-12 reps will take you much longer; is that a downside? Yes, but if you want to lift heavy, and thoroughly enjoy it, it's worth the sacrifice. 

Now how do we figure out our volume? Well that's very independent. I suggest calculate the volume you're lifting now, and start with that. Ideally every week you want to add a little more volume. Remembering that this is a marathon, not a race, small increases per week will do fine. And I mean 100lb volume increases. You can add 1000 if you want, but 10 weeks in, you've added 10,000lbs in volume... Start and go slow. Let your body adapt to all this weight. Get stronger with each set. 

One gym rat is telling you full body workouts every other day to achieve his/her physique. The next one is telling you a proper chest/back/leg split? Which is correct? Someone has to be wrong? But they don't. Again whatever you enjoy, if you love your workout, you will go out of your way to do it. If you hate your workout, you will go out of your way to skip it. 

Calculate volume by week, not by day. So weekly, aim for x. If that means Monday you hit X on that body part? Great, you have the week to hit y, z, l, and q on your other body parts. If you feel better doing half of x, y on Monday, you can finish it off on Wednesday. 

Does this mean I could just bench for an hour and get my volume on only the bench? Yeah, that's possible. You'd be doing a disservice to your overall physique, but if your goal is benching 3 plates a side, putting all your energy into benching 3 times a week to make sure you have Max volume is a good approach. Personally, I like to be proportionate and strong all over. But that, again, is very individual. 

As for volume, let's remember legs are WAY MORE than one muscle. So for volume, if you have one leg day a week, double the volume of your upper body, and divide that between your hamstrings (and glutes) and quads. If you have two or three leg days a week, we could always split quad days and ham days. 

Where do abs fit into all this? Most competitors I know don't do any abs. "Abs are made in the kitchen." And although seeing abs has a lot to do with diet, I find my deadlift and squats go up when my core is strong. So personally, I do abs at home whenever I have 5 minutes. They don't need a lot of attention due to the fact that the core is always engaged with any free weight/bodyweight exercise. 

Back to our volume training after going a little off topic. Is Range of Motion as important as everyone says? Yes, it is! But as important as that is, let's not take away from shortened ranges. Rack pulls, and half or even quarter squats have their place in a workout program for strength. For hypertrophy? A lot less so. But in terms of strength, half squats, quarter squats, rack pulls, and block touches on the bench are all great ways to get over the mental fear of crazy weight and to develop strength in the smaller ranges. If the weakest part of your Dead's are the grind at the end, focus on it. If the weakest part of your squat is quads, maybe half reps could benefit you? Will people make fun of you in the background? Maybe, but months later when you added 45lbs to your squat and bring that to the ground and up with ease, they'll understand you're not playing around. 

Now benching on the machine is much easier than free weight benching. Should my volume stay the same? I would write up a program and give each exercise its own volume to hit. So if you're doing dumbbell chest flies vs dumbbell bench, the volume on the flies should be a lot less, due to the exercise requiring less weight to hit max. 

Now benching is my personal worst lift day. I just kept using that as an example, I'm not a bench every Monday guy! I am a multi-week bencher, but I'm a multi-week squat, deadlift, pull up, pulldown. I try to get everything done twice, and if time permits three times a week. I hope this article has been helpful and answered a few questions you had prior to reading it. I find 95 percent of the time, the truth is in the middle. It's rarely far to any side when it comes to fitness... You want to get strong? Number one is put in work. Number two is consistently put in work. And I don't just mean in the gym. The gyms the fun part of fitness, once you find your desire. Dieting and gyming go hand in hand. There's no 70-30 split. If you diet perfectly and don't go to the gym, the scale will give you the number you want, but the mirror won't give you the image you want. If you go to the gym and eat the world... you'll be strong! But not aesthetic. If you gym but don't eat enough, well you'll probably be sore. The gym and nutrition are best friends. Let's keep them together. 

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