More Reps or More Resistance?

Jade Tigress

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I have never weight trained before, but I was tiring of my usual strength training routine and was looking for something different.

It just so happened I found a steal on craigslist. Bought a 6 month old bowflex...it is like BRAND NEW...for $150. :D

So anyway, I've been using it for about 3 weeks now 3 days a week and am noticing quicker results. Due to time, I've only been doing 1 set of 15 reps on each exercise. I've been setting the weights so I feel it but can easily complete the reps.

Back to my question, in order to progress, is it best to do more reps at the current weights I'm using, or increase the weight and continue with the same number of reps?

Thanks.
 

celtic_crippler

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Depends....

There are different methods depending on what you're training for and with, but the general rule of thumb is more weight less reps for strength, more reps with less weight for definition.

For example: 3 reps of 8 with as much weight as you can stand (you should fail at least the last couple of reps on the last set) to build strength. Or 3 reps of 12 with enough weight to feel resistance if you're trying to maintain and/or get cut.

Hope that helps.
 

Phoenix44

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I've been weight training for 5 months following the principles of the book, "The New Rules of Lifting for Women" (I'd highly recommend it BTW). I've had great results--major strength gains in my arms, legs, core, everywhere.

In my (very) humble opinion, if you're trying to get stronger, you need to progressively increase the weight you use. As celtic_crippler suggests, use as much weight as will allow you to do up to 8 reps. It should feel hard, though it isn't really imperative to go to failure. Depending on time, you may only want to do 2-3 sets, with 60 seconds between sets. If you can complete 15 (or even 10) reps "easily," you're really not using enough weight to make progress.

As I've come to believe, and from what I've read, lifting lighter weights for many reps will only make you really, really efficient at lifting light weights--it isn't really going to make you any stronger. Again, in my humble opinion, the pap they feed to women, in particular, about doing lots of reps with light weights to get "definition" is bogus. You still need to gain muscle to get "defined."

And, of course, you have to make sure your nutrition is in line with your goals.

Good luck.
 

JDenver

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Lighter weight with fewer reps shouldn't mean so little weight that doing 10 reps is so easy. I would advocate more reps with lighter weight anyways.

Muscle mass will be built either way, it's just how you wanna get there. Typically, people lift with heavy loads so that their muscles respond faster. In that process you can also easily create small tissue tears in the muscles, which sometimes feel like being 'sore'. Your body then has to heal those small tears. You will be strong by doing more reps, it just requires more patience and time. Remember, there's also something to be said for tendon strength versus pure phasic muscle strength.

Plus.........

If you lift with lighter weight and do more reps, you strengthen your cardio response, are more likely to sit in your body while you lift and so harmonize your mind and body, are less likely to 'cheat' during the lift and also gain strength of fine tonic muscles since you're doing more of it (which are the stabilizing muscles versus the larger phasic muscle groups). Your body likes this slow and easy approach and will respond. Oh, and remember to exercise complimentary muscle groups together; like do biceps then triceps.

I don't lift much, but when I do it's slow and deliberate, without locking out in any position and more reps with lighter weight. I may not be jumping up to big muscle mass benefit right away, but gain the other qualities I've mentioned instead.

That's my take on it - someone more knowledgable will have something to say.
 

Tames D

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Pam,
15 reps is plenty. I would slightly increase the weight. I think an important thing to consider is to mix up your lifting routine about every 3 weeks or so. I call it muscle confusion. You'll get better results than if you stay with the same lifting excercises constantly.
 

Carol

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I agree with Phoenix. I've personally contended for a very long time that the lighter-weights-and-more-reps garbage fed to women is bogus. Its a very inefficient way to build muscle mass. Our lack of testosterone makes it incredibly difficult to build muscle mass as it is, we don't need a bad routine impeding us further.

Building muscle mass is more and more important since we're in the......er....40s and Fabulous category? :D North of here, our ability to maintain bone density declines. Building up muscle is crucial to maintaining bone density, which helps us ward off both injury and debilitating conditions like Osteoporosis.
 
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Jade Tigress

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Thanks for the excellent advice everyone. :asian:

I have been using enough weight to feel the burn, but not so much that I can't complete the set, though it does get difficult by the end. I do the lift and return nice and slow. I haven't experienced any soreness.

I didn't know I should change the routine every few weeks. I also didn't know the difference between strength and definition; I thought the 2 went hand in hand. The hard thing for me is since I've never lifted before and I don't have a trainer, all I have to go on is the book with a description and tiny pics. I don't learn best that way.
I learn best being told/shown so you all have been helpful.

I have alot of good info to go on here. :) I appreciate it.
 

punisher73

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I would recommend increasing the number of sets first. Add one set for a week and then another set the next week so you are doing 3 sets for 15 reps. Rest about 60-75 seconds between sets. When you can do 3x15 then add a little bit more weight and when you can do 3x15 again repeat the cycle.

Definition is a by product of lowering your body fat. When the fat starts to lower the muscle underneath is more easily seen. You will also be getting stronger in the process. Lifting to get "tone" is kind of a fallacy. It is a combination of the muscles slightly increasing in size and the BF lowering.

Also, don't worry about the other female myth of lifting.."getting big". Women don't have the testosterone levels to do that. If you see a woman with big muscles that looks more like a man, than you can bet that she had a steady diet of "Vitamin S" (steroids) in her diet.

To maximize your fat loss and cardio also try circuit training with the Bowflex. Start with one exercise and complete a set and then with minimal rest time go to a different exercise and complete a set. One circuit should work the whole body and then repeat it two more times.
 

Ken Morgan

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Phoenix44

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It might be helpful to have a session or two with a personal trainer, if you can afford it. Believe it or not there is a "science" behind strength training, and recent advances in sports physiology have contributed to modern nutrition and training concepts. A good trainer should be up on these principles.

If that's not possible, there are great books, articles, and websites. As I mentioned, I personally like The New Rules of Lifting for Women. One of the authors, Allwyn Cosgrove, is a fitness trainer with a background is in martial arts. The specific workouts are designed for free weights, but the principles are universal and the scientific references are sound. Here's another good article, referencing Cosgrove:

http://health.usnews.com/blogs/on-fitness/2008/02/08/eight-strength-training-tips-for-women.html

Plus there are lots of websites, blogs about fitness, like JP Fitness Forums. In fact, I'll bet there are books specifically for Bowflex.

Anyway, it's got to be better than listening to each of us discuss our own little personal lifting experiences!
 

Tames D

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I didn't know I should change the routine every few weeks.

Absolutely. What happens is your muscles will eventually get use to the same workout and not respond as well. By changing the routine every 3-4 weeks your muscles wont have a chance to adapt. This creates a state of 'confusion' in your body. Not sure if I'm being very clear but the bottom line is you will get better results.

I work out with free weights so I wouldn't be able to give you advice on the Bowflex, but I'm sure there is a manual that comes with it detailing the lifts and how you can mix it up.

Good luck Pam and btw good find on the Bowflex.
 
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Jade Tigress

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I would recommend increasing the number of sets first. Add one set for a week and then another set the next week so you are doing 3 sets for 15 reps. Rest about 60-75 seconds between sets. When you can do 3x15 then add a little bit more weight and when you can do 3x15 again repeat the cycle.

Definition is a by product of lowering your body fat. When the fat starts to lower the muscle underneath is more easily seen. You will also be getting stronger in the process. Lifting to get "tone" is kind of a fallacy. It is a combination of the muscles slightly increasing in size and the BF lowering.

Also, don't worry about the other female myth of lifting.."getting big". Women don't have the testosterone levels to do that. If you see a woman with big muscles that looks more like a man, than you can bet that she had a steady diet of "Vitamin S" (steroids) in her diet.

To maximize your fat loss and cardio also try circuit training with the Bowflex. Start with one exercise and complete a set and then with minimal rest time go to a different exercise and complete a set. One circuit should work the whole body and then repeat it two more times.

Yeah, I'm not worried about bulking up. I know the facts behind that. :) What I want to do is keep/improve my muscle tone. I've been doing the same toning exercises for 8 years. Which has consisted of pushups, crunches, squats, etc. and I'm bored with it.

The bowflex is a nice change but I want to be sure I'm effective in using it. I still do crunches rather than the bowflex abdominal exercises because I don't think I'm doing the bowflex ones right. I can't feel anything when I do them.

I wish I could afford a couple sessions with a PT, but that is out of the question.

Absolutely. What happens is your muscles will eventually get use to the same workout and not respond as well. By changing the routine every 3-4 weeks your muscles wont have a chance to adapt. This creates a state of 'confusion' in your body. Not sure if I'm being very clear but the bottom line is you will get better results.

I work out with free weights so I wouldn't be able to give you advice on the Bowflex, but I'm sure there is a manual that comes with it detailing the lifts and how you can mix it up.

Good luck Pam and btw good find on the Bowflex.

Thanks T. Changing the routine makes perfect sense and will be easy to do since the bowflex book has tons of options.

I used to do that with the calisthenics. Sometimes I'd do regular push ups. Sometimes mantis push ups, sometimes one arm push ups. Sometimes squats, sometimes leg lifts, etc.

I didn't put it into conscious terms, I just knew that my results were less effective if I didn't switch up every month or so.
 
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Jade Tigress

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Mantis pushups?


Yeah, difficult to explain but we did these when I was training SPM and they're very effective. (I haven't been training for a while).

But anyway, I'll try to explain. These are supposed to be done on your fingertips but I never got strong enough for that so I do them on my palms.

You start with your hands on the ground and on your toes with your butt sticking up in the air. Then, keeping your arms in line with your body (not sticking out to the side), you move down and forward bringing your chest almost to the ground then pushing your body up so your arms are now straight and your hips are near the ground instead of up in the air.

Then you lower yourself again and push yourself back to the original position. This is a horrible explanation, wish I had a video or something, but they are very difficult to do and you need alot of core strength to do them correctly. Being able to complete just 10 of these is a challenge.

Member prairiemantis could explain it better. He was one of my instructors.
 

MA-Caver

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As I learned it... for more mass... more weight built up over time. For more endurance more reps with a gradual increase of weights i.e. 10# for every 500 reps.
Building endurance helps in not bulking up to eventually look like Ah-nold. But you would want to increase the weight slightly over time to keep up the strength to keep up with the endurance.

To me I think the fighter that wins the most is the one who lasts the longest.
 

Andy Moynihan

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Yeah, difficult to explain but we did these when I was training SPM and they're very effective. (I haven't been training for a while).

But anyway, I'll try to explain. These are supposed to be done on your fingertips but I never got strong enough for that so I do them on my palms.

You start with your hands on the ground and on your toes with your butt sticking up in the air. Then, keeping your arms in line with your body (not sticking out to the side), you move down and forward bringing your chest almost to the ground then pushing your body up so your arms are now straight and your hips are near the ground instead of up in the air.

Then you lower yourself again and push yourself back to the original position. This is a horrible explanation, wish I had a video or something, but they are very difficult to do and you need alot of core strength to do them correctly. Being able to complete just 10 of these is a challenge.

Member prairiemantis could explain it better. He was one of my instructors.


Sounds like what I know as "dive bombers" but without the wide arms?

 
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Jade Tigress

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Sounds like what I know as "dive bombers" but without the wide arms?



VERY similar. The only difference is the legs are together and you're on your toes, and your arms are kept next to your side, (and like I said, you're supposed to do them on your fingertips, but I never could). But that's it! :) Good find Andy.
 
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bekkilyn

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I will be starting a weight training program soon, and the book that got the vastly larger amounts of recommendations from multiple sources is the New Rules of Lifting for Women that Phoenix also recommended.

It debunks the "pink dumbbell theory" of light weights and many repetitions. It also supports the idea that gaining muscle definition is a matter of losing bodyfat. You can be totally ripped, but no one will see it if you have thick layer of fat over your muscles.

I'm currently reading this book myself and the advice seems sound. Many people who have recommended this book have had a lot of success building up their strength.

I don't know how endurance fits into everything though. It may be that light weights and many repetitions would be good for endurance, particularly for martial arts. It's something I'm hoping to find out myself as I continue to learn more.
 
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