What are your goals? As I mentioned in the last blog, the only thing that dictates the appropriate training program is YOUR goals. If your goal is to be able to lift really heavy weights a couple of times then you train by lifting really heavy weights a couple of times, slowly increasing the amount of weight over time. If however your goal is to lose weight then the program would look a little different. For everyone who has tried a resistance exercise program (it's not just weight lifting any more), any program, you will hear various beliefs on how many reps (repetitions) and sets (how many times you do the group of repetitions). "you need to do 3 sets of 10", the next person will tell you "NO, it's 5 sets of 5" and on and on. The next time someone tells you how many repetitions 'are the best' simply ask them "WHY?" For some reason, we all like to 'know what we are talking about' so we will repeat what we have heard before regardless of where the information comes from. Case in point, I had managed to make it through three college degrees in the fields of sports medicine, athletic training and physical therapy, but it wasn't until I was at a continuing education seminar several years ago that I was asked that question "why that many reps?" when several others in the class and I answered 3 sets of 10 repetitions to the question of how many to do. It was one of those 'aha' moments when you look around and say "that's what we were taught?" so after that class I decided to look into it and I had to laugh at what I found. The good old '3 sets of 10' was originally written about back 40 years ago and was the opinion of one writer. Do the first set of 10 at 50% of the 10 rep max, then 75% for the Second set and then 100% for the last 10. It sounded official so it must be right, by the way 100% of a 10 rep max is the amount of weight that you can lift 10 times and no more. After this article, the authors that followed didn't question the '3 sets of 10 rep' theory, just the amount of resistance for each set until it was "agreed upon" that the truth must be "3 sets of 10 reps with 100% of the 10 rep max each time." So why did this become the standard, very simple, IT WORKED! People were getting stronger and seeing changes to their muscle mass so obviously it 'must be right'. And so on we went with our resistance exercise routines, that is until Nautilus hit the scene in the 1970's with a crazy idea, 'Do one set of 15 repetions' on a series of very impressive machines. But, guess what happened..."IT WORKED" well at least for a little while, people were seeing results on these machines and it took less time. Then all kinds of ideas started coming out, multiple set and repetition combinations and you know what each one "WORKED" Well now we have a problem, all these different combinations actually work so "How Can this Be?????" Lets go back to my definition of exercise 'anything your body hasn't done before' (remember?) of course each one would work because your body had to adapt to a new stress placed on it, but, once it adapts to the stress we once again hit the dreaded 'plateu' of no improvement and we pick up the next magazine or the next trainer and 'their program works'.
Actually, over the years we have gotten some actual science on these repetitions and energy systems that go along with them. If you want to build power, you must do a maximal effort 1-3 repetitions and a limited number of sets (of course you warm up). Next is strength, for maximal strength development you want to be in the 4-6 rep range for 4-6 sets. Then we hit the garbage can of cellular changes or the amount of resistance that will allow improved function of the muscle tissue 8-15 reps, 2-3 sets (sound familiar). Anything above that and you are in the strength endurance range with an inverse relationship of strength to endurance. Its not rocket science, the longer you do something the lighter the resistance must be and visaversa. If you lift something really heavy, you can't lift it very many times (I know, I'm a genius and you never figured this out for yourself). Actually, it is common sense and the next time you are working out make sure you use it. The other issue is technique, proper form is essential to not getting injured but in comes the good old American belief 'if a little is good, a lot must be better) and on goes the additional weights (this seems to be especially true when testoterone is involved!). The problem is if you are using too much weight/resistance then you will be compensating in some form. Good Technique and appropriate form will get you much further, much faster than 'packing on the weights.' As for reps and sets, that depends on what you want to accomplish, what's your goal.