Ask the Expert: More Reps or More Weight?

We asked an expert if we should use more weight or do more reps.

Athletic Evolution in Woburn, where they definitely lift a lot of weights. Photo provided.

Athletic Evolution in Woburn, where they definitely lift a lot of weights. Photo provided.

It’s a question you’ve probably heard your whole life, and one that you’ve also probably received many different answers to. Should you do more reps with less weight, or fewer reps with more weight? According to Erik Kaloyanides, owner and trainer at Athletic Evolution in Woburn, it’s an easy question to answer. Read his response to the age old question below.

Q: More reps or more weight?

A: The answer is…BOTH.

When training, you meet a series of thresholds as you progress, and as long as you increase work capacity, you build muscle. Lifting lighter weight with higher reps is a good way to start if you are new to strength training. After a series of weeks of following this method, both your threshold and work capacity will increase. To continue seeing results, the level of resistance must increase, forcing you to continue to challenge the number of reps you do, and the weight you use.

Increasing your resistance (or incorporating some higher intensity training with higher weight and lower reps) will not make you bulky. Only training with higher reps (15 to 20 or more reps) increases muscle endurance, or slow twitch muscle fibers, and neglects the fast twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for new muscle tissue and developing strength and power.

Remember, building muscle increases your metabolism. We lift weight to build muscle. While burning calories is a byproduct of lifting weights, if the goal for your workout is to just burn calories, go for a run, jump on a bike, or just do some form of cardio.

The most important thing for building muscle is progressing in the amount of weight and/or reps you lift over time. Building muscle really is that simple. Always attempt to add more weight when the threshold becomes too easy. Determining how much weight to increase is obviously on a case by case basis but most people will say add anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds, and watch how many reps you can do. You want it to get progressively more difficult to do reps in this range, so if you get past a 15 pound increase for the exercise and there is no struggle, the weight is probably too light.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to both weight and reps is that proper technique is essential.  Remember to be cognizant of proper form and technique while watching your threshold and work capacity.