Fewer Reps, More Weight ?

  1. radio36
    My workouts at the gym are usually full body, that is, no splitting up the routine. Therefore, I don't go to the gym every day, or even 4 days a week. (I'm not recommending that; I'm merely stating the way it is.) I started on June 1, 2008, and have always done sets of 15 reps each for all exercises. I've heard that doing fewer reps - say 8 to 12 per set, with heavier weight, is better for increasing size. Is that true? If I switch to fewer reps with more weight, and maintain proper form, do I increase the risk of injury to my joints, since I am 64 years of age? Thanks in advance for your advice; this is a great group with a lot of expertise.
  2. lonniej
    Generally, heavy weights will increase size and strength. Age may play a part in how much size can be gained (my opinion only). Those of us in the older generation need to be careful. When I was lifting heavy I often experienced sore joints and have injured myself. Since starting doing 15 to 20 reps (I use a weight that takes me close to failure each set) I have felt good and haven't had to miss any work outs. Something that might interest you would be a study featured on Clarence Bass's web site (cbass.com) under strength training art#281. "Light weights build muscle". Even the great Arnold once said that older folks are better off using weights they can do for 15 reps, keeps the muscle strong and reduces chance of injury.
  3. OldManSkinny
    I have read that there are two types of muscle fibers--fast twitch and slow twitch, and that high/light reps (12-20) target the fast and low/heavy reps (4-8 or 10) target the slow. Then I attended a 3-day "bodybuilding boot camp" and one of the presentations was by the weight-training coach of one of the olympic teams. It was on "undulating periodization." His research showed that total muscle mass development came best with having heavy days and light days and mixing up the splits.

    Pyramid and inverted-pyramid plans use the same principal--doing a given exercise and gradually increasing or dropping weight for each successive set. Like yesterday--I did 5 sets of EZ bar curls: 15 reps at 20+bar, 12 reps at 30, 10 reps at 40, 8 reps at 50, and 6 reps at 55.

    You're right about using correct form to guard against injury. But that doesn't keep you from going as heavy as you can WITH good form.

    With any set, if I can barely squeeze out the last rep that I was targeting (whether it is the 4th or the 15th) I know that I hit the weight right for that given set to maximize the muscle growth.
  4. philipj
    67 years. I change my exercise plan when ever I am unable to make somekind of a gain, reps or weight. While I agree that higher reps like you are doing is the right thing to do, every now and then we have to 'play arround" a little with heavier weights. If we hurt ourselves it is because WE did some stupid, but I like that about being a man. I gotta try to over-do just a little bit. I recently dropped leg curls. 2 Months later I made great gains, by my standards, when I again put leg curls back in the plan. Keep a log.

    Often, at the highest weight of a particular exercise I make the last and heaviest weight goal 15 reps. When I hit that 15 reps it is time of reset the highest weight, or make some other plan change.

    I recently read(do I mention Bill Starr + Only the Strong Shall Survive too often) where senior citizen Bill Star does 150 chair dips. I think the higher reps are gold to us.

    Never loose sight of how you look, and feel, and how you carry yourself compared to your neighbors. It is surprising just how well you are doing. Keep it up, you are doing the right thing. Is't it nice being this age, and having ladies smile at us.
  5. radio36
    Many thanks for the above replies. I note that the cbass.com article # 281 mentioned by Lonnie is based on tests in which all of the subjects worked each exercise to failure - something which those writing the above comments do at least to some extent. Another feature somewhat common to the above comments is that variety - mixing things up - is advantageous. Again, many thanks for your replies - and, readers, please feel free to add more.
  6. kybengal
    I am a 64 year old persona; trainer and I too think that our age we must be very careful to use good form and not get sloppy in order to lift heavier weights. I persoally like the 4X method. 4X, with its moderate weight and short rests, is a good balance of power AND density. That will provide significant growth activation for both sides of the 2A dual-component fibers. Getting a mix of endurance and power is the real key to bigger, fuller muscles--with a lean toward density for best gains. If you have doubts, here's a quote from Phil Wagner, M.D., at SPARTA Performance Science:

    "The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that moderate intensity loads be used for muscle hypertrophy, and it suggests that training focus on high volume of exercise. High-volume training uses moderate (medium-high intensity) loads for a large number of repetitions and sets, with a small amount of rest between sets and exercises. Research has shown that the rest time between sets has a large impact on the growth of muscles. Research from Eastern Illinois University showed that not letting your muscles recover between sets, using 30 to 60 seconds of rest, acutely increased the release of growth hormone prompting greater muscle hypertrophy (growth)."

    For 4X you take a weight you can get 15 reps with, but you only do 10; rest 30 seconds, then do 10 more--and so on until you do four sets of 10. The last set should be all out, and you should NOT get 10 reps. If you do, add weight to that exercise at your next workout.
  7. OldManSkinny
    Now there's a new twist. 4X. I'll have to give it a shot. I think that I have been giving the muscles too much time to recover between sets because I almost always superset exercises. Maybe that's been working against me.
  8. bufflo
    I like to change things up on a regular basis - low reps heavier weight for a workout or two then back to 15 reps with somewhat lighter weights. Sometimes, I go very light with 50 or 60 reps. Last week I did the 100's. Yikes, that hurt for four days. The 100's is do as many reps as you can using say a weight that will let you do 70 reps. Then where ever you stop rest for as many seconds as you have reps left to reach 100. For example, if you can do 70 reps then rest for 30 seconds and then try to do the last 30. If you can only do another 15 then rest another 15 seconds then continue. Do this until you have done a 100 reps. I tried this with 10lbs dumbbell curls twice a day for two days. Like I said it hurt for a while. It definately shocked the routine our of my biceps. I'm going to try it again toward the end of the week.
  9. memoryman
    I do full body up to 20 reps every other day. I use four protocols so that the same exercise comes back only every eight days. I've enjoyed this as it has NO injury potential and it has seemed to maintain my strength level—although it does not seem to have increased it (but is that attributable to being 65?).

    I had been doing (2 years ago) much lower reps and heavier weights. Every once in a while, I would get a joint or muscle issue. That would take a week to heal. No more.

    There is a difference between the exercise reasonable for an ectomorph and a mesomorph. The bench press is the biggest challenge. While a mesomorph can bring the bar down to his chest, the ectomorph cannot do so without risking rotator cuff problems. Our chests (sorry fellow ectomorphs) are simply not big enough to stop the bar in time to prevent stress to the rotator cuff.

    This is an interesting line of comments.

    About the results of exercise keeping women looking, I have found that just as many men (often fat, out-of-shape guys) look at my chest and arms when I am out in a tank top. Some look out from desire but many more look out of envy. I want to say, "I'm just this skinny guy who exercises regularly. Get out there and exercise!"

    Amazing how hard that is for most people: to just do it.
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