Fitness Series: Reps, Sets, Circuit Training

With your training plan in place, we will discuss how you can further enhance your workout session by playing with the number of sets, repetition and style of training you use in the gym.

The concenses is, if you want to burn fat, you need to build muscle.  Just to provide you with some physiological  background,  our muscles are made up of two different kinds of muscle fibers.  There are the fast twitch fibers and the slow twitch fibers. The fast twitch fibers are bigger and responsible for most of our muscle growth and fullness.  Slow twitch fibers are responsible for endurance activities.  If you want to build muscle you need to target the right kind of fibers.

We already determined that fast twitch fibers are responsible for muscle growth. So, how do we develop those fast twitch fibers to build muscle?  The answer is simple, lift heavy. By heavy, I mean 85% of what you are capable of lifting for 1 rep.

Now I bet you are wondering, well how many reps should I lift it for? And how do I know if it is the right weight? Studies have shown that the ideal rep range for building muscle is 8 to 12 repetitions. You should be struggling with last 2 reps.  If you can lift the weight for 12 reps comfortably and you feel like you could have done more reps, the weight is too light. If you are not able to lift for at least 5 reps, the weight is too heavy.

What if you are not looking to build muscle, but rather lose fat?  Again, the answer is the same, lift heavy.  To be honest with you, you wont build muscle if your nutrition plan is not design for you to build muscle.  However, your rep range for fat loss should increase slightly.  You are looking at a rep range between 12-15 reps. This rep range will target more of your slow twitch fibers, which again are designed for endurance.

Moving on to the amount of sets you should perform for each exercise, a good rule of thumb is to perform as many sets as you need to complete a total of 25 repetitions for any given exercise. You should be resting anywhere from 30 seconds- 2 minutes between sets.  The lower the rep range, (higher weight) the longer you should be resting.

Alright, now that the basics are covered, lets move on to a workout style that has become popular in today’s workout programs, circuits. Circuits are amazing, they allow you to get your cardio and strength training in at the same time, saving you time at the gym.  However, saving time is not the only thing they are good for. Over time circuit training will increase your stamina and lean body mass, ultimately making you stronger and leaner.

All a circuit is, is performing a series of exercises in succession with out resting in between each exercise until you have performed them all once.  You then repeat the exercises in a row 3-4 more times.  There is no limit to the amount of exercises you can do.

So to recap this entire entry, whether you want to gain muscle or lose weight, you should lift heavy.  Play around with the number of repetitions and sets, incorporate circuit training for some extra endurance training, and make sure to switch up your routine every4-6 weeks.

For my next and final blog of this series I will discuss, the necessary evil we call cardio.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified trainer or nutritionist. Please check with your doctor prior to starting any diet or exercise plan.  The information provided below is what I have learned via personal research. 

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