Some of the most common questions I receive from trainees revolve around repetitions and weights. They want to know many repetitions to perform and how much weight to use. As with most aspects of training, the answer depends on your goals.
The fewer reps you can perform with a certain weight, the more strength is emphasized versus size or endurance. Generally, for most bodies, rep ranges from one to six emphasize strength, seven to twelve build size, and thirteen to however-many-you-can-tolerate builds endurance.
So, what’s the best rep range for the most common fitness goal – losing fat? When my own clients are doing strength training as part of a fat-loss program, I usually have them use weights that allow rep ranges from ten to fifteen. This rep range allows them to use weights that are heavy enough to provide a challenge and build some muscle, while being light enough to encourage faster movements. These faster movements favor a bit more cardiovascular involvement. Bringing cardio together with strength training provides a well-rounded fat-loss workout on days without a dedicated cardio session.
Your weight selections should be determined by the number of reps you wish to perform based on your goals. You should have a goal number of repetitions in mind before you begin, then perform the exercise with good, strict, form. If you aren’t sure of the proper form, consult a qualified trainer (me!). Then, if you are trying to build endurance, your weights should be relatively light, but if you’re trying to build strength your weights should be quite heavy. Perform the exercise until your muscles fail and you aren’t able to complete another repetition with good form. Adjust the weight for the next set until you find your personal ideal weight for that particular exercise.
Be sure to keep track of the weights you have found to be ideal for each exercise. Then, keep track of your workouts, recording the number of sets and reps you do of each exercise along with the weights used. A small notebook, like a Moleskine or Picadilly, works great to keep with you during your workouts for record keeping. By keeping track of your progress you are able to take the guess work out of the weights you use, easily track your progress, and continuously advance toward your goals.