Friday, October 11, 2013

More reps, or more weight? Which is better?

The answer to all such questions is usually "it depends".

Today however, I thought I'd have a crack at this bench press challenge which is a part of a training system or "gym sport" that is becoming popular in the UK. The creator of this is a bloke I know from my professional network.

Now... the idea is a bit different to conventional weight training in that it is all against the clock, and the idea is to get as many reps out within the time limit as possible. And of course you would make progress by increasing the amount of reps you can do at the same weight within the same time limit.

So here's a video of me having a crack at the bench press portion, recorded at Doherty's Gym where I operate as a Personal Trainer, in Brunswick. That's 50kg for 3 minutes, as many reps as possible.

I will say this; it was harder than I expected. I mean... I knew I could pump out 40 reps at 50kg as a nice warm up, but I really expected I'd be able to pump out another 40 after a short 15 - 30 second rest. I figured I'd get 100 reps or at least 90... and I pulled up a little short of that.

So a bit short of what I hoped for, but still a respectable total especially first time out. I wanted to test a theory that when you train heavy with conventional rep ranges, you'll be able to match it with most people doing ultra high reps with less resistance. That is, you'll be able to match the people who only train that way, even though it's not the way you normally train. Am I making sense here? Good.

Here's what I think. The point of training is to produce an adaptation, and therefore you should always choose the training strategy most suited to producing that desired adaptation or outcome. When we choose resistance training, it is usually with the desired outcome of becoming stronger and improving body composition. That is; adding muscle at the expense of body fat stores.

In my opinion, the best way to do so is by progressively increasing the amount of weight we can move through traditional rep ranges. Now, when we train with the same amount of weight but with a focus on pumping out more reps within a time limit... there is still an adaptation but it is not about increasing strength or muscle mass. Simply put, you're training to get better at training. I'd also argue that technique is compromised in these circumstances as can be seen in my video above... if you've ever seen one of my other bench press videos with a heavier load for say 10 or 12 reps, my technique and tempo is pretty good if I do say so myself.

SO, what's better? Well it always depends on your goal. But decide upon your goal first, and then choose the approach that is most conducive to reaching it.

With all that being said, this was a hell of a nice warm up before getting down to the serious business of going as heavy as possible for 10 - 12 reps.