It hurts me every time I read about a new weight lifting protocol and the person talks about nothing except the correct number of repetitions and sets you need to do.
Again it comes back to goals, but generally you want to have low reps with high weight to gain strength and higher reps with lower weight to build muscle. This isn’t rocket science.
However, an even better way to look at your weight lifting program is to consider your overall workload.
No matter how many repetitions or sets you do, and no matter what weight you do them at, they all add up to a total workload for that exercise.
For instance, one person can do a bench press with 3 sets of 8 at 150 pounds. This gives us a total workload of 3 x 8 x 150 = 3,600 pounds.
Another person can do a 5 x 5 (5 reps and 5 sets) program with 150 pounds and have a total workload of 3,750 pounds.
Who has the better workout program? Who is the stronger one?
I would argue that they are practically the same thing and neither one is stronger than the other. With that being said, when taken from the viewpoint of total workload capacity rather than reps and sets numbers, the numbers become almost pointless.
People ultimately error on both sides…
The guy wanting to build muscle mass bangs out tons of repetitions because he hears that is the best way to build muscle mass, but ultimately never increases the weight he puts on. And then fails to gain any muscle and possibly even loses some if he goes too far.
The guy wanting to get stronger keeps putting more weight on the bar, but never increases his reps. He also fails to get any stronger.
The guy that increases his sets, but lowers his reps also gets into trouble because the example above shows that he is accomplishing the same workload as the guy who does less sets but more repetitions.
All the best scientific experiments only look at one variable. It is the same with weight lifting. To get the results you want you have to change one thing at time.
So maybe you have been struggling for awhile to add a measly 5 pounds to your bench press. Well what about busting out just one more rep at your current weight? It may not seem like much to you, but that extra rep increases your workload. You may also want to think about taking out a few repetitions, but add on another set. This also increases your workload.
And of course, you can always increase the weight to increase your workload, which is the ultimate goal for powerlifters, but not necessarily the goal for bodybuilders.
Focusing on workload will do a lot for you. It will give you back control. You get to decide the appropriate amount of weight, sets, and reps based on what your muscles can handle that day. But that doesn’t mean you get to slack off. If your normal workload is 3,600 pounds as mentioned above, then you still want to have a weight, rep, and set combination that brings you up to or above that workload.
By working on slowly increasing your workload you are pretty much guaranteed to be bigger and stronger than before. You may have other more specific goals you are trying to achieve so by all means do the workout protocol that you think will be best. But for those that simply want to get bigger and stronger, there is nothing like focusing on total workload. It gets you results.
This is our 11th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…