This morning my father asked me while I was in a very sleep deprived state, my hands jittery and shaking while throwing BCAA's into a cup.
"What is better? Heavier weight for low reps or Low weights for high reps."
And again, I was sleep deprived. The evening before I had gone through a whirlwind of excitement from getting a callback to the full boar of doing a very lengthy tech rehearsal where I was wrapped in multiple layers in the summer muggy night. I was a bit mixed up in the head, but luckily I was able to answer the question correctly.
"They are both good for you, you should do both."
At the time I probably came off as an asshole when really I just needed to get to the gym and go about the day before I lost the momentum I created to get myself out of my bed. However, despite how I delivered the message, this is the truth.
Now, I'm going to try my best to not make this a big science article. I'm not a scientist. I'm gonna try to make sense of all of this in a manner that's super simple to understand. In the end the equation we all need to pay attention to total volume.
Sets x Reps x Weight = Volume
Volume is the greatest driver of muscle growth. Basically meaning how much work you're doing, how much TOTAL weight you are lifting and for how long. You do more volume, you get more muscles (assuming you're eating a diet that allows for continued progress.)
Here is two examples. The first is me doing two sets of 225 for 2 reps. The second is me doing 2 sets of 135 for 12 reps.
2 x 2 x 225 = 900
2 x 12 x 135 = 3240
Now, you may look at this and think. "Woah! Lifting lighter weights for more reps is Totally better!"
Yes and No. What the volume equation doesn't show you is what the heavier weights do to your central nervous System (CNS.) That's the voice in your head that goes "holy shit this feels heavy." Strength training also creates more adaptation in your joints and ligaments to better serve your overall life. There's a lot less lactic acid being released, so the training can be a lot less vomit inducing.
"So, lifting heavier is better."
Nah, gurl. Lifting heavy for lower reps can lead to wear and tear on the same joints it's helping and lends itself to over training if not properly periodized. It can also be a little bit more time consuming. In order to get the same volume you achieve from 225 you would get from 135, you'd have to do nearly 8 sets of 2 rep sets. Plus the stimulation you get, "the pump" if you would, isn't nearly as present during the low rep sets. And although the pump isn't necessarily what builds muscle, it does indicate muscle trauma, which is a contributor to muscle growth.
What do I recommend?
Why choose? You can very easily incorporate both high reps and low reps in the same training session and receive benefits from both. Prioritize the strength building movements with the heavier weight and lower rep ranges. Then when you've accomplished the task, Drop the weight down into a higher rep range and get yourself a crazy pump, work up a sweat, and put in that hard work.
160 x5, 190 x5, 215 AMRAP (5)
You've effectively gotten stronger and broken down the muscle. Now you'll get pecs that aren't just sexy, but can actually do something.
Until Next Time
Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Great Doing It.
The Opera Bro