Last time I talked about exercise selection. This time I will discuss how to pick Sets and Reps scheme to help you attain your goal. Picking your Set and Rep scheme will be dependent upon your goals. If you want to get stronger, you want to put on some more muscle mass, or you want to help your you muscular endurance. Once you decide what your goal is you can adjust your program accordingly. I will say this real that no matter what your goal is your muscles will increase in size. Do not worry about getting too bulky it happens. You will not get bodybuilder big while lifting weight unless that is your goal and even still it will take several years to get to the same level as amateur bodybuilder. Women especially do not have to worry about getting too bulky with weight training.
Power and Strength.
To obtain power and strength it is best to work with high weights( roughly 80-95% of you 1RM) for 1 – 5 reps of an exercise. When working on increasing your strength it is very important improve you neuromuscular connection. Working with heavy weight for low reps will induce greater muscle fiber recruitment. Which will help improve muscle force production. It is best to keep the reps low for many reasons. One heavier weight puts more strain on your nervous system and it will take more effort to move the heavy weight with proper technique. Also working with heavier weight you will need a longer recovery time. Example for a program built around strength development is ( Wendler 5/3/1 , Mark Rippetoe Starting Strength. A simple 5×5 program with 80% of your 1RM is a simple but very effective program or you can go with a higher percentage and go a 3×5 program it is your choice.
Most guys reading this article their goal is to get more lean mass. If you want to increase your size the best range is between 8-12 reps at 60-75% of your 1RM(1 Rep Maximum) In studies it has been shown that this is the rep range and weight that causes the most muscle fiber breakdown. You are probably think muscle fiber break down isn’t that a bad thing? If it is extended for a long period of time such as working out hard for a long period of time(month+) with out a break then yes it can be detrimental to your body. But short-term as in after a lifting session it is great. Then reason for this is that this micro tears that occurs in your muscles have to be repaired by replacing cells and rebuilding the fibers. Because your bodies doesn’t like it when fibers are torn in the body. The fibers are replaced and they are made larger and stronger to withstand the resistance that the body had to endure ( the weight lifted). This will cause the body to build muscle back bigger and stronger( as long as you are eating adequate protein and proper diet). Yes you will get stronger as well not as much as if you were lifting for Strength and power but there is a very strong correlation with muscle output and cross-sectional size of the muscle fibers. That is why you usually in the beginning she a lot of lifters try to increase their size before the work on increase their strength. Simply put the larger your muscle the greater chance of a higher force output. There are many different programs Dan John Mass Made Simple is a great book. Any book by Mark Rippetoe is a fantastic way to start. A good example is 70% of 1RM 3×8, 4×10, 3×12 are all very good basic programs. Most people start in these rep ranges and I myself recommend that people start here as well. Then after 2-3 weeks you can move to the program of their choice.
Developing Muscular Endurance(ME) should not be mistaken for Cardiovascular endurance. Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle to perform a continuous action. Example of this is rowing on the crew team. To develop ME the rep range 12+ on an exercise. You will not be using any Heavy weight when developing ME. Usually the weight is 60% of below 1RM and a lot of time people use their own body weight. You see a lot of Muscle endurance work when people perform circuits where they pick 3-8 exercises and perform them all without a break in between the exercises. Very high rest really working on try to fatigue the muscles. When working with lighter weight(depending on exercises) I find it Ok( I use that term loosely) to work til Muscle failure. This rep scheme is employed by Kettle bell exercises body weight exercises. Sometimes you don’t have to count reps you just go by a time(30 seconds – min ). Very enjoyable you can easily make it into a competition with friends to see who can do as many reps as possible in an allotted time. At the same time you don’t want to go too light with the weight. I usually see women at the gym working out with 1-2lbs weight because they “don’t want to get big”. Pick a weight that you can perform roughly 15 times and that will be pretty good. If you want examples of Muscular endurance exercises mymadmethods is a fantastic site. Some simple examples are 3×15, 4×12. 3×20 etc.
Remember the first determine what you are trying to achieve in the weight room and pick a plan to go from there You can always mis and match your rep scheme to fit into your program.