Building muscle
June 24, 2005 10:28 AM   Subscribe

How much should I increase my workout weight when lowering rep ranges?

How much should I increase my workout weight when lowering rep ranges?

In this example, I lift 100lbs for 12 reps. If I want to decrease my rep range to 10 reps, how much weight should I add? Going from 10 reps to 8?

I've been adding roughly 20% of the weight, but have also read that to more effectively build muscle, you should multiply weight X reps X sets, and keep increasing that number each workout. All else being equal, adding 20% will keep that number the same when dropping from 12 to 10, and actually lower it if decreasing from 10 to 8 reps.

100 lbs X 12 reps X 3 sets = 3600 total lbs
Add 20%
120 lbs X 10 reps X 3 sets = 3600 total lbs
Add 20%
144 lbs X 8 reps X 3 sets = 3456 total lbs

I guess I could try adding 25% when dropping from 12 to 10, then 30% from 10 to 8, but I fear that may be too much to handle.

I'm banking more on the HST (Hypertrophy Specific Training) method that by increasing weight while dropping rep ranges, the body will grow due to the stress imposed by the additional weight.

So which school of thought do you fall under: increasing overall weight with each workout will lead to muscle growth, or increasing weight and dropping sets to stress the body into growing? Again, all else being equal (routine, consistency of workouts, diet, rest, supplementation, etc.).

Please note that I work out during lunch and may not have much time to increase sets to get the overall weight higher (scenario 1).
posted by Blue Buddha to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
I've always read that anything more than 10-12 reps and the training becomes just a cardiovascular exercise and not geared as much towards muscle building. Anything below 8 reps and I don't think you're doing much to build muscles. I alway strive for the 8-10 range and when I find myself exceeding 10 I add weights.

Try not to get too technical about weight training, unless you really, really know what you're doing. I know people who try to get very analytical about it and don't see any "I should try that" gains. Everyone's so different it's better to listen to how your body responds rather then relying upon formulas.

In addition to simply adding more weights, add variety to your workouts to trick your body in to adapting and growing.

As always, exrx.
posted by geoff. at 10:34 AM on June 24, 2005

I do four sets of 10 reps, increasing the weight on each set until by the last set I'm struggling to make all the reps. If I can't finish all the reps in the last set, that's okay. Once I can do all the reps in the last set, I increase the starting weight. Rinse. Repeat.

Also, look into negatives. If your doing a barbell curl, lift with say, a two-count and lower with a four-count.
posted by keswick at 10:37 AM on June 24, 2005

Yeah, be sure to change your routine after 6-8 weeks.
posted by keswick at 10:39 AM on June 24, 2005

I wouldn't increase the overall weight with each and every workout. That would overstress your muscles and increase the risk of injury. However, to keep your rate of muscle gain, you will need to *gradually* increase weight and decrease reps.

I would say that if you're lowering the reps per set, the only way to be sure is to do a couple of experiments with the golden rule: listen to what your body tells you.

For example, if at the end of an 'old' first set your muscles feel tight, then at the end of the 'new' first set your muscles should feel only a bit tighter. If you reach exhaustion at rep 8 of your old set, and you plan to decrease the reps to 6, then you should reach exhaustion on rep 6 at the new weight. And your body will tell you if that's the case or not. Stressing the body into growing is what I'm assuming here, by increasing weight and dropping sets.

But under this model, the only way you're going to know for sure is by actually doing the workout, so precise calculations should be treated with caution until you've got a couple of weeks' new workouts done.
posted by paperpete at 10:41 AM on June 24, 2005

In my experience, lowering the reps and increasing the weight at similar ratio has yielded "faster" strength gains. As keswick suggested, negatives are good, I try to do negatives twice a month; Too much can be counter productive. IMO, adding weight consistently (consistent throughout sets) promotes steady strength increase, but at a slower pace.
posted by AllesKlar at 11:14 AM on June 24, 2005

Also, look into negatives. If your doing a barbell curl, lift with say, a two-count and lower with a four-count.

Err...what are negatives? I always lift (push, pull, whichever is the exertion) with a two count and rease/lower/whatever, with a four count. Am I forgetting "positives"?
posted by duck at 11:40 AM on June 24, 2005

I do the same as you, pyramids.

I consider the first set a warmup. So let's use bench as an example.

Warm up with 12 reps of 155

Now the next should be fairly hard, but not to muscle failure.

10 reps of 175

The last set should be to muscle failure, so sometimes, you won't be able to complete the set.

8 reps of 195

I actually get decent results from this, I'm not trying to be a bodybuilder though, just be strong with fairly nice definition.

I always carry a notebook where I make little notes as to how it went, when I lift that set again, I look and maybe adjust upwards one of the sets, if I've made a note like, last set too easy.
posted by patrickje at 12:12 PM on June 24, 2005

Duck - Negatives are similar to what you described. I suppose bench press is the best example; Usually you have a spotter to help you lift the bar, and you start with your arms extended. Doing say, 85% of your max; The goal is to lower the weight as slow as you can, (within reason, it is close to the maximum you can push back up) meanwhile, the spotter will help you bring the weight back to the starting position (arms extended) repeat
posted by AllesKlar at 12:22 PM on June 24, 2005

Start here.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:29 PM on June 24, 2005

I'm a bit rusty on this, but I think the optimal weights should be determined more by your own physiology than by some equation or ratio. The goal with any routine whether you're pyramiding down from 12 or doing 5 sets of 6 for power lifting, is at completion of routine your muscles should be in near failure. That means your last reps may even require spotting.

What I actually used to love doing to really hit that muscle failure point was to add drop-sets to the routine. Struggle to hit that last set and then drop 25-30% of the weight and push a few more reps, or have some lighter dumbells and go straight to them. The difference in gains was pronounced, and it's a great way to lift if you don't have a spotter since benching a 300 lb bar could get you killed at the failure point.

Also, negatives are a nice to mix in as others have noted.
posted by drpynchon at 12:45 PM on June 24, 2005

Just a note in case you haven't caught the latest research. Max benefit has been found if you give yourself 3 minutes between sets, rather than the formerly recommended 90 seconds. That's a long time. Thus, I'd recommend switching up exercises -- not using the same muscles -- between sets. Longer than 3 minutes had no additional benefit. Also note that more than 2 sets also had negligable effect. Sorry, no link. In the paper about 6 weeks back.
posted by dreamsign at 5:42 PM on June 24, 2005

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