The New Workout PLan
March 1, 2012 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Looking for gym advice when it comes to lower reps/heavier weight vs high reps/lighter weight.

I've long experienced good results with the tried and true method of focusing on 1-2 body parts and doing 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Recently I joined a new gym and started going to a body sculpt class where we lift lighter weight/high reps for a full body workout. I love the class and it's extremely challenging but I feel like I'm losing my muscle and gaining a gut.

Any reason for this or is my age just catching up with me?

For the record I'm a 33yr old male, workout 3-4 days a week with a rest day between workouts, and my dietary habits have not changed.
posted by gpoint to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think light weights and oodles of reps makes you tired, but not stronger. It's basically cardio with hand weights. Why not incorporate your old routine with this class?
posted by Ideefixe at 7:54 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Heavier weights/lower reps/to failure has always been what's worked for me to build muscle. If you're gaining a gut, you need to change your diet, most likely.
posted by xingcat at 8:19 AM on March 1, 2012 [10 favorites]

Muscles get bigger/stronger when you break them down and then you rest so that they heal. You do that by lifting heavy weights. As Ideefixe says, light weights for high reps is cardio.

The best way to get stronger is with big compound lifts rather than focusing on individual body parts. No point building massive quads and biceps, if all the various muscles in your core are still so weak that you can't lift anything heavier in real life (or you injure yourself trying).
posted by emilyw at 8:19 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

5x5, starting strength, etc.. are all good routines for putting on strength/mass. Stick with the freeweights and good form unless you suffer from one or more chronic injuries that might impede your ability to use good form.

Body sculpt is (i believe) from Goodlife and it is primarily targeted at women who want to keep "toned" and burn some calories and not much else. In other words, not congruent with your stated goals.
posted by some loser at 8:35 AM on March 1, 2012

Weight-lifting is rife with "bro-science." Here is some science: EVIDENCE-BASED RESISTANCE TRAINING RECOMMENDATIONS.

Your class sounds like it's probably a better cardio workout than strengthening/bulking one. Your diet is probably 90% responsible for your gut. Neither cardio nor strengthening will prevent a gut as long as you eat too much.
posted by callmejay at 9:19 AM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

High rep/ light wieght is "cardio" but it's not very effective cardio. You're better off doing actual cardio for cardio (running, biking, etc.) and lifting heavy. Light weights can be very effective, however, if used to increase the difficulty of functional excercises.

But to answer your specfic question, yes it may be the result of physiological changes due to aging and you need to alter your diet approrpiately.
posted by dzot at 10:01 AM on March 1, 2012

my dietary habits have not changed.

If you previously ate to gain mass and you no longer lift heavy, then yes your new light-weight/high-reps workout would likely result in additional gut. This is not a deficiency of the workout, but rather of conflicting goals. If you want to get bigger, you eat big and lift big. If you are happy with your mass, eat smaller and lift smaller. I do believe you can maintain muscle with low-weight/high-reps, but if that makes up the majority of your exercise you really need to cut your calories substantially, especially if you are used to eating a diet designed to make you bigger.

I'm a big fan of BodyPump classes from Les Mills. But my goals are general health, not mass. I'm of the opinion that muscle mass too easily becomes flabby mass when not kept up. BodyPump has definitely made me stronger, but the results come sssllllooowwwllyy. What I get out of the class is the camaraderie of working out with my classmates, the constant cueing re good form from my instructors, and automatic variation provided by the program updates and instructor mixes (i.e. I like not having to think about how to change things up). These benefits make the class a good choice for me, but I don't expect them to result in size. I work the bits of my body that I'd like to be bigger (arms and pecs) separately with higher weights than I use in BP.
posted by Dano St at 11:25 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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