Q – I’ve recently started doing some weight training as part of my exercise routine but am a bit confused about how many repetitions I should do of my exercises, does it make a difference?
A – Absolutely, in fact the amount of repetitions you do for any given exercise is probably one of the most important factors in the success of your training programme, even if you are relatively new to using weights.
One of the most common mistakes that people make with their weight training is failing to change their routine often enough to keep the body changing. This happens because our body adapts to the challenge of a particular routine and no longer needs to change to perform it. By varying the amount of repetitions and sets you do, you can greatly improve results and also keep your workout varied and more interesting.
When you first start out, virtually any repetition range you use will result in some results, it is usually after 3-4 months when people stop seeing any changes. This is way too long to work the same programme and while changing exercises helps with variety, it won’t have the same effect as varying your repetitions.
However, there is also another factor that can make a real difference to the effect of your weight training and that is the speed at which you do each repetition. If you have a look around your local gym you will no doubt see everyone lifting weights at the same sort of speed – quickly.
Doing repetitions too fast reduces the amount of time that the muscle is under tension and often leads to people using momentum to move heavier weights with bad technique. This is a favourite for the men in the gym who are more concerned with how much they lift rather than how they lift it. As well as reducing the results you get, it can also lead to injured joints and poor movement patterns.
By controlling the speed you will not only challenge the muscle to work harder, but also improve your technique. Try lowering the same weight you currently use on an exercise for a count of 4 and then pausing for a count of 1 before raising it, I promise you will notice a big difference.
Here are my top tips for anyone starting out with weight training.
• Start out with 1-2 sets of higher repetitions, I’d recommend between 15 – 20.
• Control the speed you do the exercise, particularly the lowering part. Try lowering the weight for a count of 4 and feel the difference.
• Work the whole body each time you train using exercises like squats, press ups, and rowing movements, instead of bicep and tricep exercises.
• If you already have been training for several months, try varying the repetitions each time you workout. For example if you do 3 sets of 10 on a Monday, then try doing 2 sets of 20 on a Wednesday instead.
• The more reps you do, the less sets of each exercise you need.