Whether you’re starting up a new personal training regimen in South Jersey, or have been going to the gym or working with a trainer for a long time, you’ve likely heard at least a few opinions on lifting lower weights at higher reps or higher weights at lower reps. Both options have their advantages, however, higher rep workouts have specific benefits that not all are aware of.

The common conception is that you lift lower weights for ‘tone’ and higher weights ‘to bulk’, but that isn’t necessarily true. No matter what you’re lifting, you’re improving your overall fitness level — but you may not be working towards the goal you think you are.

CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii - Staff Sgt. Brett Garmon, G-4 air staff noncommissioned officer, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, utilizes the bench press and weights, while safely being spotted by Master Sgt. Bill Atwater, G-4 maintenance management chief, MARFORPAC at the Semper Fit Center here.

So why lift lighter weights at higher reps?


Two words: Muscle Hypertrophy


By continuously stressing a muscle through a movement, fibers are enlarged, this process is called muscle hypertrophy. Higher repetitions of movement with a weight that still challenges the muscle forces the muscle to grow in volume. This growth of the muscle creates that “toned” look and increases muscle endurance, however, the actual appearance of the muscle also largely depends on body fat percentage.


Essentially, higher rep workouts make you appear more fit and give you more muscle. Higher rep workouts also give your muscles more stamina and more fat-burning potential. Workouts that involve sets of lifting at 12 reps or higher are shown to have a longer metabolic impact on your body, burning more fat over time than lower rep sets.


This may give you the impression that you should always lift lower weights at higher repetitions — this likely isn’t the best approach. Fitness experts across the globe agree that fitness plateaus happen, and when they do, the most effective way to move past them is by changing a routine.


Higher weight workouts have their place, increasing strength, but also forcing the body to adapt to a different workout structure, shocking the muscles out of the routine that they’ve grown used to and encouraging further growth.


So what does a high rep scheme look like?


Rep ranges between eight and 12 are often considered to be on the higher side, but some athletes choose to go as high as 20. Rep ranges below eight are considered to be low.


If you were training at high rep ranges to increase muscle volume, a four week plan would look something like this:


Week 1- 3 sets of 10 reps at 70% of your Personal Record

Week 2- 3 sets of 8-10 reps at 75% of your PR

Week 3- 4 sets of 10-12 reps at 70% of your PR

Week 4- 4 sets of 10-12 reps at 75% of your PR


To learn more about what rep schemes and exercises would be most beneficial to your fitness goals, visit our gym in Voorhees, NJ, or any of our other five locations across South Jersey.