Back in 2012, way before I started weight training, I overheard a friend giving advice to another friend where he said, “Start lifting weight. Perform 6-8 reps for muscle building and more than 15 reps for toning”. Being curious, I started researching similar sorts of things on the internet and came across a video in which martial arts superstar, Michael Jai White spoke about the same thing. This number of reps and sets for ‘hypertrophy’ (growth) and that many reps for ‘toning’. But is this actually the case? Read on in Gain Muscle: How Many Sets and Reps Should You Do?
1. Decide on the weight to use
Rather than worrying about a fixed number of sets and repetitions, you can focus on the following depending on your objectives as well as your training level. Beginners can start out in weight training by finding out the best weight for each exercise. Simply select a weight that you can perform 10 repetitions with, with good form. This can be your ‘warm up’ weight. For your actual workout, pick a slightly heavier (say 5kg) weight and try doing 5 repetitions, aim for 4-5 sets.
You don’t always have to complete 5 repetitions every time. By your 3rd or 4th set, you may not actually be able to complete the 4th and 5th reps. That’s completely fine. Remember, always focus on quality of lifts and not on quantity. This will help you prevent injuries from performing lifts with incorrect form.
2. Perform compound movements
Try doing compound movements, ie. exercises which work across multiple joints (push-ups, pull-ups, bench press, shoulder press, squat s, etc) rather than isolated exercises for small muscle-groups, ie. one-arm dumbbell curls, tricep extensions etc.
3. Aim for small, but regular weight increases
If you perform the exercises with good form, you will definitely become stronger. But once you reach a certain point in your training, your muscles will start becoming accustomed to the load. This is when you should start adding extra weight (increments of 2.5kg are good). This is known simply as Progressive Overloading.
4. As you build lean muscle, you’ll drop the fat
As the great Arnold Schwarzenegger said, ‘Shock the muscle’. Whether you’re aiming to lose fat or gain muscle, try to perform in the lower-medium range (of 3-8 repetitions and 4-5 sets per exercise) with steady, regular incremental increases in the load. A combination of weight training, cardiovascular training, a well-balanced diet and rest will definitely help you get leaner and stronger at the same time. You will lose fat or gain mass depending on the amount and type of calories you put into your body.