Welcome to another Try it out Tuesday. Today I have something special to try, it’s called… BREAKING OUT OF MIDDLE GROUND. You know, the one you might be stuck in with strength training or muscle development? Yes, that one. And Suzanne (my girl crush) is back to share her knowledge. I suggest you take notes because she is full of applicable information and knowledge. Take notes, try it out, then report back. Deal?
Increasing Muscle and Strength By Knowing the Difference
I couldn’t be happier to be back here at Cotter Crunch. True, I can get my fix of Lindsay’s sparkle by peeking at her Instagram account, but the golden goodness is right here at Cotter Crunch. So thanks to Lindsay for having me!
Once upon a time, I was a middle-of-the-road kind of gal. I pushed hard in the gym but my strength and muscles never grew appreciably. Pushing hard gave me some muscle definition, but I never progressed to that next level. I was stuck.
The problem was that I didn’t differentiate between building muscle and building strength. Ok, there were a few more problems than that – like doing the wrong exercises and training too often. But the first step in fixing these problems – and getting closer to damn girl! muscles and strength I could be proud of – was varying how I trained.
Many women who train in my online groups or one-on-one have been hanging out in no-man’s land of strength training – that is, always training in the 8-12 repetition range. Here’s how to get badass results by breaking out.
How to Train for YOUR Goal
Let me back up a little and explain why we even use different rep ranges for building strength and muscle.
If you always lifted the same weight and simply continued to increase the number of reps, you’d eventually be training for muscle endurance, not strength or muscle.
That’s because the number of repetitions you do (and thus the amount of resistance you lift) triggers either strength gains or muscle growth. There is overlap, of course, but each rep range elicits either mostly muscle growth or mostly strength increases.
To Break it Down:
- 1-5 repetitions trigger primarily strength gains
- 6-12 repetitions trigger primarily muscle growth
One more thing to know: The more reps you do, the fewer sets; the fewer reps you do, the more sets. For example:
Mid-to-High Reps for increased muscle
- 3 sets of 10 repetitions
- 60-90 seconds rest between sets
Low Reps for increased strength
- 4 sets of 5 repetitions
- 90-120 seconds rest between sets
As you can see, the lower the number of reps, the more you rest between sets. This is because you’re lifting heavier for lower reps and need more time to recover before you can perform as well for the next set.
Breaking Out of Middle Ground
So back to being a middle-of-the-road kind of gal.
You might think, “If I want muscle, I should always do 6-12 reps.”
But when you train in the same rep range day in and day out, your body adapts beautifully. Instead of growing stronger and building muscle to keep up with new stimulus, it simply adjusts and starts humming along without making any changes.
It’s easy – VERY easy – to get stuck in the middle rep range. Even now, if I don’t plan my workouts in advance, I will default to about 8 reps for every set. That’s just where my body is comfortable. Before I know it, months have passed when I could be a lot farther along that I am. Not good!
So how do you combat this?
Vary your rep ranges (but not randomly)
I like cycling my online clients’ training and I do this in several ways. For example, if you want to build muscle in your booty, here’s how you might approach squats:
- Alternate sessions or weeks
Week 1 – high reps, Week 2 – low reps, Week 2 – high reps, etc.
Session 1 – high reps, Session 2 – low reps, Session 3 – high reps, etc.
- Train in 3-week phases
Weeks 1-3 – High reps
Weeks 4-6 – Low reps
Will you still see gains in the area you want if you work in both ranges? Absolutely, and much better than if you always trained for the same goal. You can also use a 2:1 ratio (e.g. 2x more high reps than low reps).
When deciding which exercises to do in what range, think about your goals and the exercises that target those goals. For example, to build muscle in your booty, you could alternate squats and hip thrusts in the high range (Session 1 – high reps for squats, low reps for hip thrusts; Session 2 – low reps for squats, high reps for hip thrusts).
You saw it coming – plan your workouts
Yep, this all means that you need to write down your plan and bring it to the gym. I’d never do a workout without a training log so you can remember what you did and what to do next.
There are a lot of other ways to progress yourself, but rep ranges are one of the most important. Get organized with rep ranges and you’ll be on the way to your goals!
Don’t hesitate to pick my brain if you have questions. Making gains is what it’s all about.
Suzanne Digre is a NASM-certified personal trainer who leads online training groups now open for registration: Fierce Definition (12 Weeks to Muscle Definition that Makes People Look Twice)and Lean & Strong. With over 15 years of lifting experience, Suzanne writes at workoutnirvana.com, where she shares her passion for and expertise in strength training and clean eating.
Suzanne loves to connect on social media. Find her at:
Thanks Suzanne! I’ll be sure to make my Strength and Sweat class lift heavier tomorrow. I’ll tell them to BREAK the MIDDLE GROUND!