Online Personal Trainer Q&A
Summers coming and this is the time of year is when my inbox is full of people asking me what the best rep range for fat loss is.
The reason this is something that people just don’t fully understand is because it’s not simply black and white, however that doesn’t stop people from saying “high reps is for muscle toning and low reps is for strength and muscle gain”, what the hell is muscle toning anyway?? You can’t just train a muscle to look toned, muscles will hypertrophy (get bigger) or atrophy (get smaller), you can’t train a muscle to look toned, the “toned” look comes from having a lower % body fat that reveals the muscle definition, aka shredded!
Let me start by breaking down some rep ranges for you:
High Reps (15+):
- Burn more more calories
- Increase muscular endurance
- Improve aerobic capacity
Medium Reps (6-12):
- Muscle building (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy)
Low Reps (1-6):
- Strength (myofibrillar hypertrophy)
- Increase neuromuscular drive
Okay, so if my goal is fat loss then it makes sense for me to perform a higher amount of reps to burn more calories, correct? Well not really!
If you want to lose fat, you should be trying to develop a decent amount of muscle tissue (in the gym), the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolic rate. 6-12 reps is gold when it come to hypertrophy (muscle development). You can very effectively hit all three mechanisms of hypertrophy (three mechanisms of developing muscle):
Okay, so if my goal is fat loss then it makes sense for me to perform between 6-12 reps, correct? Well not really!
Possibly the biggest factor when it comes to muscle building is mechanical tension, putting enough resistance through your muscles to force them to develop. You will need to use heavy weight, therefore you’ll need to perform less reps (4-6 reps) to optimise this mechanism.
Okay, so if my goal is fat loss then it makes sense for me to perform between 1-6 reps and life heavier, correct? Well not really!
You’ll need to have plenty of rest between sets when lifting very heavy, so you won’t be burning a high amount of calories.
I can hear the shouts....”Andy……I’m confused…..How many reps will help me to lose fat??’
Well, you need an element of all three. You can include each element in each of your gym sessions or a more effective plan would be to incorporate this through phases/cycles.
- Month one mainly higher reps with the odd strength session
- Month two mostly medium reps with the odd bit of strength work
- Month three should be strength focused, I don’t mean spending the full session training between 1-6 reps, instead start the session with heavy compound exercises like squats or deadlifts (after your warm up of course), then increase the reps through the session. Once you come to the end of this phase you should have increased strength, that would be the goal of this phase.
Here is an example of how you could structure these sessions:
Month one full body example session:
A1 - Leg press - 12 reps x 3
B1 - Cable row - 12 reps x 3
C1 - 45 degree hip extension - 12 reps x 3
D1 - Seated shoulder press - 15 reps x 3
E1 - Lateral raises - 15 reps x 3
Month two full body example session:
A1 - Front squat - 10 reps x 3
B1 - Bent over row - 10 reps x 3
C1 - Lying leg curls - 10 reps x 3
D1 - Military press - 10 reps x 3
E1- Horizontal cable pull - 12 reps x 3
F1 - Dead bugs - 15 (each side) x 3
Month three full body example session:
A1 - Barbell back squat - 6 reps x 5
B1 - Cable pull down - 8 reps x 4
C1 - RDL’s - 8 reps x 4
D1 - Barbell bench press - 10 reps x 4
E1 - Cable tricep push down 12 reps x 3
F1 - Rowing machine 200m x 5
You can see by these examples that we are not pushing to the extremes, we are not focusing on doing 20 plus reps and we're not doing a 1 rep max set, instead we're keeping within a set range dependant on our phase objective, this is between 6-15 reps.
Now, a big thing you need to consider when putting your training plan together is how likely you are to stick with that plan, if you do the same session every single day then this will be completely soul destroying. You need to consistently mix it up (month by month) allow every workout to take you one step closer to where you want to be.
Now, in order to maximise your potential you'll need to support your training with a nutrition plan, calorie intake and macros breakdown specific to your goals.
If you wish to take your training and nutrition to the next level you can request a free consultation where I can advise you on the best training methods specific to your goals, along with some advanced dietary strategies, you just need to fill in the form below...