High Rep Training

I’ll start this post off with a video I first saw years ago.  Here is the legendary Tom Platz doing high repetition squats with heavy weight (well over 500 lb).  This video was filmed back in 1993.  Tom Platz and Dr. Fred Hatfield (aka “Dr Squat) were doing a “squat off” in Germany.  Hatfield won the one-rep max competition by squatting 855 lb.  Platz won the rep competition with the weight you see here:

A while back I wrote an article on the best rep range for building muscle and burning fat.  I basically argued that a 5-10 rep range is going to be ideal for both of these goals.  I still believe that–most of your gains will probably come from this range.

But more advanced and older trainees may want to consider experimenting with higher repetitions (let’s say 15 and up).  There are some good reason to do so:

Leg Traininghighreptrainingplatz2

I’ve heard several bodybuilders say they had better leg growth from training with higher repetitions.  This makes sense because the quadriceps in particular tend to have a high number of both fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers.  You’ve just seen what Platz was capable of in his prime–his legendary thighs were built with both heavy lifting and high reps.

Joint Health

High rep training has the advantage of being able to stimulate the muscles with less strain on the joints.  Older trainees in particular may find this to be very helpful.  But even younger guys can benefit from simply giving the joints a break.

Lactic Acid

Training with higher reps will produce more lactic acid, which in turn tends to produce growth hormone (a helpful hormone for burning fat).

Mental Toughness

I’ve found that training beyond my usual rep range also helps me learn to push beyond the pain barrier and force my body to keep going when my muscles are screaming to stop.

Variety in Training

Going to the gym can get kind of boring if you do the same thing week after week.  Dropping the weight and going for higher repetitions is a simple way to challenge yourself and keep things interesting.

Research

Some recent studies indicate that training with high repetitions is an effective way to build muscle.  One study, for example, took fifteen healthy young men and randomly assigned them to different workouts, measuring their bodies’ responses to different training stimuli: 1.  One set to failure with 80% of one-rep max (1RM)  2.  Three sets to failure with 80% of 1RM, and 3.  Three sets to failure with 30% of 1RM.  Needless to say the third workout tended to be much higher in repetitions (20-23).   They found that lower weights/high reps produced a similar anabolic response to lifting with heavier weight and low reps.1 This is just one of many studies you can find verifying the efficacy of this kind of training.   Bottom line: training heavy is not the only way to build muscle.

These are just reasons to consider incorporating higher reps into your workout.  Now let me give you some practical tips (in no particular order of importance):

Exercise Selection:  I think you’ll find some exercises simply aren’t good choices for high reps.  I love deadlifting, but I rarely go over 5 repetitions for that particular exercise.  My form simply starts to break down if I try to go beyond that.  The same goes for front squats.

I tend to be old-school and prefer free weight exercises, but it may be advantageous to consider machines with this kind of training–especially if you are working out without a spotter.

Time Under Tension:  Using less weight will mean you can lift more slowly and deliberately.  Take advantage of this and maximize the time your muscles are under the tension of the weight.

“Burnout” Set:  One of my favorite techniques is to finish my training with one or two sets of high reps after I’ve done some heavier sets.

I hope you find these tips helpful.  Try them and see if they don’t produce new gains.  Please check out my list of recommended workout programs if you’d like more detailed training guides.

1. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Jul;113(1):71-7. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00307.2012. Epub 2012 Apr 19. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men.

Eccentric Training: Negative Overloading for Hypertrophy

I remember doing concentration curls back in the early days of my training.  I was in the high school gym and an older teammate on the football team gave me a tip.  He advised me to slowly lower the weight over a count of a few seconds.  This was my first time to hear about “negatives.”

Mike Mentzer
Mike Mentzer

I’ve learned more about this kind of training over the years. Mike Mentzer believed in emphasizing the eccentric/negative part of the repetition.  He advocated doing a few slow negative reps at the end of an all-out intense set.  Ben Pakulski also utilizes this technique in his training videos.

One advantage of this method is maximizing time under tension–the amount of time the muscle is under the stimulus of a given weight.

Overloading the negative repetition is another variation of this technique.  Here’s the idea: you can resist more weight than you can actually lift.  Let’s say you can bench press 275 lb.  Chances are you could slowly lower more than that–probably well over 300 lb.  By doing so you would be putting 300+ lb of tension on your muscles, even if you can’t lift that amount of weight.

At least one study suggests this way of training is effective.  Forty male subjects were divided into five groups and trained using the leg press for 3x a week.  They all used the same percentage of their one-rep max during the concentric (lifting) part of the repetitions.  But each group used a different % of their one-rep max for the eccentric (negative part of the lift): 0, 33, 66, 100, or 138%.  Strength gains were the same in those using the 100% and 138% load for their eccentric training.  But only the trainees who overloaded the negative repetitions (the 138% group) gained mass in their legs (they were also the only trainees to increase bone mineral density).1

One if the biggest challenges with this kind of training is the need for a spotter on certain lifts.  But there is a pretty simple solution that can be applied to many exercises: lifting the weight with two arms/legs, then lowering it with one.  This works very well on the leg press, for example.

We shouldn’t go crazy over one study or think of this technique as a “magic bullet.”  But it seems like it is worth a try if you are trying to break plateaus in your size gains.

Reference:

1.Eur J Appl Physiol. 2014 Jul 22. Early-phase musculoskeletal adaptations to different levels of eccentric resistance after 8 weeks of lower body training.

The Venus Factor Review

I’ve been give the opportunity to read and review The Venus Factor, an exercise and nutrition programvenus-goddess-of-love that’s been around for some time. This program (formerly called the Venus Index) is named after a goddess, but there is a scientific rationale behind the name. I’ll explain:

There’s a particular formula to having a good body. Scientists have discovered, for example, that men tend to prefer women with a waist-to-hip ration of 0.7. This varies a little according to the cultural context (from 0.6 to 0.8), but it is a fairly consistent preference when studies and surveys are done. Women seeking to transform their bodies may want to get as close to these measurements/ratios as possible. Beauty, of course, is subjective. But sometimes numbers can give us concrete goals to shoot for.

Program Summary (Components)

Now I’ll summarize some of the components you get if you decide to invest in The Venus Factor. Please keep in mind these are all files you would download (e-book files, etc.)—they are not “hard copies.”

1. Diet and Weigh Loss Manual:

This e-book is a basic plan for losing body fat and changing your physique. Once you read it you will understand what the authors had in mind when they created this program. You’ll also see what is necessary to make this system work for you.

I’d highly advise you to thoroughly read the diet/nutrition section of this manual. Some trainees (male and female) but a lot of effort into their training but don’t give much thought to their nutrition plan. You’ll never reach your fat loss goals without changing your diet.

2. 12-week Workout System:

These workouts are designed specifically with female TheVenusFactorWorkoutReviewtrainees in mind. I think you’ll be impressed with the way the exercises are explained, and the video library is a nice touch. You can see exactly how each movement should be done.

You’ll be working out with weights (or maybe just using your own body weight) as one of the primary exercise strategies. Don’t be concerned with getting a masculine or muscular physique—this kind of thing just doesn’t happen with women who train naturally (without steroids). Nothing will transform your body as rapidly as resistance training will, so follow the program as it is designed.

3. The Venus Factor Virtual Nutritionist:

This is a piece of software (application to be more precise) that will help you customize your diet plan. You’ll see how much protein and how many calories you should be eating every day (according to your current measurements). Remember—the diet plan is a crucial component of this program so don’t ignore it.

4. The Venus Community:

This members-only forum is a place where you can talk with other members: a place to post questions, get advice, and also share what you are learning on your fitness journey. Only Venus Factor members are a part of this forum, so you don’t have to worry about being embarrassed to ask questions.

5. The Venus Index Podcast:

These are interviews you can download to hear how others have made positive changes in their bodies (and lives). This would be something great to listen to on your iPod when you need some extra motivation.

Additional Products (“Upsells”):

Everything I’ve described so far comes with the basic program. But there are some additional e-books you can order if you choose to. To be clear, you do not have to buy these. But I think they would be worthwhile if you want to add to your fitness library.

Cookbook: some recipes for losing body fat.

The Venus Factor Final Phase: the most advanced level of the program, designed to do after you have completed everything in the basic phases.

Meal Plans: specific plans that help you follow your diet.

REVIEW:

Women typically join a gym or start exercising because they want to lose weight and “tone up” (get leaner and firmer). The Venus Factor was created with both of these goals in mind. The nutritional plans will teach you what to eat in order to lose fat and keep (or build) your lean tissue (remember—you don’t want to lose muscle). I think most female trainees would also find the exercise plans to be effective.

I also like the efficiency of this program. In other words, the Venus Factor is a program you could do even if you have a busy schedule and don’t want to spend 24/7 in the gym.

I also appreciate the fact that the author doesn’t promote bogus “fat burner” supplements. Most of the diet pills I see being advertised are a complete waste of money (there are one or two effective products I’ve mentioned here on my blog, but those are the exceptions).

To summarize, I believe the Venus Factor is a reasonably priced program for losing fat and transforming your body. The basic package costs 47$, which is a lot less than you’d pay for a personal trainer. I think this system is a good investment if you want a comprehensive guide to body transformation. Just keep in mind that it will require work and discipline on your part—there are no “magic bullets.” Please CLICK HERE if you are interested in learning more or ordering this program.