There Are 2 Types Of Workouts When You Train With Weights. You’d Better Know The Difference.

Are you pushing hard in your workouts, but just can't make it to the next level in your training? Do you feel kind of stuck in the middle where you can't get past getting some muscle definition, and are not really building appreciable muscle (if that's your goal)?

As Suzanne Digre explains in this article, you need to learn the difference between building muscle and building strength. There is a big difference and if you don't understand that difference you can get stuck in your progress.

Lower reps gives you increased strength, while mid-to-higher reps will build muscle. That's the short of it.

One thing not mentioned here is the oft-forgotten breathing rhythm while working out. Remember to exhale with the effort to keep your muscles nourished. Breathe in as the muscles elongate, then breathe out on the muscle contraction.

Another thing is to slow down while you're doing the reps. Pay attention to your muscles and the effort that you're putting in on the decontraction phase as you lower a weight . You'll find much better improvements if you're not rushing through the reps. You may also find that you'll be doing fewer reps because more effort is being used in each rep. When lowering a weight, what is most important is to resist it.

You may be surprised to learn that during weight-resistance training,  the resistance is more important than the weight, or the lifting of it. A muscle contraction has two phases: effort/contraction and resistance/decontraction. The resistance of weight-resistance training takes place during the return, not during the lift. Muscles tighten and contract during the concentric phase. Resistance during the decontraction phase is the most important and mostly ignored part of the movement.

Add these to Suzanne's suggestions for your workouts and your body will love you for it.


Increasing Muscle and Strength By Knowing the Difference

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!

SOURCE: Suzanne Digre at

IMAGES: ARTICLEHEADER (cropped) by Chris Wohlwill on Flickr, FEATURED by Jeanette Goodrich on Flickr

Author: Peter Tiedemann

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