I believe that reason many people eventually plateau in their training is because they fail to provide their bodies with a continuous challenge. They stick with the same weights, the same exercises, and the same rep ranges for months on end and then eventually give up because they aren’t getting results.
One thing I have found is that most women tend get stuck in the 15 rep zone, even women who have been training for quite some time. I’ve always wondered, why 15 reps? Is that the magic number of reps that will get you “toned” and not bulky? Well, no, but many women seem to think so!
I think another reason is that because they feel their muscles “burning”, they think that they are challenging them enough. But just because you feel a burn, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are challenging the muscles enough to cause them to respond. The “burn” does not cause your muscles to grow stronger or bigger, nor does it mean that you are burning fat.
If you’ve been training for a while and are no longer seeing results, it may be time to get out of the 12-15 rep zone. Muscles respond to progressive overload, which just means that as your muscles get stronger, you need to challenge them with progressively heavier weights.The key to transforming your physique and losing fat is to build muscle, and the way to build muscle is by continually striving to get stronger over time.
So what’s best? High reps or low reps? Well, I think a mix of both is best. I’m definitely not saying that you should never “feel the burn”, but just that you should make sure to include some heavier sets with lower reps into your training as well. When you lift heavy for lower reps(less than 6), you may not even feel a burn. Instead, your muscles will most likely fatigue before you get to that point. Does that mean you didn’t work the muscles hard enough? NOT at all!
In my training, I like to keep the majority of my lifting in the 5-10 rep range(sometimes as low as 3) for a mix of both strength and hypertrophy. BUT I do like mixing in some higher rep sets in at the end of my workouts as well. I usually do my heavy, low rep stuff first in the workout and then throw in some higher rep isolation exercises at the end, just to get a good “pump” to satisfy the bodybuilder in me!
If you are going to use heavier weights, make sure to progress up to those weights and of course, make sure your form is good. Also, it is important to do what you enjoy. If you love doing lots of reps and are getting results, then by all means continue doing so! But if you aren’t seeing results or you’re just getting bored with your training, give heavier lifting a try.
I think that by changing things up, increasing your weights and lowering your reps, you will see some amazing changes to your physique as a result, AND get stronger, which is an awesome feeling that every woman should experience!