Weight Training and Body Building: High Reps vs. Low Reps

High vs Low Reps

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What's the optimal number of repetitions to use when you're starting a strength-training program? Many people swear by the standard formula of 10 reps per set, while others use 15 to 20. A recent study performed at the University of Florida suggests that both protocols are equally effective.

The researchers studied the changes in muscle strength in pairs of identical twins who had never trained before-one twin of each pair trained with a seven-to-b-rep-maximum weight load, and the other used a 15-to-20-rep-max load. At the end of 10 weeks the changes were relatively the same for each pair of twins.

This suggests that the body's early response to weight training isn't dependent on rep number. Even so, the higher-rep option offers some advantages. A 15-to-20- rep maximum is more comfortable for beginners and will cause less muscle soreness during the initial weeks of training because of the reduced weight. Moreover, you can pay more attention to form and avoid injury. For more advanced trainees, however, the information offers little help. Once you've been training for a while, it becomes advantageous to lower the reps and increase the load in order to increase your strength gains, so the seven-to-b-rep-max program will benefit you more.

Changing the Spare Tire

"Spare tire" and "love handles" are common expressions used to describe fat stored around the midsection. Thousands of years ago a large gut probably provided extra calories to help a person survive a long drought or cruel winter, but in today's society, where fat calories are both plentiful and accessible, that gut can be harmful to your health. Men tend toward an android shape, in which fat is stored in the abdominal area, while women take on a gynecoid shape, storing fat in their buttocks and thighs. Although it's the men who are predisposed to spare tires, everyone should be conscious of abdominal weight gain. Research supports the notion that upper- body obesity is strongly associated with adverse health consequences like type II diabetes and coronary artery disease.

Many people begin the battle of the bulging belly armed with little knowledge about central fat storage. The key to unlocking your fat-burning potential is to take a global, not regional, approach when exercising. Performing 2,000 situps every morning is a futile effort if you're looking to lose unwanted, love handles. Situps are great for strengthening your abs but do little to change that spare tire. The best way to rid yourself of such excess baggage is calorie restriction coupled with aerobic exercise. That means limiting fatty foods and performing at least 20 to 30 minutes of endurance exercise three times per week. Substituting frozen yogurt for ice cream is one way of cutting out fat calories, while swimming, jogging and biking are good methods of burning stored calories.

One of the Few

If an active lifestyle can be viewed as preventive medicine, most Americans aren't taking their medication. If you work out regularly, you're probably one of the few who do. Recent research indicates that a great segment of the population is sedentary and only a small segment is active on a daily basis. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is published every 10 years, records current statistics about the United States population that relate to health and fitness. The recently conducted third NHANES characterized people as sedentary if they reported no participation in leisure activities, sports or physically active hobbies. If participants were involved in any of the three categories, however, they were characterized as active. Only 29 percent of the respondents indicated that they were active on a daily basis.

In an era when chronic diseases are the dominant health threats, exercise has proven to be a potent inhibitor of these ailments. Researchers suggest that a large portion of the 600,000 annual deaths that are due to coronary heart disease could be avoided with preventive measures, such as an active lifestyle. Exercise lowers the resting heart rate, blood pressure, serum triglycerides and bodyweight. With this new focus on prevention the old adage may be changed to an apple and 30 minutes on the stair machine-a day keeps the doctor away.

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