The more efficient way to build muscle: Reps or weight?


Here’s a site that allows you to calculate what need each day to maintain your current weight just by plugging in you age, weight, and activity level. At my age and weight I’d need 1700 KCal/d to maintain my weight if I was sedentary. Raise me to very active and I go to 2300.

You breathe. You think. You live. You burn energy.

A very loose rule of thumb is for the average lightly built male, multiply your weight in pounds by 12, (I personally use 10 to underestimate a little) and you will get a rough estimate of how many calories you need to maintain weight as a sedentary person (little to no exercise.)

Generally, they say you should not lose weight at a rate faster than 2 pounds a week if you want to successfully keep it off. When I started working out and dieting, I started out doing very similar exercises to you, mostly strength training 3x week and light cardio 3x week. At 200 lbs, 5’11" , with a 1700-1900 calorie diet, I was losing at a rate of about 2 pounds per week for 10 weeks before it slowed down a little. Of course, your mileage will vary, but I just wanted to give you some numbers to compare with. 1000 calories a day to me seems dangerously low. You need the calories.

I’m about where you were. I’m 209 and 6’.

I think what started me on this was seeing what a healthy weight for a male 6’ tall was. I found several calculators on the internet, and all indicated that I should be between 135 and 185. I was 215. That means I had 30-80 lbs to lose. Being me, I overreacted and decided that I’d drastically lower my caloric intake.

DSeid mentioned that this 1000 calorie diet could be my problem, since I could be breaking down muscle instead of fat. But if I have at least 25 lbs to go, why would I not burn the fat first?

I am not a personal trainer. I have my own issues. However, I was told by a trainer and it seems to make sense, that you have to watch out for “muscle memory”. If you work at the same reps or the same weight your muscles will develop a memory and your progress will stall. Even working different muscles at the same number of reps might develop a muscle memory.

To me this makes sense. I’ve played some golf and golf is all about muscle memory. You train your muscles to replicate what you are trying to make them to do. Over and over and over. There is no confusion. That’s great for golf but not necessarily good for maximum physical fitness.

Therefore, vary the weight you work with and/or vary the reps. There is an absolute concept in coaching: you have to get your athletes out of the “comfort zone” in order to force them to improve. They can’t just work on the aspects of their game that they are good at (or that they have practiced at over and over). You have to make them do the things they are not comfortable doing. Then they improve.

Move that to weight training. A high weight at low reps may be good on one day. Lower weight at very high reps may be good on another day. Don’t let the muscles get a memory.

Take that for what’s its worth but it makes sense to me.

That 2#/week rule is there for more than just making it more likely that it will stay off. More than that and you will break down substantial amount of muscle mass for key nutrients and energy. In your case you can look at the protein intake alone - 30g/d for your 95kg body. Let’s not even talk about optimal … you really need more than twice that at a minimum and almost 3x that to just get to RDA (0.8 gm/kg is RDA). So your body breaks down muscle to provide it. But even if you took in enough protein, your body aint so specific - it needs energy it breaks down what it can, not just fat.

If I were you, I wouldn’t cut down to fewer than 1500 calories/day, more like 1800 calories a day. First of all, 1000 calories/day is just not sustainable. Second, all the cliches about weight loss being a “lifestyle change” really are true – at least if you want to maintain weight loss, you want to be teaching yourself smarter and better ways of eating, not starving yourself with snack bars. Third, as stated above, you need those calories. Protein calories to build muscle. Carbohydrate calories to help fuel you through your day. Fat to keep you sated. If you’re trying to build up your muscle, you have to provide your body with the building blocks to do so: protein. A gram per kilogram of body weight is a good general rule.

On preview: I see DSeid has made similar points.

What?! How on earth can 135lb (62kg) be a healthy weight for a 6’ guy? Which calculators did you use? The first BMI calculator I googled had 154lb (70kg) as the lowest healthy weight.

Look here.Or here. 18.5 is listed as the lower end of normal BMI, which would be about 136.5 for a 6-foot individual. It doesn’t sound like a totally unreasonable lower end of healthy weight to me for that height. Depends on their build, though. Still, it’s not the number I’d be aiming for if I were looking for a weight loss target.

Well, even at the high end of, say, 180, that still means I need to lose at 25 pounds, which is still depressing.

I find it difficult to eat anything looking at numbers like that.

Heh. Sometimes I wish I could just starve myself and get results. The reason I’ve gone to the bars is that anytime I read something about a healthy diet, it seems like so much work that I get almost overwhelming anxiety. A lot of sites talk about shopping for fresh foods, preparing the food yourself, and taking it with you. That stresses me out to no end. I live in an apartment with a POS kitchen and roaches an inch long. I managed to fuck up making canned soup the other day, and on top of that, I just don’t know what to make. Plus, the whole time I’m cooking, I’m going to feel guilty for not working on something for school. I know the line: "I need to make time to take care of myself so that I can be productive, but the fact is, my advisor doesn’t about my health or whether I live or die.

God, I know I need to make time for this. I really do. I’m just having difficulty making myself *believe *it.

Don’t think of it as a rush job to lose weight; think of it as a lifestyle change that will make you slimmer, more muscular, and healthier in the long run. you need to be looking months down the road.

I was almost exactly your height and weight this time last year. I was 207 at 5’11.5". Now i’m in the low 180s. I’m not sure exactly what i weigh now because we don’t have a scale at home, but the last time i weighed myself a few months ago i was 184, and i’m pretty sure i’ve lost some more weight (or at least, some more fat) since then.

So, in a year, i’ve lost about 25 pounds, and that is despite the fact that i’ve also added a reasonable amount of muscle mass. I’m sure i’ve lost more than that in terms of fat. I can bench press almost twice what i could press a year ago (i was pretty weak at the beginning), i can run 5 miles comfortably in 37 minutes, and while i don’t have the body of an MMA fighter or some other professional jock, my muscles are visibly larger and more defined than they were. I could still stand to lose a bit of fat off my belly and my love handle area (those are the areas where i put it on first, and lose it last), but i’m pretty happy with how i look.

As i said above, i did all this with very few changes in my eating habits. I just cut out some of the obvious crap, like chips, and reduced my chocolate and candy intake. Hell, the diet part will probably be much easier for you than it was for me, because you don’t have to cut anything out; you can add stuff and still be perfectly healthy.

The quickest path to disappointment, i think, is wanting to lose all the weight in double-quick time. Not only is this hard to do, but it’s often not healthy, and it’s more likely that you will just put it back on again.

Bake chicken. Buy boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale, throw a packet of onion soup mix on them, bake for an hour at 350. If you find them on sale (1.39/lb sometimes at walmart) you can buy tons, spend one day cooking (and its mostly just waiting on the oven–something you can do while working) and freeze.

Chicken breasts are insanely healthy–80% protein–and easy to deal with. I just take a big (200 grams) baggie of chicken and a HUGE (350 grams) baggie of carrots to work every day and eat it with my fingers while I work (yes, I’m gross.).

Anyway, you can eat chicken breast plain or chop it up and microwave a can of beans or throw it in a bean-and-rice mix. It’s an easy, healthy protein. If you can, buy a kitchen scale so that you know how much you are eating–you sound like you’d “eyeball” low, out of fear of eating too much.

I lose the exact same 2lbs a week on 1500 or 1200 calories a day, and those extra 300 calories a day really improve my energy level and general quality of life. I think that “starvation mode” is a bullshit explanation for what seems to be a real phenomena–you hit quickly and severely diminishing returns under a certain calorie level. My theory is that this is because your body needs certain basic nutrients to be able to process fat, and when it isn’t getting those “seed” nutrients, it can’t access very much fat, so it slows you down and makes you tired instead.

The lesson is don’t try to do much at once. Set realistic goals. Ease yourself into getting fit.

I’m 7 months into getting serious about working out and eating right. My diet and my routine are consistently evolving and being improved.

For Diet: The big lesson for diet is to aim for foods which are both low in calories and packed with nutrition.

Years ago I cut out the true junk and replaced it with baked chips and 100-calorie packs. The truth is those 100-calorie packs are excellent as an alternative to regular chips, but are still pretty empty nutritionally. Now I try to get a nutritional punch from every snack or meal. A few of the staples of my diet as far as snacking goes are berries (high in nutrition, low in calories, low in sugar for fruit), hard boiled eggs (buy them prepared so it’s easy, high in protein, filling), cottage cheese (low in sugar, high in protein, great with fruit). greek yogurt (high in protein) and protein shakes. All low fat, low cal, and healthy.

For meals, chicken and fish (including seafood) are the way to go. Lean, low in calories and high in protein.

Working out: As has been said over and over again in this thread, consistency is what’s most important. The words I live by in the gym is to try to improve your workout in someway each workout. Whether it’s increasing weight, or increasing a rep, etc. Some improvement in some way means you are progressing.

Each week I do 3-4 exercises for each body part. I keep a log to monitor my progress. I started off with machines. I later learned that many of those machines were not the best way to attain my desired results. I switched to free weights. Just always trying to tweak my workout to obtain the best results.

For cardio, when i first started i was huffing and puffing on the elliptical at the 10-minute mark on the basic level. Today, I finish each workout with a high intensity 30-35 minute elliptical run. How’d I get there? I slowly worked my way up to it.

I do not get the “workout high” that has been referred to in this thread. I enjoy the gym for the results and the time I have with my music.

We each have several different aspects of ourselves to take care: our professional (often cognitive) side; our psychological well-being; our long term health interests; our sense of physical health; and our vanity.

Decent nutrition impacts all of those and can be very time efficient. You’ve gotten several suggestions on how to do it. Hell, grilled chicken is even available precooked and sliced in the grocery store ready to throw into a pan with some precut fresh veggie mix for an amazingly quick, healthy and tasty stir fry. Even Total cereal with milk and a PBJ with a bit of fruit for lunch would be a big improvement on what you are currently eating.

With the right amount and mix of nutrition dense calories you can exercise more efficiently and get more out of less time at the gym, think more clearly, feel better, and lose the paunch more effectively than by trying to starve it off.

Don’t worry about the scale. Develop the right habits and the scale will take care of itself. And your Lexapro will have an easier time of working. And your advisor will be impressed at how much more efficiently you are working on your project. And you’ll start to like what you are seeing in the mirror.

Your advisor doesn’t care and doesn’t have to care about whether you live or die; you do. And given that you are choosing to live, you might as well live well.

Really. As cheerleader as that sounds … really.

That said I’d like to thank several posters in this thread whose posts inspired me to realize that I had gotten into a rut of just doing 10-15 reps. Staying in the middle most of the time was not the best choice. I’ve now started mixing it up more and am having a lot of fun doing the 3-6 rep to fatigue sets and the lighter weight higher volume compound move sets on one leg on the balance disc. Still no exercise “high” (do lots of people really get that? When I finished my one and only marathon my only high was the thought that I could stop running for the day!) but a lot more fun, more of a sense of play than of squeezing in my work-out. Thanks all!

I wrote up a big chunk of prose on diet and deleted most of it. If you can make one major change in your diet, simply eating higher quality food will automatically help with a lot of the calorie intake and other little tweaks in diet that the fitness and nutrition crowd talk about. You don’t even have to get into micronutrient content and glycemic index, etc. It’s actually pretty hard to overeat if you’re eating the right things; you get full.

Higher quality means more fresh, unprepared, non-prepackaged foods. Lots of salads, lean meats and seafood, fruits, nuts, some dairy. Few plain starches like bread and pasta (both prepared foods anyway) cut out as much added sugar as you can, and make sure to get adequate protein. Eating enough protein is especially important if you’re on a calorie-restricted diet and you’re trying to keep muscle.

With your calorie intake and macronutrient balance as described, you will lose muscle. You may lose fat at the same time, but you will be costing yourself some of whatever muscle you’ve got right now. The floor for the average man is 1800 calories. If you’re active, you’ll need more. 1000 is a starvation diet for a small woman who spends the entire day in bed. You would be much better off eating an adequate amount of good food.

As far as exercise goes, there’s a quote I’ve heard kicked around: “The best exercise is whatever you’re not doing.” Everyone has weak points. Finding and fixing these makes you fitter, and can have synergistic effects on other aspects of performance. I personally do CrossFit, which at its core is a little bit of everything. The goal is to turn out a supreme generalist. One day you might be doing heavy squats, the next calisthenics, another running a 5 k.

I’ve been doing CrossFit-style workouts for the last couple of years. It worked very well for me, even with limited time devoted to exercise. I only get to work out about 2–4 days a week, most of the workouts are done in less than an hour. I’m stronger and faster than anyone else I know who is anywhere close to my age, and can outperform people half my age. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an exceptional athlete. I give credit to the exercise methodology, including the large amount of variation. The variety in routines also helps keep me from getting bored, and the admonishment to address your weaknesses and challenge yourself keeps me from skipping stuff I don’t like.

You don’t start with the prescribed levels for Workout Of the Day, you scale it and work toward doing it as prescribed (or as they say it: as Rx’ed). I scale to about 90% of the prescribed weight most of the time, partly because I’m still lacking about 5–6 kg of muscle I’d need for moving the full load. I cut a set, or do a smaller amount of reps if I think I can’t handle the full amount. I take a look at what the desired stimulus is, try to guess at what I can do based on past workouts, and try to push myself to do just a little more each time.

The main page workouts are designed to challenge a fairly elite level of athlete if done balls-out at full intensity. I’m just above average for a CrossFitter. If I could work out 6 days a week consistently I might get into a more advanced bracket.

Hi guys,
I just wanted to add my two cents. As a younger individual would only lift heavier weights not to be embarrassed towards others in the gym that can do heavy weights and low reps.

My theory: low weights higher repetition tend to equally form and strengthen muscles that are weak in nature and larger muscle group will follow that foundation of bodybuilding.

High weighs low reps tend to enlarge your muscle groups with no definition.
This mean that you will have massive arms and strong but no definition. If anyone that builds their muscle this way will also tend to sag when no longer bodybuilding.

Most of you agreed that low weights and high reps will increase strength to your muscle, increase endurance and increase the amount of weight to lift as most will incrementally increase the weight and equally build muscle and definition at the same time.

When standing cold without flexing muscle you will definitely see muscle definition. As to those that builds with higher weights and less repetition will not see muscle definition when standing cold but need to flex their arms to no avail.

All beginners should always start with low weights and high reps.



Well, this is a zombie thread, but it’s also timely in my case, so I’ll add this:
I just had an appointment with a new cardiologist. I mentioned that since I’ve lost so much body fat, that I wanted to put on 20 lbs of muscle over the next 2 years, and that I was lifting weights 5x per week. His response was: great, but don’t use heavy weights - it’s hard on the heart valves. He suggested doing 3 sets of 20 reps. So, today I picked a weight that was around 75% of what I was doing previously, and did 60 leg extensions.

I nearly cried at the last rep.

I also got a hell of a pump, which “sources” on the internet say is good for muscle growth. So, I’m going to give this new routine a try - I’ll post back with my results this summer.

Just curious…I’m 53 and have been lifting for about 30 years. I have never seen a cardiologist but have had a couple of EKGs in my internist’s office, and have never heard that lifting heavy weights is hard on the heart valves. Did your doctor elaborate at all on what that means? Does that imply that lifting will cause a person to need a heart valve replacement, or cause it sooner than otherwise?

My 2 cents:

Periodic changes in workouts - heavy/low reps, med/med, light/many is the way to go, based on my experience. Not only will it build size, but it tends to build endurance over the long haul as well

Also, do your weightlifting before your cardio; if you do it in the opposite order on the same day, your muscles will be fatigued, and you won’t be able to push as much, and your workout won’t be nearly as effective.

Well, I was diagnosed with “mild” (whatever that means) mitral valve prolapse, and other minor valve irregularities. I think the proscription against using heavy weights is to keep the blood pressure down, which reduces strain on the valves. He did say that it could cause permanent damage, but my guess is that they say this out of an over-abundance of caution (Cardiologists seem to be very cautious folks).
The suggestion he gave me (stay under 50 lbs) wasn’t very helpful - 50lbs for what? Bench? Curls? Shoulder press? So, I’m just trying to back off on the weight I use (I typically train high weight / low reps), and we’ll see what happens.