It is one of the most eternal debates we can find in any discussion or among people who train in a gym: is weight or repetitions more important ? When should I lift more weight? And do more repetitions? However, the first thing we really need to answer is: what is your goal ?

The work of force, the basis of everything

If there is something in which there is no discussion, it is in which the strength is the basic physical capacity from which, provided that we train it correctly, we will be able to improve the rest of our physical capacities: if we are stronger , we will be faster ; if we are stronger, we will be more resistant; If we are stronger, we will be more agile. That is why so much emphasis is often placed on the need to train strength from an early age .

In the study Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men , Brad Schoenfeld (one of the leaders in the world of muscular hypertrophy) and collaborators, confirmed as one of their main conclusions that training with high loads is better for maximize strength adaptations than workouts with low loads .

Repetition ranges, in the spotlight

When speaking of the range of repetitions, it tends to generalize that if we want to work the force it must be between one and three (being able to reach up to five repetitions), whereas if we talk about hypertrophy this range is between eight and twelve (being able to expand the range to between six and twelve) or if we talk about resistance we refer to series of more than fifteen repetitions. This is neither 100% correct nor completely incorrect.

Yes it is true that what will mark that we define or will not be the diet . And before that there are no more laps to give: we can already do series of one hundred repetitions, that if we are not in caloric deficit, we will not define in life. In the study The Effects of 4 and 10 Repetition Maximum Weight-Training Protocols on Neuromuscular Adaptations in Untrained Men it was possible to verify that the training protocol followed during ten weeks in two control groups that worked at 4RM and at 10RM , the neuromuscular adaptations were practically the same.

Then, knowing this, what to do: increase the weight or increase the repetitions? Go ahead that each person is a world and there are a million ways to work to achieve the objectives of each, so the tips that we will give below are generally without becoming universal truths. It would be necessary to study each case separately to be able to completely refine the type of work to be carried out.

My goal is to increase strength: what should I do?

At first, taking into account everything that has been written to date, we could say that to increase strength we should work at low repetitions (between one and five) with high loads . But what would happen if we always work in this way? That we could over-strain our nervous system and generate dangerous levels of fatigue and overtraining . Therefore, we must look for an alternative way that maximizes our training.

Strength can be gained either by working at low repetitions with high loads or by reducing those weights and moderately increasing the repetitions : if we are able to perform, for example, three repetitions in a bench press with 80 kilos, and we move on to Perform ten repetitions of bench press with those 80 kilos, our strength will have improved considerably. This is where a word of great importancearises when we talk about programming a training: periodization .

In their study entitled Differential Effects of Heavy Versus Moderate Loads on Measures of Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men , Brad Schoenfeld and collaborators concluded that training with heavy loads is the best option if what we want is to increase our strength , unlike the trainings with more moderate loads that proved to be more effective when the objective that is sought is the improvement of hypertrophy.

If I want to define, should I work at high repetitions?

Yes and no. We have already mentioned that what is really important at the time of defining will be to be in caloric deficit , so if we can not generate this deficit it will be impossible for us to define ourselves. So, we are going to assume that we are in that deficit that we need and that now we can only fine tune the training part.

Would it be possible to define with a strength routine such as 5×5 ? Of course it would be possible, and in this way we would be increasing our strength by minimizing muscle loss that may be associated with a caloric deficit . And here, a good strategy could be to work at low repetitions with loads in the basic exercises such as squats, deadlifts or bench presses, then in isolation exercises or secondary exercises to perform the work at higher repetitions ( ten, twelve or even more than fifteen).

If we are able to achieve an adequate caloric deficit, and properly plan our training with an optimal periodization and we know how to combine high and low loads, we will be working with more weight and with more repetitions , so the definition will be achieved using both techniques.