More Reps vs. More Weight

There are two types of weight lifters: those who lift for strength and those who lift for big muscles. Generally speaking, it is more important to exercise a high number of reps with lower weight than a low number of reps with heavier weight to promote strength gains. 

But, don’t get me wrong. Heavy weight is essential for strengthening your muscles. Therefore, an effective workout should combine both high and low rep ranges to maximize your results. Give this blog post a read for the pros and cons of high reps vs. high weight. 

Note: 12 plus reps is typically considered a high amount, while anything below ten usually falls in the “low” category.

lady front lunging with dumbbells farmers carry

High Reps 


Form is one of the most important aspects when it comes to personal training. Without proper form, you’re harming your body more than you’re benefiting it. Lifting weights above your limit is a driver of improper form. 

With that being said, your form will be more intact when using less weight as long as you have the proper knowledge on the exercises you’re performing. But, why? 

This is because when you lift too heavy, for example, your larger neighboring muscles, such as your back, hips, and shoulders, naturally make up for the load your focused muscles are unable to cope with. Therefore, you reduce activation of your target muscles, making you unable to reach the full potential of gains. Plus, when you surpass your weight limit, your body tends to bend instead of maintaining a strong posture. In addition, you can increase your range of motion when using lower weight, helping maximize your results. 

Increased TUT (Time under tension) and metabolic stress 

When using lighter weight, TUT and metabolic stress are two stimuli types essential for muscle growth. 

Time under tension describes the duration your muscles remain contracted for. You achieve a higher TUT when you slow down the tempo of an exercise. For example, a TUT tricep pushdown would involve counting to three seconds when pushing the rope downward. Then, another three seconds on the upward motion with the rope. This extended contraction period places a more significant metabolic energy on your muscles. 

For maximum TUT results, the amount of reps is more important than the weight. This will allow you to focus on contracting your muscles to bring on the best metabolic stress. But, keep in mind: the combination of reps and weight should always be challenging.

Injury Prevention

Personal trainers don’t advise us to stay within our weight limits for no good reason. Lifting too heavily significantly increases the risk of injury because it deteriorates our form. It also adds a dangerous amount of stress onto our muscles, making it more than they can handle. 

Not only can lifting beyond our boundaries can cause our bodies to collapse, exceeding our weight limit increases the chances of pulling a muscle, and damaging our joints. This also puts our back and spine at risk of injury as the back plays a key role in keeping our body afloat.

Give this article a read for a deeper look into the injuries which can result from heavy weight training. 

High Weight

Mechanical Tension 

In order for your muscles to strengthen and increase in size, they need to be challenged. Why? This is because the heavier the load, the more mechanical tension you put on your muscles. 

Lifting high in weight presents your muscles with a mechanical tension that is crucial for strength and hypertrophy, also known as muscle growth. 

If you’re wondering how mechanical tension drives muscle growth, don’t worry, we got the answers.

Muscle contraction requires both neuronal activation and the shortening of muscle fibers. So, higher neuronal activation and increased muscle fiber recruitment results in muscle growth! Experts have found that lifting heavy is the best way to achieve this. 

Motor Units

First, let me explain what a motor unit is. A motor unit describes a combination of the neuron and the muscle fibers it activates. 

Like how experts find lifting heavy the best way to achieve muscle growth, experts also believe lifting high weights is the most productive way to activate the most motor units. When you aren’t lifting a sufficient weight amount, you don’t bring in the most desirable amount of motor units. Therefore, it’s imperative you lift a weight that challenges your muscles. Or you will be missing out on a large chunk of personal training benefits. 

Final Answer

After glazing through the pros and cons of high reps and high weight, it’s fair to say more reps should be a bigger priority than weight for strengthening your muscles. But, it’s also fair to say both should be incorporated into your workouts as they are beneficial techniques for those nice and fit muscles you’re striving for. 

A good game plan for mixing both into your workout routine is going light in weight with a high number of reps one week. Then, following up the next week with heavy weight, low rep exercises. It’s always important to make sure you’re focusing on an array of muscle groups each week, especially the lower body. This is an organized strategy where you’re avoiding flip-flopping during the same workout with high and low rep exercises on one focused muscle group.

Here at Hokali, our personal trainers in San Francisco specialize in creating a workout routine that works for you!

Looking to get started? Book your first session today!

Check this blog post out for lower body explosive exercises!

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