To tone up and lose fat you need to ensure that your diet is on point, but you will also need to include training. I recommend a mixture between weight training and HIIT in my programs, as these forms of training are great to boost your metabolism and promote fat loss. However, there is a common belief that to tone up you will need to do more reps with lighter weights. Many women use this approach also because they are afraid to get ‘bulky’. If you are one of these women, I will tell you why you should use lower rep ranges in your workouts too.
The strength continuum
The strength continuum defines the relationship between weight, reps and training outcome. Your strength is normally defined as your 1 repetition maximum (RM), which is how much you can lift for one rep. Endurance, however, is on the opposite end of the continuum and is defined as you ability to lift a lighter weight repeatedly over time. The different rep ranges recruits different muscle fibres, specialised for endurance OR power.
|Reps per set||% of 1 RM||Training effect|
This is a very simplified explanation, and how your body responds is not as straightforward as this table. You can actually get stronger even at higher reps.
Why you won’t get bulky
Many women believe that using heavier weights and performing fewer reps will make them bulky. The fact is that you can’t build muscle when you are in a calorie deficit. If you are getting stronger, it is more than likely due to other adaptations in you muscle rather than muscle growth. The main benefit with weight training during a fat loss program is to maintain muscle mass and boost your metabolism.
The perfect rep range for fat loss
As I mentioned above, many women believe that lighter weight for 15 or more reps will help them to tone up, however, this is not entirely true. To tone up you will need to lose body fat, and if you use lighter weights all the time, it is unlikely this will challenge you enough to burn a lot of calories. It is great for muscular endurance, but might not be the best approach if you want a toned body. I would suggest mixing lower reps (~6-8) with higher reps (~10-15) in your workouts. This will allow you to stimulate the different types of muscle fibre, keep your body guessing and make your workout more fun and challenging.
Train to lose
To ensure you get the intensity required to lose body fat, I would recommend for you to follow these easy tips.
1. Focus on multi-joint (compound) exercises
These exercises are great as they activate a larger amount of muscles and are more challenging than isolation exercises. Start your workout with a one or two compound exercises and finish off with some isolation exercises. Try squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and deadlifts. These are just a few examples.
2. Mix up your rep range
Don’t be afraid of mixing up the rep ranges in your workouts. This will allow you to reap the most benefits, and will take less time than doing heaps of reps for every exercise. Including lower reps where you lift more than 70% of your 1RM might also make you burn more calories after your have finished your workout.
3. Train every muscle group every 2 times per week
Only training your muscles once per week is not enough for maximum benefit. I would recommend for you to train every muscle group 2 times per week, as this will provide you with the best results and will also allow your muscles to recover in between each workout.
If you are beginner you might even want to train each muscle group 3 times per week initially to promote motor learning.
4. Increase the intensity
As I mentioned before, the intensity of your workouts are important for you to see results. If the intensity is not there you are likely not burning enough calories for it to have a major impact on your body. Try to minimise rest and ensure you keep your heart rate elevated.
There is no magic number in regards to how many reps you should be doing to maximise fat loss. The most important things are that you push yourself, that you are consistent, and that you train regularly. And don’t forget that your nutrition is important too.
What rep range do you do? Please let me know in the comments below.