Fitness
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Lifting - how much weight?, how many reps?, how many sets?


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I have heard so much "expert" advice, regarding weightlifting, and yet so much of it is contradictory. I would like to hear how others do their weightlifting.

1) How much do you lift? I've heard you should lift 85% of your absolute max. Also have heard 70%. Also I've heard that it depends on how many reps you can do which leads to #2...

2) How many reps do you do? I've heard anywhere from 12-15, 8-12, or 6-8.

3) How many sets do you do? In most cases I hear you should do 2 or 3 sets.

4) How do you do sets? I have heard that you should do all sets on one machine, resting 30 seconds between sets. After your sets are all done, then move to the next machine, etc. I've also heard you do one set, move to the next machine and do a set, then the next, etc. When all those machines are done, you start over and do your second set on each machines, etc.

As for myself, there are 9 machines I primarily use. I do one set on a machine, then move to the next, etc. After all 9 I start over. Usually I do 3 sets, though occasionally only 2. I try to keep the weight at a level where on the first two sets I can do 10-13 reps fairly easily, but by the 3rd set I'm only able to do around 6-10 reps.

So is there anyway I can improve my workouts? Any suggestions or comments to help me out?

I appreciate any feedback!

10 Replies (last)

Try moving to free weights. My doctor recommends machines, but I can reduce the time I'm in the gym with free weights. You can get the same workout with machines if you are careful to ensure that you work every muscle group, including stabilizer muscles. This is hard to do, so that's why I stick with free weights. Furthermore, machines provide assistance on varying levels ( sometimes through design, and sometimes through the way it uses muscles ). For instance, hammer strength are great machines, I think. I often use the hammer strength machines for chest after dumbbell press, but I can do a lot more with the hammer strength than I can barbell or dumbbell..but that's because it focuses more on chest, which is much stronger on me than my tri's..

I've been lifting @ 50-70% max the last month because I have been inadvertently eating an extremely low cal diet. My maxes have dropped, so now it's closer to 70% since I've lost muscle. I've started a new diet to increase muscle again, and I will be doing the following: 50% warmup set, 80%, 90%, 95%, 105% max. I try to add 2.5 lbs a week to my exercises, no more than that. I will start that again next week. This usually means 10 reps on the warmup, then 8/6/4/2. I generally keep my sets to 3 ( 4 with warmup ), so I will sometimes skip the 90% max lift. I may not warmup a muscle if I've been lifting with it. For instance, on bench, I generally don't warmup on incline...I just keep my first set at an 8 rep level.

I'm trying to gain muscle again, so I generally wait 1-2 minutes after a set. Generally, at such high percentage of your max, I get winded...so a 30 second wait would be ridiculous. If I don't feel like or can't increase 2.5 lbs, I may do more reps on my last set to increase muscle endurance, but generally that doesn't add significant muscle, it's more for conditioning.

#2  
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I believe the answers to your questions depend on your goals. Do you want to hypertrophy muscle? gain strength? build enurance? run a marathon?

Without knowing the answers to these questions, the only other advice I'd give would be to switch it up! I don't know how long you've been doing the current routine, but it's good to keep your body guessing, especially if you stop seeing progress. You can do this in the longer term (new routine after 6-12 weeks) and short term (for example, rotate a day of high weight/low reps, then a day of medium weight/medium reps, and a day of lower weight/higher reps).

I pyramid my weights -- I do one set of 12 reps at 10 lbs then the 2nd set will be 12 reps at 15 lbs then back to the 10 lbs for 12 -- when my middle weight becomes too easy its time to make that middle weight my starter weight and add again to the middle.  Sometimes I won't be able to do that middle weight for the full 12 reps so I do as many as I can in good form.  Its quality not quantity as my one teacher says.

I had to take time off due to an injury and am not yet back up to those weights I was doing before.  I just listen to my body and lift as much as I can

Original Post by bobs9895:

I have heard so much "expert" advice, regarding weightlifting, and yet so much of it is contradictory. I would like to hear how others do their weightlifting.

1) How much do you lift? I've heard you should lift 85% of your absolute max. Also have heard 70%. Also I've heard that it depends on how many reps you can do which leads to #2...

2) How many reps do you do? I've heard anywhere from 12-15, 8-12, or 6-8.

3) How many sets do you do? In most cases I hear you should do 2 or 3 sets.

4) How do you do sets? I have heard that you should do all sets on one machine, resting 30 seconds between sets. After your sets are all done, then move to the next machine, etc. I've also heard you do one set, move to the next machine and do a set, then the next, etc. When all those machines are done, you start over and do your second set on each machines, etc.

As for myself, there are 9 machines I primarily use. I do one set on a machine, then move to the next, etc. After all 9 I start over. Usually I do 3 sets, though occasionally only 2. I try to keep the weight at a level where on the first two sets I can do 10-13 reps fairly easily, but by the 3rd set I'm only able to do around 6-10 reps.

So is there anyway I can improve my workouts? Any suggestions or comments to help me out?

I appreciate any feedback!

 There is an estimating way to figure out what you should lift. It's a certain percentage from your max weight lift of 1 rep. So say you can do a 60 pound dumbbell at 1 rep, then you should do like 50-60% of that (I believe?) It may be a little more towards 60. Anyways, that should be your lifting weight. 

If your completely new to weights, I suggest just 1-2 Sets with higher reps. Try starting with 1-2 sets of 10-12 reps, and just a simple 3-5 lifting routine for your first 2-3 weeks. Then as you advance, 2-3 sets 8-10 reps, and eventually you'll be able to do 4 sets of 5-6 then bring that up to 8-10 and can go ahead and up your weight!

Good luck! 

I also wanted to add that doing your reps slowly is a good way to work the muscles differently also.  I have a weight lifting teacher who uses the pyrmading weights as I explained earlier and then I have another teacher who uses the do the first set at your highest weight, 2nd set at 50% of that and 3rd at 50 of that but take 7 seconds to do each rep and only rest for no more than 40 seconds between sets.

Also be sure not to "bang" the weights Use as much effort controling the ups and downs and in and outs - I mean don't let momentum and gravity control the weights use your muscles take the time to concentrate on the move from start to finish. 

I get really sad when I see people doing triciep kickbacks for example and basically just swinging their arms letting the "weight" move the arm - its not doing your body any good.

#6  
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Thanks to all who have replied, I appreciate your input.

It sounds like I just kind of need to mix it up a little.  Not get stuck in a routine.  And I'll definitely do a little bit of the free weights as well.  

I'll use all your advice.  Thanks. 

I would highly recommend figuring out what your goals are and then sit down with a personal trainer and estabilish a work out plan that fits those goals.  Just randomly going in to lift weights may yield you limited or undesireable results.  It is the equivalent of just going out on the golf course and just start hitting the ball around whereever you feel like.  May feel good from time to time, but are you really accomplishing anything.

If you don't want to sit down with a personal trainer sign up with an online service where you can plug in your goals and have it set up a work out plan for you.  There's tons of them out there just do a search online.

#8  
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The best program I've seen for strength training is Mark Rippetoe's. If you're serious about starting a weightlifting program, I really recommend his book "Starting Strength". It goes over everything from the number of reps to the correct form for lifting to diet... and it works! Check it out: www.startingstrength.com

#9  
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I would suggest starting with a program from Bill Phillips called "Body for Life".  He provides a good weight traing program, carido program and was one of th 1st supportser of the 6 meals a day program.  i have been weight training for 27 years, have designed fitness equiptment and been a personal trainer.  when someone asks me about a good program i always point them to body for life http://www.bodyforlife.com/
#10  
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I try to do 3 sets of 10 reps, as heavy as I can properly carry out the exercise.

For certain exercises, I do 5 sets of 5 reps because they are extremely draining. 

Oh, and try to make the majority of exercises free weights (dumbell or barbell is fine). 

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