It’s a common belief that, when you’re trying to lean out – or “get cut”, in gym lingo – you should switch your training to high repetitions with lighter weights. Is that really the way forward, or is it just bro science’? Well, there’s no gentle way to break this to you: high reps won’t make you cut.
The object of weight training is to stimulate muscle growth, not weight loss. Nutrition is the key to reducing body fat. You lift weights to build muscles – period! But that’s not to say that training with high repetitions doesn’t help at all.
Muscles consist of slow-twitch fibres that are activated during long sets with lighter weights, and fast-twitch fibres stimulated during heavy lifts over a low number of repetitions. Both fibre types can grow as a result of appropriate training.
Increasing the size of muscle fibres results in larger, stronger muscles, which in turn leads to a higher daily calorie expenditure. This is because muscle – unlike fat, incidentally – needs calories for maintenance.
Lifting heavy weights for a few reps increases the size of fast-twitch muscle fibres, which leads to muscle growth and higher calorie expenditure. Lifting lighter weights for a high number of repetitions does the same thing for slow twitch fibres. Technically, therefore, training with a high number of repetitions does help you to burn fat. But so too does heavy lifting – in which case, why deprive half of your muscles of a growth stimulus by limiting your training exclusively to a high-rep protocol?
An alternative is to try 3D training, which I have designed to be followed all year round. This method allows you to increase strength and build muscle while getting leaner.
How is it done? Well, let’s say that you split your training into four workouts: chest, back, shoulders and legs. The first thing to do it create three different routines for each workout. The first will be a heavy workout, focusing on a few compound exercises – essentially, a typical strength-training protocol. The second will involve a higher number of repetitions and increased volume – possibly super sets using a mixture of compound and isolated exercises. Last but not least, you should perform a workout consisting of super-slow reps; machines can come in handy here.
Let me talk you through the super-slow rep workout, as it’s my own creation. Set up a boxing timer for four 60-second rounds with a 60-second break between each. Then perform 10 perfectly strict reps of a given exercise at 3:0:3:0 pace, without losing muscle tension. This way, you can break down the muscle fibres very efficiently without stressing your joints. And because the weights used will be very light, you will be ready to train heavy again the following day!
Keep rotating the workouts so that you perform each routine for every muscle once in every two- to three-week cycle. Then you just need to control your calorie intake for that ultimate superhero look!
Sample chest workout:
Flat bench press: 4 x 5 reps (2:0:1:0 tempo)
Bench press at 30 degree incline: 4 x 6 reps (2:0:1:0)
Weighted dips: 3 x 8 reps (2:0:1:0)
Dumbbell press at 30 degree incline: 4 x 12 reps (3:0:1:0 tempo)
Dumbbell fly at 15 degree incline: 3 x 15 reps (3:0:1:0)
Flat dumbbell press: 4 x 12 reps (3:0:1:0)
Cable crossover: 3 x 15 reps (3:0:1:0)
Dips: 3 x 15 reps 2:0:1:0 tempo
Super slow reps:
Bench press at 30 degree incline: 4 x 10 reps (3:0:3:0 tempo)
Decline machine press: 3 x 10 reps (3:0:3:0)
Dumbbell fly: 3 x 10 reps (3:0:3:0)
Press-up: 3 x 10 reps (3:0:3:0