One of the most commonly asked questions I receive in regards to working out is ..."Should I lift more weight and perform less reps OR lighter weights for more reps?" The answer is simple, worry about the volume that you are lifting.
For the vast majority of people, going to the gym is a result of wanting to improve the appearance of their physique, more specifically, adding muscle to their frame. If I am someone struggling to add size to a lagging muscle group, I should be increasing the amount of volume working those muscles during the week as well as consuming an adequate number of calories to supplement the body with the proper nutrients to grow. In other words, I want to consistently be moving more weight every time I go to the gym. Many people overlook the importance of knowing how much weight they are actually moving in the gym throughout the course of a workout.
Let's be clear, this does not necessarily mean that I am adding more and more weight onto the bar every time I enter the gym. Volume is determined by the weight that is being lifted, multiplied by both the number of sets and the number of reps. One may think that loading the bar up with as much weight as possible as squeezing out a few sets and reps is the best way to move the most overall weight in the gym but that is simply untrue.
Today I am looking to lift legs, primarily focusing on squats. To my luck, I see that one of the squat racks is open as I enter the gym. Following my warm up, I begin to work on four sets of fifteen using 225lbs. (4x15x225)
To the squat rack next to me, there is another lifter squatting as well, only much heavier. I take the time to ask him what his routine was for the day and he said he was doing five sets of five using 405lbs. (5x5x405)
To many people in the gym, it would seem like the other lifter is moving more weight, but let's break it down to be sure.
In order to find the total volume I have lifted, I will need to multiply the total number of sets and reps by the amount of weight being lifted.
1. By using a routine of four sets of fifteen, I am doing 60 total reps.
4 x 15 = 60 reps
2. Now I multiply 60 by the amount of weight being lifted (225lbs.)
60 x 225 = 13,500lbs.
The total amount of weight I will squat using my routine is 13,500lbs.
In order to find the total volume the lifted beside me has lifted, I will need to multiply the total number of sets and reps by the amount of weight being lifted as well.
1. By using a routine of five sets of five, I am doing 25 total reps.
5 x 5 = 25 reps
2. Now I multiply 25 by the amount of weight being lifted (405lbs.)
25 x 405 = 10,125lbs.
The total amount of weight the lifter beside me will squat using his routine is 10,125lbs.
13,500lbs. > 10,125lbs.