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Reps vs. Weight: Learn how to focus your workout

Should you increase reps or weight? It depends on what you want to achieve.

Two of the most important workout variables are the number of repetitions, or "reps," per set and the amount of weight or tension used. Depending on your goals, you may want to do more reps with less weight, or the opposite. Precor equipment is designed to help you take either path or a combination of both.

Generally, exercises with higher reps are used to improve muscular endurance, while higher weights with fewer reps are used to increase muscle size and strength. We’ve included a few guidelines here as a place to start. You may want to work with a personal trainer or other professional to create a program that will help you meet your goals.

To lose weight: 1 to 3 sets of a weight that has you fatigued at 10 to 12 reps.

To gain muscle: 3 or more sets of a weight that you can do 6 to 8 reps before you are fatigued. Beginners should work up to this level.

To build endurance and health: 1 to 3 sets at a weight that has you fatigued at 12 to 16 reps.

Another frequent question is how long you should rest between sets. The more intense the workout, the longer you should rest. When using heavy weights you should rest 2 to 5 minutes between sets. If you’re using lighter weights, rest from 30 seconds to a minute. Your muscles need time to repair and grow so give them a break of at least 48 hours between sessions.

Special note to women:
Many of you miss out on the bone-building benefits of strength workouts due to the fear that you will “bulk up.” Relax. Most women’s hormone composition will keep them from dramatically increasing muscle size.