Will low reps get you strong?

A lot of people who we see on a day to day basis often have the same burning question when it comes to lifting: “Will high weight and low reps make you stronger?” The answer to this question is more complicated than you might think. Here, we’re going to have a look at this in a bit of depth, but take note that this article mainly applies to compound exercises, such as your bench press or squat.

High Weight

Firstly, we have to define what is actually meant by high weight. For most of you reading this, you may think that a 150kg squat is really heavy, in fact its likely too much for you to lift. If we then asked some competitive power lifters what they thought of lifting that weight, then the chances are they’ll laugh and tell us 150kg is “nothing but a peanut”.

What we’re trying to get across here is that the phrase high weight is simply relative to what you can lift: if you have a bench press PR of 100kg, then chances are that a heavy weight for you is 75kg or more. On the other hand, if you can bench 200kg (don’t worry, we’re talking hypothetically) then a heavy weight for you is likely to be 150kg or more.

To sum this up:

  • A heavy weight is relative to your own strength
  • It is typically at least 75% of your PR (or one rep max)

So does this mean you should train at 75% or 100% of your PR? Well you ideally want to be training within that range, sometimes nearer 75% and sometimes very close to your PR. Like with most things, variety is the spice of life, and the key to getting stronger.

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Low reps

So you’ve heard from your local gym rat that low reps is the way to go for getting strong: only bodybuilders lift for high reps and they’re all weak. Now we won’t lie to you, there is some truth in this, but again we need to explore it a little bit more. Most people in the gym, which probably includes you, like to train for at least 10 reps. They love to train for that pump and feel the burn: sadly, it’s not really going to get them or you much stronger.

Most scholars out there agree that the rep ranges you choose will benefit you in different ways

  • 1-5 Reps: Strength
  • 6-8 Reps: Strength and Hypertrophy
  • 9-12 Reps: Hypertrophy
  • Higher Reps: Endurance

As you can see, the two areas which are best for promoting strength are the 1-5 and 6-8 rep ranges. Now we imagine that most of you reading this probably weren’t aware that 8 reps could be good for building strength as it doesn’t really seem low, so hopefully this clears things up for you.

Now, like we said with the weight you should be using, you should be mixing up your rep ranges as well. Putting two and two together, we can see that there’s a pretty obvious link that arises: you aren’t going to be lifting 95% of your one rep max for 8 reps. There’s also not much point in trying to lift 80% of your one rep max for 2 reps as it will be far too easy. Which leads us on to our final point

How many reps for a given weight

  • 1 rep = 100%
  • 2 reps = 92-95%
  • 3 reps = 90-93%
  • 4 reps = 87-90%
  • 5 reps = 85-87%
  • 6 reps = 82-85%
  • 7 reps = 80-83%
  • 8 reps = 75-80%

Note: This is estimated and can vary depending on your levels of endurance. It is however a very good indicator for how much weight you should be lifting depending on your recommended number of reps.


We hope that we’ve now cleared up for what exactly is meant by high weight low reps and you can make some educated decisions on how much weight you should be lifting. Like we said, you should eventually use a variety of rep ranges to achieve your goals and become a stronger person. If you are after a programme to help start you out, check out the EHF Beginner Programme, which is full of information and guidance.

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Protein: Our Vegetarian Guide

Now the figures vary widely depending on what statistics you’re looking at, but the fact is a fair number of you are vegetarian. In the previous two posts of the series, we told you to eat more protein and why its so important you have enough. What we are going to do now is tell you about some great vegetarian-friendly protein sources for when you don’t eat meat or just don’t like the taste (people are crazy, we know). We shall be focusing on the most popular vegetarian diet, which according to the Vegetarian Society is the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet.

Eggs

If you think back to your childhood, you might remember a movie or two where Silvester Stallone downs a blender full of raw eggs. It’s pretty bad ass (don’t go eating them raw) but there’s a good reason he’s having them. Eggs are absolutely packed full of high quality protein- a single large egg contains about 6g. Just be careful about the 5g of fat in the yolk. It’s fine to eat one or two but when you’re making a 7 egg omelette like us that fat seriously adds up! Sometimes it’s even a good idea to just use the egg white and throw away the yolk.

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Quinoa

Back when we were young we never even heard of a quinoa, let alone know what it was. Well it’s technically a cereal, although you cook it like pasta, and comes with a whole host of health benefits. To start, it has an incredible 14g of protein per 100g and contains all 9 essential amino acids. Its also gluten free, easy to digest, and high in fibre. So it’s pretty easy to see why people refer to quinoa as a superfood. So throw it in your salad and be safe knowing its not only tasty, its good for you too.

Chickpeas

With only 164kcal and 9g of protein in a 100g they are great for those of you trying to cut your calories and lose some fat. They are incredible versatile: for starters you can buy them tinned, dried or even get yourself a bag of chickpea flour. Not only that, they can be added to salads, fill out a curry or be made into hummus. On that point, if you’ve never eaten hummus, try it: it is amazing.

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Tofu

This particular item of food is probably top of the list for vegetarian-friendly protein. It can replace meat in a dish, is very low in calories (70kcal per 100g) and provides you with a whopping 8g of protein. To put that in other words, 45% of the calories are purely from protein. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) accepted that 25g of soy protein, as found in tofu, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. The only issue with tofu is the decision you have to make: there’s a huge amount of variety out there!

There’s a load more choices out there, though we hope this has shown you that even as a vegetarian you can still have a diet packed with high quality protein. Even if you are a meat eater, these are still some great foods to get into your diet and try out. If you are still struggling to get enough protein into your diet and want to know what protein shakes would make for a good supplement, check out our reviews here.

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Photos from Flickr: Robert Judge, sweetonveg and Brenda Gottsabend