At some stage in your bodybuilding and fitness efforts, you are going to be asking the question ‘Is Light Weight And High Reps Best For Cutting?’.
You may have started off with a bulking phase, using the GOMAD concept and attempted to eat everything in your way.
Or maybe your goal when hitting the gym is burning body fat and getting rid of the muffin top around your belly.
They say if you want to bulk you should do low reps with high weights. Something like the Stronglifts 5×5 has been popular over the years.
And if you’re going to cut you should do the reverse: Light Weight And High Reps for cutting.
An individual approach to cutting is best
While this approach sounds reasonable, it won’t work for everybody.
It depends on your body and your goals.
You should know a bit more about how your muscle and fatty tissue behaves to understand what works best for you and apply it to your case and personal aspirations.
So, if you want to follow the crowd, go ahead.
But if you want to learn about yourself and train accordingly, read this post and figure out whether a lightweight, high reps workout is best for you.
The balance between muscle and fat
When working out, you need to know there’s always a balance between building muscle and burning up fat.
That’s a thumb rule and the reason why ripped guys break down their training into bulking phases and cutting phases.
When you’re bulking, your primary goal will be increasing your muscle mass.
Achieving that goal requires more carbohydrates in your diet and enough proteins.
While doing that, you will gain some fat.
There’s virtually no way to avoid it.
On the contrary, cutting phases are hard, and you need to adapt your diet accordingly.
You should reduce your carbohydrate intake and keep your proteins still high.
In the process, it is difficult not to lose muscle mass.
While doing one or the other, a smart player would try to keep the balance by not gaining a lot of fat and not losing a lot of muscle mass in the process.
This is the problem with light weight and high reps: It contributes to losing way more muscle mass than expected.
A helpful approach for some people
If you have earned your muscle mass with sweat and tears, you would think about it twice before doing something that will reverse all of your hard work.
So, if you’re planning on cutting after a bulking phase, chances are you don’t want to reduce your muscle mass in the process, and the best modification you can add to your routine is through your diet.
If you keep it up with low reps and high weight while reducing your carbohydrates, you will still lose some muscle mass, but not nearly as much as you will after a low weight high rep routine.
So, if you’re a hard gainer and if you don’t want your muscle mass affected in the process, try modifying your diet before switching the style of your routine.
However, that doesn’t mean doing high reps is useless or forbidden when it comes to cutting.
It’s advantageous in some people, especially bulky guys on steroids and whoever prioritises burning fat to anything else.
First off, guys on steroids need those cutting phases with 15, 20, and even 30 repetitions and low weight.
They are probably not going to lose as much muscle mass as you will because they have an extra protective barrier on their muscles.
Steroids prevent muscle loss and catabolism, so they don’t care about the effects of high repetitions in their muscle mass.
On the other hand, chubby guys and girls who are not focusing on their muscle mass, for now, may find high repetitions very helpful.
They don’t care about strength or muscle mass.
For now, they want to cut fat and will focus on building muscle on a later stage, when they can show off their results.
So, if you want to attack body fat around your muscles and in very specific body parts while maintaining your strength and muscle mass, stick on the low repetition and high weight method.
If you prioritise burning fat above anything else and if you’re looking for a cutting phase while on steroids, a low weight high repetition method might be useful for you.
As we mentioned earlier, it all depends on your body and goals.
Another helpful alternative
If you want to prioritise burning fat above anything else, there are still other methods to consider, and one of them is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
As impressive as it sounds, HIIT has been found to improve body composition in both athletes and obese individuals.
If you combine HIIT with the usual low repetition strength training, you will maintain (and probably even grow) your muscle mass.
A healthy muscle mass will speed up your metabolism and favour your weight loss on the long-term.
Thus, even if you’re only planning on reducing your size, do not neglect your muscle mass and try HIIT in your next workout.
This technique alternates short bouts of high-intensity activity with more extended periods of moderate exercise.
For example, you can start by running full-speed in the treadmill for 30 seconds and alternate with 1-minute jogging at a moderate pace.
Do so to complete 30 minutes and you’re done.
Lightweight and high repetitions are something you would not do if you care about your muscle mass.
It is a practical choice for those who are already using steroid cycles, but if you don’t have this extra protective shield, it could compromise the hard work you did in your bulking phase.
If you’re trying to lose weight, building muscle is also essential to speed up your metabolism.
There are other options to maintain your muscle mass and reduce body fat, such as High-Intensity Interval Training and adjusting your diet accordingly.
- Schoenfeld, B. (2000). Repetitions and muscle hypertrophy. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 22(6), 67.
- Geliebter, A., Maher, M. M., Gerace, L., Gutin, B., Heymsfield, S. B., & Hashim, S. A. (1997). Effects of strength or aerobic training on body composition, resting metabolic rate, and peak oxygen consumption in obese dieting subjects. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 66(3), 557-563.
- Homaee, H., Moradi, L., Azarbayjani, M., & Peeri, M. (2014). Effect of high-intensity exercise training (HIIT) and endurance training on weight loss and C-reactive protein in obese men. International Journal of Biosciences, 4, 190-196.
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