High reps/low weight or low reps/high weight?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 19, 2012 at 10:12 AM

I'm currently running 6-7x/week and lifting 3x/week. I'm fifteen, female and eat around 3000 calories a day (Paleo + white rice). Each session at the gym lasts about an hour and looks something like this:

  • Plank 2 minutes
  • Bench Dips 3x12
  • 35kg Squat 5x5
  • 45kg Deadlift 1x5
  • 45kg Sumo Deadlift 1x5
  • 10kg Lunges 5x5
  • 10kg Clean and Press/Overhead Press 5x6
  • 20kg Side Bend 3x15 / 5kg Oblique Twists 3x15 / 5kg Wood Chops 5x5
  • 10kg Bench Press 5x7 / 4.5kg One Arm DB Row 5x5 / 5kg Overhead Extension 3x15

Or a variation thereof. But I will always have planks, bench dips, squats, deadlifts and lunges. Build the running muscles, y'know. I've been doing the 5x5 thing for quite a while now but this week I've stagnated increasing the weights because I have a race soon.

Anyway, I was wondering to get stronger and faster, would it be more effective to do heavier weights and lower reps (e.g. 45kg Squats 3x5) or to use lower weights and higher reps (e.g. 15kg Squats 3x20), specifically for a growing teenager who is interested in not only being stronger but being FASTER too?




on October 19, 2012
at 02:44 PM

I second periodization. Even just mixing up the rep ranges. Also, I would add, one week stall is not a stall.

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6 Answers



on October 19, 2012
at 10:38 AM

The answer here is less cut and dry than one might think - it really depends not only on your goals but how your body responds to certain types of training.

First, any routine that is, for lack of a better word, routine will diminish results over time, you have to introduce variation in order to continue to progress. The most effective training programs have mesocycles, or some for of periodization, that keeps adaptation and a season in mind. All that routine is doing is making you really good at your routine. I agree with Flip - you need to throw in some more diversity.

Second, traditionally speaking higher weight and lower reps is used for strength and performance, e.g. stronger and faster. While lower weight and higher reps is used for size and endurance, e.g. big and slow. Obviously there is room for both and a good program will always incorporate some of each, biasing the one that fits most closely with your goals. Of course weight and reps will fluctuate based on where you are in your training as well.



on October 19, 2012
at 02:44 PM

I second periodization. Even just mixing up the rep ranges. Also, I would add, one week stall is not a stall.


on November 03, 2012
at 06:15 AM

Check my video out, it'll help you out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbGdl3h73vM&feature=plcp



on October 19, 2012
at 12:26 PM

I shall now make the obligatory "Have you tried CrossFit?" answer.

Have you tried CrossFit? It uses high intensity interval training to do exactly what you're trying to do--to build power output, which boosts your strength, speed, and endurance.



on October 19, 2012
at 12:24 PM

Some of what you are talking about is skills work and some is strength training. For the strength training the most important thing is INTENSITY. I.e. Did you stress that the muscles enough so that they now have to adapt by becoming stronger. I'm a proponent of HIT (high intensity training)....and especially in the context of someone who is also doing skill work.

My advice would be to 1-2 HIT resistance workouts/week. 3-5 compound movements of only 1-2 sets to failure. Rep range is less important, but seeing where you are I'd go with 5-8 reps of CONTROLLED (slow it down a bit) movement.

Then focus some of your running time on technique. Vary your runs with different sprint protocols. Lifting weights...whether its high or low reps...is not going to greatly effect your speed on its own. It may improve your muscle balance and strength that can translate into speed, but you need to train specifically for speed IMO.



on October 19, 2012
at 10:33 AM

Honestly, first work on improving your 1RM, then you can worry about the volume and the repetition connundrum.

Aim for 2x bodyweight squat and deadlift. Maybe work on 1,5xBW bench press or variation. Thrown in the mix some power movements to surpass sticking points, such as some hang cleans, romanian deadlift for the lock od the deadlift(forearm work aswell as some glute and ham activation) and hyper extension for spinal decompression.

For in-between strenght session i would cycle some pool swiming for psotural and muscle recovery, and some Tabata Complex once or twice a week. Do not over do. The streght sessions should be performed well and you should be able to recover for thos and not for sprint work.

Look for Stronglifts 5x5 by Mehdi. Huge program to start from. You'll make great gains.


on October 19, 2012
at 10:22 AM

Well, if you want to be stronger and faster, there's only one way to go and that is higher weight, lower reps.

I would also suggest that you look into High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and replace at least one if not two of your running sessions with it.

You could easily need to add in a recovery day or two. Otherwise with the higher intensity from both weights and HIIT you risk overtraining and consequently injury, if you don't allow yourself to recover.

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