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What’s the difference between doing more reps of an exercise and adding more weight?

Jun 3, 2014

The difference between adding more reps of an exercise and adding more weight is adding weight will build upon the size and strength of the muscle fibers and adding reps will build upon the endurance of the muscle fibers. When adding weight you most likely will drop your rep range which means your muscle will be under tension for a shorter amount of time and the weight will be closer to your maximum weight you can lift therefore building strength and muscle. When completing a higher amount of reps, your muscles will be under tension for a longer period of time therefore building size through metabolic training. –Sara

It is a common misconception that lifting heavy loads for less reps will increase muscle bulk while higher reps at a lower weight will create a more 'toned' look. In reality, 'toned' bodies are muscular bodies. And even for women who don't want to get 'bulky' fewer reps (8-10ish) and higher weight is better for strength gains and weight loss, while lower weight and higher reps (12-20ish) are better for muscular endurance. For most people, progressing workouts means adding weight and not too many more reps. Both types of training are important to a well rounded training program, but how much of each type you use is dependent on which exercises you are doing, your individual goals, if you are using periodized training and what cycle you are in, what activities outside the gym you partake in, and so on.- Kristen

While both approaches are a way to increase the total amount of work you are doing merely increasing your reps will stop leading to strength improvements and body changes at a certain point. By continually increasing the weight you use (assuming you are able to maintain proper form) you will be constantly challenging your muscles leading to gains in strength. Unless you are performing an exercise for strictly cardiovascular benefit you will reach a point of diminishing returns by just increasing reps. If you are able to perform 12-15 repetitions with strict form consider increasing your weight instead of adding more reps. -Keith


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