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Lighter Weight, More Reps vs Heavier Weight, Less Reps

When working out, is moving a 10 lb dumbell 30 reps equivalent to moving a 30 lb dumbell 10 times?

I know fast and slow twitch muscles are involved, but is this true for building muscle, or only for toning/pre-contest.


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Both have merit, pick a good routine and follow it. Most good routines will have a mixture of rep ranges.

The key is to a year or so down the line to be doing…

30lb for 30 reps
60lb for 10 reps

The progression and effort are what’s important.


Aim for progressive overload either way. Vary the reps/sets/timing of exercises/timing of rest periods/etc. Move in and out of modalities. Lift heavy sometimes, get a pump sometimes. Just track progress and make sure you’re consistently moving forward.

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Let me add, that as an older and newer lifter, the chances for injury do increase with heavier weights. I’m now in my final phases of rehab for an RC repair. I was always a “go big or go home” kind of guy. This last injury (this makes 3 RC tears and repairs) has finally cured me of that and changed my philosophy.

My advice is: lower weights, higher reps (i.e. 5 sets of 20 on things like arms, 4 sets of 20 on larger muscles, etc.), perfect form, and muscle activation.


It has already been said, but progressive overload is your ticket.

The guys doing 3 reps with 600 lbs are usually really big, and the guys doing 10 reps with 450 are usually really big.

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, too, after watching the Ronnie Coleman documentary. Crazy how his body has broken down!

This is true, but IMO nobody compared to him. IMO, his physique in his best years should win a Mr. O now.

He has paid the price for his training, but I don’t think he would look that way without lifting heavy too.

With no context about lift or goals this is impossible to answer.

For example, Ronnie Coleman DB presses 400lbs for 10. The above schemes for Ronnie’s bench would indeed be equivalent in that both would do fuck all for him aside from being a shitty warm up set.

I’m not even old but after years of lifting I tend to use less weights on big exercises, focusing on form and quality reps, and killing myself on little risk exercises like machine, isolation…

Instead of doing sets of 20 I still like to do sets of around 10 but with slow tempo, double contraction etc

Oh, no doubt, man. He has no regrets and I admire the hell out of him – a true champion. However, though we’ll never get to that level, we don’t want the same type of problems down the road. His pain looks absolutely miserable. And it feels like you’re rolling the dice if you’re constantly pushing yourself on heavy lifts, whereas light weight/high reps/M-M connection training is sustainable for a lifetime.

The 30 lb DB 10 times is infinitely better in this scenario, no matter what your goals are. And FWIW, heavy lifting isn’t the cause of Ronnie Coleman’s issues. Just saying.

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