T Nation


After doing some research, I am very skeptical about the low-reps plan while trimming down.


Well, let’s see:

  1. Type I fibers are very insulin-sensitive, followed by type IIa. Type IIb are insulin-resistant.

  2. Type I fibers are the most oxidative, followed by type IIa. Type IIb fibers are NOT efficient at oxidating fats for energy.

  3. Type IIb fibers have been shown to be associated with propensity towards diabetes and obesity.

I will give all the references if asked.
Considering these factors it seems clear focusing on developing type IIb fibers while trimming down while neglecting type I and type IIa fibers will NOT put your body in a mode where it’s as efficient at burning fats as it can be - nor as insulin-sensitive as it can be.

As such I am now recommending training which boosts type I development and favors changing type IIb fibers into type IIa fibers for those who are not interested in powerlifting or explosive activities of short duration.

It is my opinion that low rep work is not only NOT efficient, but actually prevents the best results in terms of BODY COMPOSITION improvement.

As far as muscle gain goes, again it improves the neuromuscular efficiency, but it’s not enough time under tension to promote considerable hypertrophy when compared with a bodybuilding type of program.

I don’t know about all that, but I certainly don’t want to lift really heavy while dieting for fat loss.

Diesel23, I am actually putting your theory to the test. I am a couple of weeks into T-Dawg 2.0 and have been doing Berardi’s workout in #286, which is mostly compound 5x5 and 4x3 exercises. Last week I lost a pound and feel like I’m going to lose about the same this week if not more (I’ll weigh in tomorrow). I’m still getting accustomed to testing bf% but I know that I’m looking better and clothes are fitting better and I’m getting stronger, so it’s definitely fat I’m losing (see my thread “Discipline Help” for more specs).

Maybe I would lose weight faster if I did Fat to Fire, or Meltdown, and maybe I’ll switch to that after the twelve weeks, or if I plane out, but I’m completely happy with slow, steady progress of fat loss while making decent strength gains at the same time.

Aside from all that my instinct tells me that when lifting heavy and pushing yourself, you are maintaing the adaptation your body has made in getting there in the first place. Like your body will use available energy (perhaps a lot of fat along with the protein you are getting in your diet) to try to hold on to the LBM that allows you to have the strength you have.

I have read about how when you are dieting (not harshly, maybe 10% deficit) that your body makes more efficient use of the foods you give it and adapts that way.

Calories in/Calories out seems to be the correct idea meaning that any training while dieting might cause a loss of LBM but it seems to be more complex than that simple equation.

  1. Type I fibers are very insulin-sensitive, followed by type IIa. Type IIb are insulin-resistant.

so what? when you’re dieting hard you do not eat high GI foods or foods that will significantly spike insulin other than during or pwo.

  1. Type I fibers are the most oxidative, followed by type IIa. Type IIb fibers are NOT efficient at oxidating fats for energy.

i dont use my workouts to burn fat. i burn fat through diet and increased cardio.

  1. Type IIb fibers have been shown to be associated with propensity towards diabetes and obesity.

i have no idea what this means to a bodybuilder?

your points above may be true but how do they apply to us?

what about the fact that if you train specifically in the high rep range you will lose a ton of strength?

what about the fact that hip rep training is glycogen demanding?

what about the fact that high rep training makes you look flat as a pancake when you are low carb dieting.

not to mention your training should be periodized throughout the year anyhow. why not use this time to train for strength and train for hypertrophy the rest of the year?

There is two ways for me to reply to this - the short way and the long way. For now, you’re getting the short answer.

You are flat out wrong. Maybe you should try it out and watch when you have much less muscle, poor neurogenic and myogenic tone and just wasted away your hard earned size.

Good post P-dog, I agree.

Diesel, your points may have been proven in studies, but my own experience does not coincide with your conclusions. But I think P-dog really summed it up pretty well.

For the zillionth time … here’s a small text from my upcoming book on body transformation…

"I?ll say it once and for all: the purpose of strength-training while dieting is primarily to prevent muscle loss while on a caloric deficit diet. A lot of gurus now like to use strength training exercises to burn fat by using long series (15-20+ repetitions) and short rest intervals (30-60 seconds). Their logic is that this form of training increases growth hormone output. GH being a lipolytic (increase fat usage) hormone they argue that a training method leading to a production of GH will naturally lead to an important fat utilization. This theory is interesting however in the real world it is just not that effective. Why? Consider that when a bodybuilder uses exogenous human growth hormone a minimum dose of 2IU per day for at least 3 months is required to produce noticeable changes. Many bodybuilders even argue that below 4IU per day is useless for body composition purposes. The medical dose recommended for GH is around 0.20 to 0.5 IU/kg per day, so for a 90kg individual (200lbs) this comes up to a daily dose of 2.6 to 6.5IU. And this is for medical use, which is often too low to cause any ?bodybuilding? results. As a comparison, the natural production of GH by the body varies from 1IU to 2IU per day (so maybe 0.25 to 0.5IU during exercise). So it is unlikely that the slight, transient, increase in GH levels from strength training would cause any significant short term improvements in body composition.

High-intensity strength exercises (in the 70-100% range) are better than low intensity strength exercises (in the 40-70% range) while dieting. The higher training loads helps you preserve strength and muscle while on a hypocaloric diet much better than super-high volume/low intensity workouts.

We’ve been brainwashed by the various muscle magazines to believe that you should do high reps training for definition. This is absolutely ridiculous! Sure you use a little more energy, but think about it: the higher the training volume, the more energy you need to recover. The more glycogen you burn while strength training, the more carbs you’ll need to recover and progress. While on a hypocaloric diet your body has a lowered anabolic drive, meaning that it can’t synthesize as much protein into muscle as if you were eating a ton. A super-high volume of work leads to a lot of microtrauma to the muscle structures; a lot of microtrauma requires a great protein synthesis increase.

So if you use high-volume/low-intensity training while dieting you’ll breakdown more muscle and build up less. Not exactly good news! Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of high-reps training is an increase in blood and nutrient flow to the muscles, but if you have a reduced amount of nutrients available in your body, this benefit is pretty much wasted."

P-Dog made some good points, and Thunder clearly covered the anecdotal evidence. A little more:

  1. Greater excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) with higher intensities.

  2. Less stimulus for cortisol secretion with lower volume.

  3. More endogenous testosterone secretion with high intensities and longer rest periods (although GH is lower).

  4. Improved neurogenic and myogenic tone.

  5. Time under tension has been beaten to death; suffice it to say that it isn’t nearly as important as was previously thought.

  6. I’m not sure it’s valuable to note the presence (or absence) of hypertrophy benefits of a program when you’re at a caloric deficit.

  7. You get stronger.

In my experience, the higher rep stuff (e.g. German Body Comp, Meltdown I) is most effective in scenarios when the individual has an appreciable amount of body fat to lose (~12% body fat or higher).

Thanks to P-dog and CT for saving me much typing. Once again one of Diesel’s earth shattering theories doesn’t pan out. oy

Diesel, EC, Thunder, P-Dog and CT have more or less hit all the high points here. My question is simple: have you actually tried both approaches?

I don’t mean read and developed theories about them, I mean tried them.

Doesn’t sound like it.

Christian, of course all you said is true.

IF you want to keep strength , low reps are good to go.

But IF you want to simply speed up your results and optimize your body composition, than higher reps may in fact be more beneficial.

P-dog, fat oxidation isnt necessary strictly during a workout. It’s how your body burns fats both at rest and during exercise.
That said, improving one’s oxidative capacity will go a long way at imprioving body composition.

Additionally, being on a low-carb diet too long will result in a lower insulin sensitivity down the line, according to Berardi. Thus, when reintroducing carbs you have to do so very gradually and carefully not to gain unnecessary fat.
Well, developing type I and IIa fibers will optimize your insulin sensitivity, thus making you more carb tolerant.

Both of these factors are important. I’m sorry, but I’ll take a scientific research instead of someone’s word or common sense any day.

Prove it to me and I’ll believe it, till then I’m skeptical.

And remember, just because you GET results doesnt mean they’re the BEST results you could get IN TERMS OF body composition.
We’re considering aesthetic ONLY, without regard to maximal strength or power.
Besides, it’s always wise to alternate periods of max strength with periods of higher reps.

As humans we have the tendency to seek out only those studies that support the beliefs we already have and criticize evidence that is in disagreement.

There comes a time when one has to close their textbook, take off their lab coat, pick up the ball, and get on the field.

http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/coachsci/csa/vol43/table.htm Look for the EPOC unreliable link. I asked this and submitted this some time ago, but it never made the cut or got lost. If familiarity decreases EPOC, then changing up exercises often would seem to solve this, but I wonder if changing the load is enough unfamiliarity. I am gravitation to a Pavel like bear routine. Two or so heavy sets, followed by higher volume low rest work, alternating antagonists in similar plane. I also agree with the overthinking post. Take off the coat and lose the bloat.

The point of lifting weights while dieting is to prevent loss of lbm (OK, CT already said that.)

Earler this year, I used 5X5 training. Not only was I able to lose a lot of fat w/o losing lbm, I was able to increase my srength while doing it!

Type I fibers don’t grow much anyway, and what little growth they are capable of is best stimulated by the same type of training that causes type II muscle fibers to grow.

Any type of weight training besides plyometrics already causes a transformation from Type IIB to IIA so this is not something that needs to be trained for.

However, I think there are certain situations that your training approach would be advantageous like within the context of a cyclical dieting pattern or when taking advantage of planned refeeds and overfeeds.

Cheers deisel for stimulating some thought on this forum, there seems to be a short supply as of late.
Although i disagree, at least the intention of investigating beyond what we a fed by authors is respected :slight_smile:

Yes, what Whetu said. It’s nice to see someone going against the grain here and at least providing a halfway decent explanation…

…Even though you’re wrong:)

in my completely non scientific opinion, i would think the only time to utilize a hypertrophy/bodybuilding type workout while in a calorie deficit would be if said person is new to the gym or is coming off from a long layoff.

Here’s an idea: why not periodize?

Start with something like Meltdown with a serving of cardio (light for 1/2 hour or so) on the side, then, after that runs its course (3 weeks) then move to low reps with a lot of intervals (Running Man) on the side?

That’s pretty much what I do. Soften up one fitness feature while training another, then hit the other one hard. Yeah, it’s simplistic. But it works. Prevents burnout and maintains strength.

Dan “Best of Both Worlds” McVicker