It seems that the more I'm in the online fitness trainer industry, the more questions I get about "the best" this and "the best" that. Whether it's diets, nutrition, supplementation, or programming, everyone wants to know what "the best" is.
Honestly, I can't blame them. If I didn't know everything about something I was dedicating time to, I'd want to make sure that I was doing the best I could for my goal, that way no time is wasted and I have a strong return on my investment.
WHAT IS "THE BEST?"
I find it very interesting that "the best" isn't always what we think it is. I believe that happens for a couple of reasons:
"The best" for you isn't "the best" for me and vice versa.
"The best" (or any version of that meaning) is often used to sell things that actually aren't so great.
When I get a question regarding "the best", I actually enjoy it quite a bit because I like to shatter people's paradigms. That's what I'd like to do today in this short article. Now, as much as I'd like to sit here and tell you about how much I hate diets and how no single diet is "best" for fat loss, I'd like to head in a different direction. I've been creating a lot of content around nutrition, so I'm going to ask your attention for a couple of minutes to talk about what's done in the gym.
So, the question I'll be addressing today is:
"What's the best rep range for ________?"
Fill in the blank with whatever you choose. Fat loss, toning, muscle-building, whatever. You get the idea.
TIME TO SHATTER YOUR PARADIGM
Here's the quick answer to all of those questions:
There isn't a best rep range for each specific thing all the time. Is there a rep range that is shown to build more muscle than others? Sure. Is there a rep range that will most likely burn more calories? Sure. The thing is, it's not the rep range that's ideal. If 8-12 reps have shown to build the most muscle, that means that I can just go grab a couple of brewskis and start curling those for 8-12 reps. Next thing you know, I'll have some great-looking muscles.
However, it just doesn't work that way. So how does it work?
Well, there is a plethora of answers to that, but as an online fitness trainer, I want to focus on one thing specifically. That thing is what I like to call the muscle mindset.
THE MUSCLE MINDSET
When most people go into the gym (whether they have a program or not) they come to the conclusion that they're going to perform _____ exercise for __ reps. This is the mindset of a beginner. This is the mindset of someone who is going to the gym to get their workout in. Is it wrong? Of course not. Is it ideal? Not really.
An individual that is a little more advanced would normally go into the gym knowing that they're going to perform ____ exercise for __ reps. This individual would then go into the exercise using a weight that is challenging at that amount of reps, understanding that the heavier they go, the more challenging it is going to be, assuming that the more reps or weight that they do, the more they'll get out of the exercise. Is it wrong? Nope. Is it ideal? I don't think so.
Someone who is much more advanced that understands their body well will go into the gym with what I call the muscle mindset. The people (beginners and intermediates) that I talked about going into the workout wanting to move weight in order to work their muscles. Someone that has the muscle mindset flips that thinking on its head and does something different. This individual goes into the workout knowing how the exercises they perform will affect their muscles. But that's not all.
They also take a completely different approach during the movement.
When performing an exercise, someone with the muscle mindset won't just move the weight. This person will ask him/herself the following question:
"How can I engage this muscle in order to move the weight and perform the exercise?"
This changes everything.
For example, when I'm going to the bench to perform an incline dumbbell bench press, I understand that the purpose of the upper chest is to bring the humerus (the bone of the upper arm) closer to the middle of my chest. Therefore, I'll perform the exercise thinking to myself, "ok Adam, you need to squeeze/flex/engage the upper chest in order to bring the upper arm closer to your chest, and that's what will move the dumbbells. Someone that doesn't have the muscle mindset would say something like "ok, I need to push these weights up with my arms for 8 reps."
WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT IT?
"The muscle mindset? That sounds like something you made up. What's the point?"
That's fair. I mean, I did kinda make that term up on the spot. Put any attractive word in front of a concept and it'll sound wayyyy cooler (thanks a lot, fitness industry).
Although I made up the term, the mindset is very real. Having a good connection with your body and understanding how your muscles work during a certain exercise is extremely beneficial. That mind-muscle connection will allow you to do the following:
Get the most out of your exercise
Have more control throughout the movement
Have better technique and form throughout the movement
Improve your strength and muscle growth
Having the ability to master those four things will allow you to make great strides along your fitness journey. Getting the most out of your exercise will allow you to see more change in your muscles, causing more definition from growth. Having more control and better technique will keep you away from injury and will improve your ability to increase your strength. From that improved strength, you'll have a CNS (central nervous system) that will be able to engage more muscle fibers.
The muscle mindset is simply a way of rethinking your training. In one sentence, here's how I can explain it best: Instead of moving the weight to contract the muscle, contract the muscle in order to move the weight.
You'll find that you'll get more out of each rep, leading to an increase in muscle growth and definition, bringing you the lean physique you've always wanted.
THANKS FOR BEING HERE!
I love writing, but to have someone like you reading what I write is...well friggin' amazing. Thank you for taking time out of your day to hear what I have to say. My hope and prayer is that the info in these articles gives you a new way of thinking, as well as a tangible takeaway that you can implement in your life. If you have any questions on anything health/fitness/nutrition, feel free to reach out to me. I'd love to serve you however I can with information about online personal training.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam is a fitness professional, baseball fan, and cookie fanatic based in Fort Collins, Colorado. After hanging up the cleats, this online personal trainer found a strong interest in the human body and how it performs. Since then, Adam has been transforming lives through fitness in a fun and encouraging atmosphere. As an ACE CPT and Fitness Nutrition Specialist, he is constantly moved to help people improve in all walks of life. If you’re interested in hiring Adam as your coach, fill out an application here.