When it comes to building muscle, you no longer have to stick exclusively to the 8 to 12 zone repetition range. In fact, it would behoove you to mix things up a bit. Emerging research shows that a variety of rep ranges is effective for building muscle. A combination of low reps (3 to 5), medium (6 to 14) and high (15-plus) is most effective, according to the Bulletins/Muscle page in the December issue of Men’s Health.
That’s great news on a number of fronts. Not only will the different rep range rejuvenate you mentally—who wants to stick to the same rep pattern every time you hit the gym?—the higher rep range adds a cardio benefit to the workout. When I’m not running, I’m cross-training my upper and lower body.
For a typical high-rep, upper body strength-training workout, I’ll do four sets of 15 to 25 reps of at least three of the following exercises: shoulder press, bench press, seated cable row, dumbbell row, shoulder row, pushups, dips, shoulder rows, lat pulldowns, triceps rope pushdowns and biceps curls.
For a high-rep, lower body strength-training workout, I’ll typically do three to five sets of 15 to 25 reps of step-ups, lunges, reverse lunges and up to five variations of squats: conventional, goblet, jump squats, Bulgarian split squats and one-legged pistol squats.
Going hard on a treadmill, elliptical, spin bike and rowing machine are all great cardio workouts, but if you’re looking for an alternative, try some of the aforementioned strength-training exercises for a cardio blast, and you’ll be fit and strong in no time.
Speaking of a lung-busting, cardio blast, use one of these moves to finish your workout, or better yet, incorporate them into every workout.
Set your body in a standard pushup position, hands on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. While keeping the back straight and the upper body in place, flex the knee and hip until the knee is approximately under the chest.
Alternate leg positions by pushing hips up while immediately extending forward leg back and extending and pulling rear leg forward under the body, landing on both forefeet simultaneously. That’s one rep. Aim for 30 to 60 reps.
Stand upright with arms at the sides. Bend over and squat down, with hands on the floor. While holding upper body in place, kick legs back. Land on forefeet with body in a straight, plank position. Keeping upper body in place, pull legs forward under body returning feet in original place.
Stand up to starting position. Do as many reps as you can for a minute, rest for a minute and repeat several times. To increase difficulty, add a pushup at the bottom position and jump at the top position.
The mother of all finishers. The Farmer’s Walk hits just about every muscle in your body, and if you truly do these with the proper intensity, expect to be sore for a couple of days afterward. Take a dumbbell in each hand weighing at or close to half your body weight (as a 145-pounder, I carry 70-pound dumbbells in each hand) and walk for 30 seconds to two minutes. Walk upright, chest out. Avoid slumping your shoulders. You’ll feel the pain about 20 steps in. Repeat three to four times, and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
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