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TOPIC: lighter weights & more reps, or heavier weights & less reps?

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May 8, 2013 6:28 AM
I've never really had a ton of upper body strength, but I really want to achieve that as part of my ultimate goal. Long story short, I have a neck injury from work and was told I have permanent damage and given permanent restrictions of 25lbs. I don't really believe that I am PERMANENTLY damaged. I think I can rebuild my strength. I've been doing light weights with higher reps for the last 11 weeks and I'm sure it's helped. But I don't see tone or definition in my arms at all. I really want to know how I am supposed to develop upper body strength slowly. Not looking for an overnight fix. I know it'll take time. Last night I tried heavy lifting. And by that I mean I was only able to do 12 reps with perfect form then I was exhausted. I did the few machines my fitness center had, then went back and did another round, and then one more but on the last round I could only get to 8 of each with perfect form. The only machines that bugged my neck injury are ones that bring the shoulder blades together like the seated row and lateral pulldown, do for those I stuck to light weights. I don't want to re-injure myself.

But I want opinions on which route I'd be better off going. The light weights all around with higher reps, or the heavier weights with fewer reps. I am mainly focusing on losing weight/fat but I do want to build muscle and get definition back into my arms.

Any advice is welcome. Thanks for your time! flowerforyou
May 8, 2013 6:31 AM
If you've been given a 25 pound cap by your doctor, then you need to abide by that 25 pound cap. If you want to work upt to 25 pounds, then by all means, go for it and revisit the issue WITH YOUR DOCTOR.
May 8, 2013 6:44 AM
While I respect the doctor's restrictions, They are working restrictions and I think he meant 25 lbs in "Don't get a job where you're lifting 50lbs for 8 hours a day." ...Those type of restrictions. I know I couldn't do that without the risk of re-injuring myself.

But for this, I am going by what the physical therapist said. I worked with him for over 8 months. I did weights with him as well. He told me I can lift more if I want to, but if it hurts my neck, don't do it. Simple answer really.

I feel just fine doing the heavy lifting except on the seated row and the lateral pulldown, so on those... I'll stick to my light weights. But I'm asking for suggestions on the other machines where I *am* able to lift more, comfortably.
May 8, 2013 7:11 AM
I think there's a lot of areas where non-specialist Doctors don't know any more than anyone else. Mainly diet, nutrition, and exercise. It seems like there's a daily post on here about a doctor giving someone bad advice in one of those areas.

That said, I'm not sure I would just ignore the doc's recommendation. Talk to the PT, make sure he knows what the doc recommended and if he's ok with you lifting heavier, then do it.
May 8, 2013 7:15 AM
I would talk to the PT except I no longer see him. It was part of the lawsuit that was settled. I have no more treatment by him. He was aware of my restrictions. But at that point, I was not trying to lose weight and build muscle. I was just trying to recover. So I didn't ask him about suggestions as far as lifting is concerned. I never thought I'd really worry about it. But now that I am try to get fit again, it's important. And I don't know any other PT's that I could just go ask. So maybe there is a PT here on MFP that could give me some advice.
May 8, 2013 8:28 AM
Honestly there is not best way. Strength can be associated to what's called the "Force Curve" which measures different levels of strength.

Force Curve (in-short):
- Maximal strength / absolute strength / aka Neuro-Muscular strength: Heavy weight and low reps (80% to 100% of 1rep-max (1RM) at about 1 to 5 reps
- Relative strength: 8-10 reps I want to say roughly 75% to 60% (sorry don't have one of my books in front of me)
- Strength endurance: 12 reps+
- Speed strength: This one is tricky because it's not a real set percentage of weight, but it can be. This focuses on explosive movements and can use weights or plyometrics, great to train if you're an athlete.
- I think I'm forgetting one but I think you get the picture here. You can also Google Prillipens principles to get additional understanding of this.

Basically to be well-rounded you want to have some exercise that focues on maximal strength and relative strength. Starting with something like Starting Strength by Mark Rippletoe focuses on compound movements and is a good start to weight lifting. Once you understand that you can move onto 5/3/1 or something "intermediate" although there's really nothing stopping a beginner from beginning with 5/3/1.

This may not have helped much but hopefully you understand the differences in rep ranges and weight-load now. If you have to limit your exercise then focusing on something like Starting Strength or StrongLifts 5x5 will give you the most bang for your minute. LOL. Also, none of those strength ranges on the force curve will promote you getting massive. Mass comes from diet, volume and in women a higher level of testosterone. Unless you're on steroids, the high testosterone level probably is not a factor for you.


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