If you always wanted to lose weight and gain muscle, there are countless ways to get that toned physique, but there are even more people advising the best way to achieve it.

No matter what you hear, it’s always going to come down to: do you lift heavier weights or do more reps?

Currently, the thought is that more reps of a lower weight will tone your body, giving you that long, lean look that many crave. Women especially love to buy into the hype that 35 reps of a 5 lb. free-weight will tone their arms without building muscle mass.

Women especially love to buy into the hype that 35 reps of a 5 lb. free-weight will tone their arms without building muscle mass.

The other side of the coin is those who want to build muscle mass. They think that fewer reps of an extremely heavy weight will build up greater mass and look bigger on their bodies.


So, if the goal is to get that shredded, tight body with well-defined muscles, what approach should you take?

Let’s look at the science.

To start, we need to first understand what it takes to get that shredded body. It’s really a combination of two elements. You need to build up your muscles and have a substantial fat loss program in place.

So, we need to look at how the weights vs. reps battle play out on both of these elements.

Muscle Growth

It’s thought that if your goal is to build muscle mass, the optimal rep ratio is to lift a set of 6-12 reps at 60-80% of your maximum weight level. It seems that the magic number is to keep the reps under 15 per set with at least a 2-minute rest in between.

That thought hasn’t been conclusive by any means. The reality is that a recent study was conducted on athletes who were split into two groups. The first group performed lower reps of a heavy weight while the second worked on higher reps of lower weights.

In both cases, the muscle proteins were used as a way to determine muscle growth. Neither way proved to be more effective than the other.

A major factor in building up muscle mass is diet and calorie consumption. In other words, you could lift heavy weights, and if you’re not eating enough calories, you’ll never put on an ounce of muscle mass.

Fat Loss

It’s well-known that weight lifting can achieve the goal of fat loss when combined with good diet control, but does lifting fewer reps have an effect on fat loss? Do heavier weights bulk your body up, as some would lead you to believe?

There’s reason to be uncertain.

In another study, two groups of dieters were given two different exercise programs. In one program, the participants were asked to simply lift heavy weights in cooperation with their diets.

In the other group, they performed lower rep exercise and more cardio work. In both cases, the groups lost weight, although the weight lifters lost fat while the cardio group lost both fat and muscle mass.

Weights vs. Reps: The Conclusion

So, what’s all that have to say about your goal of getting shredded? You’re best to consider a goal of moderating fat loss with muscle gain. The sweet spot of bodybuilders and top athletes focuses on doing 6-12 reps of a weight of 60-70% of their maximum weight.

This way, they can build endurance, develop defined muscles and lose the fat exclusively from their bodies.

There is no hard and fast rule concerning this dilemma, but for optimal results, a combination of two should see you define your muscles and make them pop from your body.