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             FITNESS TIPS FOR 10/15/2003         

The High Repetitions For Definition Myth 

Performing smaller weight with more repetitions (15-20 reps, 20-30 reps, or 
20-50 reps) does not burn more fat or tone (simultaneous decrease of fat 
and increase muscle) better than a heavier weight with moderate 
repetitions (8-12 reps). Weight training utilizes carbohydrates after the 
initial ATP and CP stores have been exhausted after the first few seconds 
of intense muscular contraction. Typically a set's duration is 20 to 30 
seconds. For the average fit person, it requires 20 to 30 minutes of 
continuous aerobic activity with large muscle groups (eg. Gluteus 
Maximus and Quadriceps) to burn even 50% fat; fat requires oxygen to 
burn. Performing a few extra repetitions on a weight training exercise is 
not significant enough to burn extra fat and may in effect burn less fat. 
If intensity is compromised, less fat may be burned when light weight 
is used with high repetitions. The burning sensation associated with 
high repetition training seems to be the primary deterrent for achieving
higher intensities. 

For individuals attempting to achieve fat loss for aesthetics, the intensity 
of weight training can be a double edge sword. When beginning an 
exercise program, muscle mass increases may out pace fat losses, 
resulting in a small initial weight gain. Significant fat loss requires a 
certain intensity, duration, and frequency that novice exercisers may 
not be able to achieve until they develop greater tolerance to exercise. 
If an exercise and nutrition program is not adequate for significant fat 
loss, a lighter weight with higher repetitions may be recommended to 
minimize any bulking effects, although less fat may be utilized hours 
later. If an aerobic exercise and nutrition program is sufficient enough 
to lose fat, a moderate repetition range with a progressively heavier 
weight will accelerate fat loss with a toning effect. If a muscle group 
ever out paces fat loss, the bulking effect is only temporary. For a
 toning effect, fat can be lost later when aerobic exercise can be 
significantly increased or the weight training exercise(s) for that 
particular muscle can be ceased altogether. The muscle will atrophy 
to a pre-exercise girth within months. Higher repetitions training may 
be later implemented and assessed. 

It still may be recommended to perform high repetitions (20-30 or 20-50 
reps) for abdominal and oblique training. With fat around the waist, 
moderate repetitions with a greater resistance can increase muscular 
girth under the subcutaneous fat. If fat is not lost, more muscle can 
push out the fat resulting in a bulkier appearance. The abdominal 
muscles are relatively small muscles. Performing high reps with a 
lighter resistance will not compromise metabolism or muscle 
increases as would performing high reps with light resistance on 
larger muscles. See Spot Reduction Myth above. 

It is plausible that the high repetition myth was originated and later 
propagated by bodybuilders that used calorie restrictive diets for 
definition before a contest. Because of their weakened state from 
dieting, they were unable to use their usual heavier weights. When 
inquired about their use of lighter weights, they explained they
were "cutting up" for a contest. This is merely a theory, but it is 
easy to see how it may have been misunderstood that the lighter 
weight was used to reduce fat instead of actually being a result 
of their dietary regime. 

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