Workout Tips

10 Questions All Lifters Should Know How to Answer

Whether you're a beginner or weightlifting pro, knowing the answers to these questions are vital to your training success.

You want to get the most out of your training, right? Right. So knowing things like the importance of time under tension, what to feed your muscles post-workout, and the ideal rep range to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers are all crucial pieces to the puzzle. If you have no idea what any of that means, you’re about to get schooled. And if you do know, you’re due for a refresher.

Question #1: How long should I be sore after a workout?

Answer: It varies.

A person’s fitness level paired with how intense the workout was will determine the degree of soreness someone will experience. “It will vary from individual to individual, but on average most people will experience soreness for one to three days after a workout," explains natural professional bodybuilder Mike Lipowski, owner of Pure Physique Gym in Shrub Oak, New York and author of Pure Physique: How to Maximize Fat-Loss and Muscular Development

However, there’s also something called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is discomfort and soreness that gradually increases 24 to 48 hours after the workout is complete. It’s normal and simply means that you've exercised your muscle beyond its comfort zone.

While experiencing soreness after putting your body under physical stress is expected, Lipowski cautions against using how sore you become to gauge workout effectiveness. “If you stood on one foot for an hour, your leg would probably get really sore. But was that an effective workout? No, it wasn’t.”

Question #2: What should I eat after my workout?

Answer: Protein

Protein is essential to help repair and grow muscles, so look to consume a fast-digesting whey protein shake 30 to 60 minutes after your last rep. Whole food sources like chicken, lean beef, turkey, and eggs are also quality options.

“Your size will determine how much protein you want to consume,” says Lipowski. “For most men, 20-30 grams is a good sweet spot. Someone who is larger will want to be in the 40-gram range. Women are typically in the 15-25 grams range.”

Round out your meal with fast-absorbing carbs. “Stuff you’d normally avoid, like sugar, maltodextrin, is fine after a workout because it can help transport protein and amino acids to the muscle a little faster,” he says. “Aim for a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of protein to carbs, and keep fat content below six percent.”

Question #3: Can I out-train a lousy diet?

Answer: Not a chance.

“People who try to train harder to make up for a poor diet end up exhausting themselves, and their workouts become unproductive,” Lipowski says. “It’s a double-whammy.”

The moment you surpass your body's caloric threshold, even if it’s by one measly calorie, that calorie gets stored as fat.

“Exercise can make up for some extra calories, but the way most people eat, the number of extra calories goes beyond what they’ll burn during a workout,” he says. “And if you tried to burn all of those extra calories — say, 1,000 or so — doing that would escalate the degree of stress on your body and make it more difficult to recover.”  

Question #4: How many reps should I do?

Answer: As many reps as it takes to achieve a desired time under tension (TUT).

TUT is the total amount of time a muscle is placed under stress during the length of a set. Your cadence, or tempo, for each rep determines your TUT. For example, if you’re using a 3/1/3 cadence (three seconds on the positive portion of a movement, pause for one second at the apex, and then take three seconds on the negative) for 7 reps your time under tension for that set is 49 seconds.

“The number of reps is relative to TUT that someone is shooting for,” he says. “The best range to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers typically falls between the 20 and 45-second range if the weight is heavy enough; target 45-70 seconds for mixed-muscle fibers; and 60-90 seconds is ideal for slow-twitch muscle fibers,” Lipowski explains.

Slow-twitch muscle fibers are utilized during endurance activities; they’re smaller and weaker than fast-twitch muscle fibers, which possess the most strength and potential for growth. Mixed muscle fibers use — you guessed it — a mix of both. Regardless of TUT, if you’re reaching muscular failure on a given set you’re recruiting as many fast twitch muscle fibers as possible.

Question #5: Is cardio training necessary for weight loss?

Answer: No.

“If you derive mental satisfaction from doing cardio and you enjoy the release of endorphins, I’m not going to tell you not to do it,” says Lipowski. “But anaerobic exercise is not necessary for weight loss; to lose weight you need to achieve a caloric deficit.

According to Lipowski, implementing five to 10 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) — blending surges of intensity with periods of low intensity — will help stimulate metabolism and spur weight loss. “It doesn’t have to be on a treadmill or recumbent bike, either,” he explains. “Anything you can do in short bursts with all out effort, including burpees, jumping rope, and mountain climbers.”