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On Trial: High Reps or Low Reps?

What works best for high-endurance muscle fibers like abs and calves?

By William J. Kraemer, PhD, CSCS, & Jimmy Peña, MS, CS

The secret to sculpting great abs and calves seems to vary for each person. Ask a group of bodybuilders what they do for either bodypart and you are almost guaranteed to get different answers from everyone.

While we could write volumes about different strategies for working the abs and the calves (and, in fact, we have), here we'll concentrate on the weight (or lack of it) and the corresponding repetition ranges used. This is a hot topic of debate in the gym, as well as in the lab.

Specifically, the debate is over the optimum repetition range to use for training abs and calves. Is it better to train both of these hard-to-develop muscle groups with lighter weight and higher reps (12-and- above rep range), or with heavier weight and lower reps (10-and-below rep range)?

To duel it out on this topic of muscle maximizing are two sharp swords in the world of training science: Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS, who parries with lighter weight and high reps, and William J. Kraemer, PhD, CSCS, who ripostes with heavy weight for low reps. M&F will clean up the mess when it's over and help you come to grips with the outcome.

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