Workout Tips

3 Reasons You're Not Ripped

Get chiseled and build lean muscle by avoiding these common workout mistakes.

heavy squat

Reason #3: Not enough heavy lifting

The “cardio burns more fat than lifting” theory is one of the great training misconceptions around, but we think we have a better one right here: Lifting with high reps and light weight gets you more shredded than going heavier with lower reps. Oh really? Well, no.

Truth is, high-rep sets increase muscular endurance, but not necessarily fat-burning. You can actually get more ripped training in the 8-12-rep range, as this is what’s been identified as the best rep count for adding muscular size. Where muscle mass increases, so does metabolism.

Bodybuilders like eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman have proven that you can go very heavy and still do 8+ reps, but true heavy lifting takes place at six reps and below. And while this is the ideal range for enhancing strength, studies have also shown that heavy sets keep testosterone levels elevated for longer after the workout, which helps keep metabolism high as well, resulting in greater fat-burning.

“Weight-training is for strength, not endurance,” says Staley. “Low-repetition sets are optimal for recruiting fast-twitch motor units and raising testosterone levels—two essential preconditions for a leaner physique.”

Recruiting more fast-twitch fibers is significant, as these, compared to slow-twitch fibers, have the potential to get significantly larger, which, again, will contribute to speeding up the metabolism, as muscle is metabolically active tissue.

The take-home here is not to switch over completely to only sets of six reps and fewer; a well-rounded program should include varying rep ranges—from high to low to moderate reps—to keep the body from adapting to one particular load. That said, make sure your 8-10-rep sets are performed with a challenging weight. If you’re continually able to exceed 12 reps, pick up a heavier set of dumbbells and aim toward the low end of the range (8 reps).

Also, don’t shy away from loading up a bar and letting your sets dip under eight reps, whether it’s only for one exercise in a workout, or occasionally for all exercises in your routine. The increase in testosterone levels will do wonders in helping you lean out.

The wrong workout:

Chest/Back/Arms

Exercise    Sets/Reps

Incline Dumbbell Press  3/12-15
Machine Press  3/15
Dumbbell Flye  3/20
Lat Pulldown 3/12-15
Seated Row 3/15
Straight-Arm Pulldown 3/20
Triceps Pressdown 3/15
Dumbbell Curl 3/15

The right workout:

Chest/Back/Arms

Exercise  Sets/Reps

Dip*  10/3
Pull-Up* 10/3
Hammer Curl**  5/6
Lying EZ-Bar Triceps Extension**  5/6

*Perform dips and pull-ups in alternating fashion (a set of dips followed by a set of pull-ups), resting one minute between each set.
** Perform hammer curls and triceps extension in alternating fashion (as with dips and pull-ups), again resting one minute between each set.

Coach’s Tip: “If you’re strong in pull-ups and/or dips,” says Staley, “you can add weight to either one to make it more difficult—so long as you’re able to perform all 10 sets for three reps with good form.”

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