The Weight Training Trifecta


When you set out to weight train, you should have one or more specific goals in mind. It could be weight loss, lean muscle building, or maybe just quality of life fitness. Those goals will be an important factor in shaping (pun intended) the design of your workout program. Will you be working toward increasing your strength, endurance, muscular form or, preferably, some combination thereof? Note: these are just general guidelines.  The frequency and intensity of your workouts and the total volume (weight times total repetitions) will determine your improvements. If you work with a trainer, he/she will adjust for your particular needs and capabilities. 

Muscular strength is the ability to exert a lot of force over a short period of time. If that’s your goal, you’ll want to do fewer repetitions with heavier weights. We often speak of the “1-rep max”. This refers to the maximum amount of weight you can move, with good form, for one repetition of a given exercise. When strength is your objective you may be working in the 4 to 6 repetition range with a resistance equal to, say, 80-90% of your 1-rep max, for 2 to 6 sets, with as much as 2 to 5 minutes rest between sets. 

Muscle endurance, on the other hand, is the ability to do something over and over for an extended period of time. As you might imagine, doing many more reps, with lighter weights and with shorter rest periods between sets, will test your endurance. You will be working in the 12 to 15 (and maybe more) reps per set, with a resistance equal to, say, 60-70% of your 1-rep-max, for 3 sets, with 1 to 2 minutes rest between sets. 

Lastly, your goal may be muscle building or, if you want to use the fancy term, hypertrophy. We’re now talking a middle ground – 8 to 12 reps of a resistance that’s 70-80% of your one-rep max, for 3 to 6 sets, with 30seconds to 1 minute rest between sets.  

“Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror.” 
― P.G. Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves