Ask The Trainer #13 – Higher Reps To Get Lean


I’m trying to lean out and get more defined. Is lifting lighter weights and doing higher rep sets pretty much the way to go?




Hi, Greg! This a common wide-spread myth is believed to be true among many fitness enthusiasts. The strategy of using lighter weights and higher reps is certainly not ideal for leaning out. The key to understanding exactly why is based on the following point: Your body will only retain muscle mass that is an absolute necessity.

You see, your body does NOT want to maintain extra muscle mass because muscle is active tissue. And active tissue uses up more of the limited, valuable biochemical resources within your body. Think about it this way: Would you want to pay the energy bill for a 1,400 square foot house, or a 2,800 square foot house?


Our bodies are designed for survival. Therefore, our bodies want to conserve as much energy as possible to protect them from various forms of depletion. Since your muscle tissue uses up more of your energy reserves, your body will not retain extra muscle unless it has a very important purpose for supporting that muscle.

Read the last half of the sentence above again… Your body will NOT retain extra muscle UNLESS it has a very important purpose for supporting that muscle.

This means that purpose MUST BE more significant than what it takes to merely maintain equilibrium within the body to conserve energy. Ultimately, this ends up being one of your body’s most critically important jobs.

Lifting lighter weights for higher reps is not a good enough reason for your body to retain extra muscle mass. The physical demands simply are not extreme enough to pose a significant threat to the physiology of the body. Therefore, your body won’t maintain extra muscle to cope with Stress levels it’s perfectly capable of handling with less muscle. Make sense?

On the other hand, lifting heavy weights with maximum intensity inflicts a much greater degree of stress to the physiology of the body. The body recognizes this extreme stress as a “threat” from which it must protect itself. It does this by creating an adaptive response to that extreme level of stress.

Also, keep in mind that when you are in a “leaning out” phase, and consuming less overall calories, you may be a bit more susceptible to injury. So, pay extra attention to your form.

The adaptive response I’m referring to is an increase in muscle mass (i.e., growth!) which helps the body protect itself from further assaults of that magnitude.

Since muscle is active tissue, it requires energy 24 hours a day in the form of calories to sustain itself. (Yes, even when you’re sitting, or sleeping.)

So, the more muscle you retain, the greater the rate at which your basal metabolic rate will operate. And… the more body fat you will be capable of burning every single day!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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