When it comes to the weight room, not everyone has the same goals. You need to make sure that your training style aligns with the goals you have set for yourself if you want to achieve them! Should you use light weight for high reps, or heavy weight for low reps? One way of determining how you should train is to use a percentage of your 1-rep max (how much weight you can lift in an exercise for one repetition) to calculate how many reps you should perform in each set. If you don’t know what your 1-rep max is, you can use this tool for a quick estimation.
45% TO 60% OF 1-REP MAX
This is often considered to be the best load to use for speed work on regular strength lifts. Working on peak power output will help to improve your fast-twitch muscle fiber recruitment which plays a huge role in all athletic endeavors that require speed and power. Remember, you shouldn’t go anywhere near fatigue or failure when working in this rep range and focusing on speed. You must move explosively on all reps. Stick to 2 to 5 reps per set, while lifting as explosively as possible on each rep.
Primary Training Effect: Builds explosiveness and power
70% TO 80% OF 1-REP MAX
This is the percentage range that is best used for stimulating hypertrophy (muscle growth). When using this weight, you should aim for 6 to 10 reps (the higher the percentage the less reps per set). Each set should be taken close to failure in order to be effective. Close to failure means that if your life depended on it, you could perform 1 or 2 more reps. Going to failure on a regular basis will just burn out your central nervous system and make it difficult to recover from training.
Primary Training Effect: Increases muscle size
85% TO 90% OF 1-REP MAX
This is the best percentage to train for absolute strength. Doing sets at 85% to 90% of your 1-rep max is very taxing on your central nervous system and, therefore, you should not be doing any more than 1 to 3 reps per set. These are tough sets where you really test your strength in order to train your body to handle a 1-rep max that you would perform in a competition such as a powerlifting or Olympic lifting meet.
Primary Training Effect: Increases absolute strength
Remember, just because you have a single goal in mind doesn’t mean you should train in only one percentage range of your 1-rep max. Although each percentage range has a primary benefit, they can offer other secondary benefits to your main goal. For example, if your main goal is to get bigger, doing some speed and maximal strength work can help to increase the size of your fast-twitch muscle fibers and, therefore, help you to gain overall muscle size!