I am going to discuss the 5×5 workout which could quite possibly be the best workout to gain muscle and strength. I am sure you have heard this piece of advice before that when it comes to toning up, you should lift light weights and do high reps. I am sure you have also heard that you should lift heavy weights to gain big muscles. I am going to tell you, forget everything you think you know about fitness, and listen to what I have to say.
These two pieces of advice are absolute nonsense.
The idea behind light weights and high reps for toning is that with the decrease in rest time, the workout becomes almost cardio in nature. This is true and yes the inevitable pump which is just blood rushing into the muscle can make you look highly toned in the mirror, but this is only temporary. Although this workout is cardiovascular in nature I don’t recommend it for toning up. I actually recommend the opposite.
The other piece of advice is to gain weight you need to lift heavy, and although this is partially true, this isn’t the whole truth. Actually lifting lighter weights for higher reps will make your muscles bigger, not a nice big, but bigger nonetheless.
Before I explain muscle mass reps vs strength reps even further, I need to explain the different types of muscle and the 5×5 workout which will be our intermediary.
The two types of muscle growths are sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar. Sarcoplasmic muscle growth is where the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cell increases with no increase in muscular strength. You can think of this as a balloon filling up with water. Myofibrillar muscle growth is when the cells within the muscle actually multiply and makes the muscle more dense, dense being the keyword which I will come back to later. You can think of myofibrillar muscle growth as a balloon and adding more and more rubber to it making it denser.
Muscle Mass Reps
To gain muscle mass, which is just sarcoplasmic growth, you should focus on a rep range of between 6-15 reps using a pyramid scheme with the weight getting heavier each time. Rest should be kept down to a minimum 30-60 seconds to really fatigue the muscle. This will increase the fluid within the muscle and make them bigger. This type of growth gives off the soft bodybuilder look.
To gain strength, you should avoid failure and lift as heavy as possible in the 1-4 rep range. Lifting in this rep range is what develops muscle tone. Lifting in this range is what will give you myofibrillar growth, it wont make your muscles big, but it will make them strong and really dense, and this is what gives of true tone. There is more to being toned than just having a low body fat. Having a low body fat and dense muscles is what gives off that really nice looking effect.
This is where the 5×5 workout comes in as an intermediary. It is bang in the middle of both strength reps and muscle mass reps. So if you want to gain strength as well as size, performing a 5×5 workout strategically is the right way to go about it. I hope you have now learnt that lifting light weights with high reps will not tone you up and lifting heavy wont give you much muscle mass.
I personally wouldn’t just use the 5×5 workout but would instead use all three to develop an incredible physique. Its a bit like shampoo and conditioner, is it better to use shampoo and conditioner combined? Or better to shampoo and then condition your hair? The answer is to first shampoo and then condition. To build an impressive physique, develop a foundation by building up sarcoplasmic muscle, then start hardening the muscle by using a 5×5 workout and then use strength reps to really bring out true muscle tone while focusing on burning body fat.
If you want more details, try out our Muscle Building With HIIT.