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Most Americans will pack on nearly a pound over the holiday season before committing to a solid New Year plan to get back in shape. Almost instinctually, many take to more jaunts with those new running shoes that Santa brought. Others fiddle with the weights, going for high-rep sets without accounting for exercise choice or training intensity. Running will help you burn tons of calories
and studies do show that higher-rep sets, when done to failure, can have a positive impact on muscle growth
. But running too much can waste muscle and training with lighter weight will have very little impact on strength. Your best bet is to commit to going heavy this year.
>> HEAVY TO GET LEAN
On the subject of leaning out, the research is clear: heavy is better. Researchers in Norway found that those who lifted using a weight that only allowed for six reps increased their metabolic rate higher and for longer than those performing 12-rep sets. This also triggers a cascade of hormonal changes
that lead to fat-burning, such as your body's natural growth hormone.
>> HEAVY TO GET BIG AND STRONG
While sets in the 8-12 rep range are anecdotally and scientifically best for size gains
, going heavier for fewer reps -- particularly on major, compound movements -- is how you build beasty strength in the gym. This is an investment in your total body change since more strength allows you to perform more reps with more weight, which adds up to greater improvements in overall body composition
. Plus, you can dazzle your gym brethren with bar-bending loads.
>> GO HEAVY EARLY
If you're committed to enjoying the benefits of high- and low-rep training this year, be sure to do your heavy lifting first, when you are strongest. Or, if you alternate heavy and moderate-weight days, put your big-lift sessions -- with your deadlifts, squats and benches -- earlier in your split. The higher-rep work in the days that follow will increase blood flow
and actually help in recovery. As ever, mind your intensity and be on the lookout for signs of overtraining such as trouble sleeping, decreases in strength and changes to your mood.
So while you flip through pages of dainty men's training mags for flavor-of-the-week routines to help you burn your holiday cookie binge belly, don't abandon the simplicity and effectiveness of striving to push and pull progressively more weight each week in 2013.