There is an age-old myth that you need to train with light weights and high reps to achieve more muscular definition and muscle separation. I have to tell you, that simply is not true. If you are striving to achieve a leaner physique based on high rep training you are going about it the wrong way. Whether you are working to get ready for a contest or just want to be leaner for the summer it is important you continue to train heavy to achieve the greatest results.
I often get questioned if I change my training as I get closer to a contest to get leaner. My answer is an emphatic no. Weight training stays the same all year long. I always train heavy because weight training is about building muscle and I know that is best accomplished with overload.
Heavy training will continually create the best stimulus for muscle growth. Don't get confused and think you can turn weight training into a direct fat burning exercise because you can't, no matter how many reps you do.
Fat burning is achieved by creating a gradual caloric deficit between calories ingested and calories expended. This deficit is accomplished with an intelligent diet and the inclusion intense cardio.
Expending more energy (calories) and elevating your metabolic rate for an extended period of time after exercise with cardio in combination with gradual and progressive calorie reductions is the best recipe for fat loss. All the while training heavy to build and maintain muscle throughout your diet. By training heavy, even when your primary goal is to get leaner, you will continue to create the best stimulus for muscle growth. This is to your benefit for greater fat loss because the more muscle you can build and maintain, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be.
You can't spot reduce fat from a specific area no matter how many repetitions you perform. You won't increase muscle separation or definition with high rep training. If you lighten up the weights and increase the reps you are simply reducing the stimulus for muscle growth and ultimately shooting your progress in the foot.
Stick with basic compound lifts and avoid the temptation to do isolation or shaping exercises no matter how much you've read about them in magazines. It is almost standard bodybuilding practice to do isolation exercises like chest flyes or concentration curls to "shape" or define your muscles, but you must remember that exercise selection should always be based on the movements that allow you to achieve the greatest overload because that will allow you to stimulate the most muscle growth. The more muscle you develop, the more separation you'll display when you strip away body fat through intelligent dieting and cardio.
Keep it simple. When you are in the gym always train to build muscle and remember that achieving greater definition and muscle separation is a product of fat loss and that is achieved through diet and cardio NOT high rep training.
Written by: Jeff Willet, IFBB Pro
2003 Team Universe Overall Champion