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So I've been trying to tone my body for almost a year now. Through most of the year, I've been going very intensive with my workouts and although I was seeing results, they weren't as good as I expected them to be. Because of that, I just gave up and didn't bother with it anymore. A few months later, I got at it again, doing workouts at 25-50 reps each. Its only been a month and I'm seeing much better results. I'm on the exact same diet i was on before. Nothing changed apart from the workout reps...

I thought the more extensive your workouts are the quicker you see better results, right?

So am I wrong - Is it actually better to take it slowly?

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25-50 reps of what? What kind of results? What was the workout before? Providing details helps people provide useful feedback. –  Dave Liepmann May 24 '12 at 12:58
    
Better for what purpose? What are your goals? –  user3085 May 24 '12 at 16:53
    
@navnav have you found any change in your body weight/amount of muscle etc? –  Bee Jun 14 '12 at 0:35
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2 Answers

It is actually better to take it slowly. Recovery is the most important part of gaining strength. With most workout routines that people follow, decreasing the number of sets, decreasing the number of reps per set, decreasing the number of exercises (unless you're just doing 3-4) and increasing the number of rest days between workouts will improve results.

Now this doesn't mean you actually have to take it easy. An extensive workout really isn't the best, but an intensive one still can be very good. You increase the intensity by upping the weights. This is taken to the extreme by only doing a single set of an exercise at a weight you can do no more than 10 reps with (6 reps if you have the capacity to do small increments of weight increase, going up to 10 is sometimes necessary if the smallest jump you can make is 10lbs). Depending on the exercise and whether you have a spotter, you'll cheat on the last rep to get it up when you can't do it properly anymore (you've trained to concentric failure), hold the weight up as long as you can (you've trained to isometric failure) and then lower it as slowly as you can (you've trained to eccentric failure). With other exercises rather than cheating to get up you'll just hold the weight at your sticking point for as long as possible, and then slowly lower back down. It isn't really necessary to go for isometric and concentric failure as well, but it will give you some faster gains without having to scale anything else back.

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When you perform an exercise in high reps, you're preparing your body for enduring long-time load. The body will adjust towards its most efficient way of sustainably performing under these circumstances, which is by having small muscles - they burn less energy. That's how best marathon runners tend to look like - quite lean.

When "toning", you very likely want to be more like a sprinter - having big muscles that can endure short-term higher load. Building your training regime around shorter bursts of more intense workout will tell your body to adjust that way.

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