I started working out in January 2014, and managed to drop from 250-260lbs ish to 218lbs in a year and I felt very accomplished. For other reasons, I stopped training and got back to working out on June 6, 2015. I can feel myself getting stronger, and I can feel my muscles. But I can't see them. I don't carry a lot of weight. I only squat/bench a bit over half my weight which is not a lot, but, I don't want to focus a lot on pure strength since my goal is to burn as much fat as I can (without any supplements, pure dieting and gym). I've read reps are what gets you toned. I'm not looking to get hyper ripped either, but, I want my muscles to be noticeable. Should I drop weight on the bar and do more reps, while sacrificing the strength I've gained?

2 Answers 2


I've read reps are what gets you toned.

While this may seem like a simple question to answer, in reality, there's more to it than just increasing reps. That's only part of the total equation. You'll also need to take a closer look at your current nutrition plan and other factors (cardio work, rest, recovery, discipline, consistency, etc.). And, to complicate matters, your age may also play a role in how well you accomplish your goal.

You've indicated that you don't want to be “hyper ripped”. However, as a former bodybuilder, I can tell you that the process of revealing muscle mass is going to be the same. Bodybuilders (natural – non drug using) just push the process a little further, typically through calorie manipulation. In my experiences, when it came time to reveal (for competition) the muscle that I had worked so hard for, I tightened up my diet and mixed high rep training with normal strength training. First, I would try to eat as “clean” as possible, and, do so on a regular consistent basis. And, rather than “sacrificing the strength I've gained”, I would plan my training to include bouts of high rep work while also attempting to maintain strength and size. I also allowed myself a reasonable time period to accomplish my goal.

Should I drop weight on the bar and do more reps, while sacrificing the strength I've gained?

Experiment with your training while keeping your goals in mind. See how your body reacts to different training stimulus whether it's high rep or low rep. There's no reason why you can't do both. And, since you've not indicated any form of cardio work, I'd recommend you look into adding that to your training plan. Then, stick with what provides you the results you want.


First off, let me start off with something: "toning" is a myth. Second, even if you are training for strength, you should still be doing a lot of reps. And a lot of sets. Sets and reps bring volume, volume stresses your body, and your body responds by adapting and becoming bigger and stronger. You would have a hard time finding a weak pro bodybuilder, or a small pro powerlifter. Those two things go together.

If you are lost, a good heuristic to balance your program is this: for each "heavy" rep (think in sets of 5 or less), you should have 2 "medium" reps (think sets of 8) and 3 "light" reps (think sets of 10 to 15) of isolation exercises. It's an approximation, but a good training session would have you do 12-15 heavy reps, 30-50 medium reps, 90-120 light reps, 3 to 4 times a week. This + a light caloric deficit (too big of a deficit = your muscles start wasting away) + time will get you to a better place than doing sets of 30 reps.

As for training in a caloric deficit, I covered that in this answer if you are interested in more details.

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