Q: Is it better to push myself so hard that I can't finish my full workout or to conserve enough energy to finish every last rep?
A: People respond differently to various training stimuli, so one method isn't always better than the other. In other words, what may be very effective for one person, may not be as effective for someone else. That said, both approaches can deliver the results you want. The key to knowing which method is best for you depends on two things:
1. Your training goal
2. How easily you recover from your individual training sessions
If your goal is to lose fat (get leaner), then alternating between both of these approaches can be a very effective strategy.
Here's my suggestion:
Phase One (3-4 weeks)
Focus on building strength in each of the exercises you're performing. Choose a desired repetition bracket, like 8-10 (since we are trying to get stronger) for each exercise, and then pick a weight (load) that allows you to complete your last repetition within that bracket with perfect form. Essentially, the load should allow you to complete at least the minimum number of desired reps but no more than the maximum. If you can do one more rep than the maximum prescribed, you need to increase the resistance.
During this phase, keep your rest periods to about 60-75 seconds between sets. This longer rest period will allow you to sufficiently recover from each set.
After building your strength for three to four weeks, shift your focus to improving strength-endurance. During this phase, perform between 12-15 reps and/or 15-20 reps for each exercise and rest a maximum of 30 seconds between sets. Also, try stringing together all of your exercises so that they become an entire circuit. Here's an example of what the circuit might look like:
Note: During weeks one and two, perform the circuit 3 times. For weeks three and four, complete 4 circuits total.
|Reverse Lunges||3-4||12-15/side||Up to 30 secoonds|
|Pushups||3-4||12-15||Up to 30 secoonds|
|Swiss Ball Leg Curls||3-4||12-15||Up to 30 secoonds|
|Single-Arm Dumbells Rows||3-4||12-15/side||Up to 30 secoonds|
|Lateral Walk with Mini-Band||3-4||15-20/side||Up to 30 secoonds|
|TRX High Row||3-4||12-15||Up to 30 secoonds|
|Val Slide Mountain Climber||3-4||12-15/side||120 seconds|