Here's what you need to know The author went from a body weight of to pounds using these techniques. Reps: That's what works to build a significant degree of mass. That means sets of between reps. But you need to get stronger within a particular rep range. The "over warm-up" is a technique where you warm up past the weight you plan on using for your rep work.
This allows you to do more reps with the working set than if you'd just worked up to the working-set poundage. The Method is where you pick a weight and try to do it for 50 total reps over the course of three working sets.
Addicted to Muscle Mass Mass. As a young man, nothing grabbed my attention more than that word. It probably had to do with the fact that I weighed pounds when I started training, and most of that was in the mop of hair that sat atop my head.
Once the iron hooked me, my desire to attain hypertrophy was surpassed only by my desire to inhale oxygen. I wanted to be that guy that got second and third looks in public. I wanted the admiration of other lifters and peers. I wanted "sleeve busting arms" and all of those other overdone slogans that defined what muscular mass entailed. Those thoughts kept a fire lit under my ass during the time when progress was slow or absent and I felt like quitting.
When you have that kind of passion for something, you really leave yourself with only one option: get better, or in this case, get bigger. As such, I devoured every magazine and book I could find on training and eating for mass. I'm thankful I didn't have the internet back then because I'm positive I would've been paralyzed by the amount of information at my disposal.
Since information was far more limited, I was forced to follow some guidelines and, over time, develop my own theories and methods that eventually served me quite well, well enough that I sit here writing this at a relatively lean pounds.
The best thing about having a limited amount of information was that I was forced to put in the work and be introspective about what theories worked and which ones didn't. I didn't get bombarded with scientific studies or forum arguments between guys who weren't any bigger than I was.
How Many Reps To Build Muscle? Depends On The Type Of Muscle You Want To Build!
So I went to the source: big and strong guys. More often than not, I found successful guys adhering to the same principles. I found out that I wasn't a special snowflake and that these principles worked just as well for me. I simply made adjustments to them based on my own personal preferences and recovery ability. Here then are some of the most effective techniques I used over the years to really pack on the mass.
One of the rules of getting larger is that you must get stronger. I've never found a way around this dilemma. Eventually you must load the bar with more weight, for more reps, than you'd been using previously.
But the key is a little word in that last sentence. You need to get stronger within a particular rep range. That means sets of between 8 and 20 for the most part. Not singles, doubles, or triples. There's a reason virtually every bodybuilder on the planet does lots of reps: because that's what works to build a significant degree of mass. What I've found to be most effective are sets of for upper-body work and sets of for lower-body work.Find out what people from our popular message boards think If you were looking to build muscle as fast as you can, how many sets per bodypart and per workout would you perform?
What rep range or ranges would you use per set? Give detailed reasons why you believe these ranges are the best, and use as much personal experience AND scientific proof as you can. What is the most muscle not just weight that a person can gain naturally in 12 weeks? What is the average amount that a person could expect to gain with a good workout, diet, and supplement plan?The Best Reps, Sets And Rest When Training?
Bodybuilders have known intuitively for decades that high volume training is the quickest way to big muscles. When bodybuilding split from Olympic weightlifting in the s, most serious musclemen began training with higher reps and multiple sets Fair, It's not because they "felt like it". It's because they saw that it worked. Exercise science has come a long way since the s.
It's no longer a matter of "seeing is believing". We're now able to pinpoint why higher reps and multiple sets work so well at a biological level. Muscle growth hypertrophy is caused by a buildup of proteins.
Weight training causes microtrauma tiny tears in muscle fibres McDonagh et al, ; Gibala et al, The body responds to the damage by increasing the amount of protein going into the muscles. This continues for up to two days after weight training Gibala et al, b.
The rate of repair and muscle growth is also positively affected by testosterone and other hormones Kraemer et al, ; Adams, Weight training increases the release of these muscle-building hormones in your body Raastad et al, The rate of hypertrophy that occurs during this "healing" process depends on the type of muscle fibre involved.
Fast twitch fibres respond better than slow twitch fibres Alway et al; McCall et al, Individuals with more fast twitch fibres will grow bigger, quicker. There is an inverse link between strength gains and hypertrophy Sale, When you lift weights, your muscles learn to work better through neural adaptation and you become stronger.
However, your body recruits less muscle fibre the more it adapts Ploutz et al, And the less muscle fibre you stimulate, the less you grow. Trained Olympic lifters, for example, were shown over a two-year period to have significant strength increases with barely noticeable increases in muscle mass Hakkinen et al, My strength went up like crazy, but I gained very little size.
Obviously, traditional strength training with low volume and low sets reps, 3 or less sets is not the best approach. Strength training does cause hypertrophy Hakkinen et al,but it won't cause maximum hypertrophy. High volume, multiple set programs reps, 3 to 6 sets have been shown to create greater hypertrophy for two important reasons:.
Remember the muscle-building process described in Grow Baby, Grow? Microtrauma stimulates increased protein synthesis, and muscle growth is positively affected by a number of hormones that are released after weight training.
High volume, multiple set programs cause more microtrauma and greater hormone secretion-so the end result is more muscle!What do you think is going to do that more effectively? But lets get into a little more details on exactly why that is. The first thing you need to know is that each body part is different. Fast twitch fibers are for high performance and respond best to low repslower overall training volume, more rest between sets and lower overall training frequency.
These muscles have the greatest potential for growth. Slow twitch fibers are more for endurance and respond better to higher reps, slightly more volume, less rest between sets and a bit more frequency. These muscles have less potential for growth. If you were to train one fiber type exclusively it would be the fast twitch fibers. The big takeaway is that, regardless of the body part you are training you should focus most of your efforts on low rep training.
Natural lifters will get far better gains by doing most of their sets in the rep range than they will from typical high volume approaches.
Training with low reps will increase myofibrillar hypertrophy. This is actual real growth of the muscle fibers. This is an increase in the fluid volume stored in the muscles, consisting of non-contractile tissue. You only get a small amount of actual size increases and it goes away rather quickly.
Muscle built through low rep and heavy weight training always maintains the same dense look. And if you take a week or two off of training it can look like you lost ten pounds. Lower reps come with a lower injury risk when training the big lifts. When you go higher than that on the big lifts the injury risk increases exponentially with each rep as form starts to deteriorate. When you squat for high reps your lower back will crap out from fatigue long before your legs do.
Remember that one of the keys to developing strength, while remaining injury free, is the ability to maximize tension. You can only maximize tension for about six reps, maybe eight, tops. But when you start adding fatigue and labored breathing into the equation your form deteriorates. When that happens you form breaks down. Then you eventually get injured. When you focus on low reps in your training you will find that you suffer from less overall systemic fatigue than you do when training with traditional high rep, bodybuilding style workouts.
This is huge if you are an athlete, a weekend warrior, or someone who just wants to feel great all the time. When I start doing too much high rep pump work I feel like Frankenstein just trudging along the sidewalk. The higher reps sets always produce more soreness even if the total reps are the same.
This means that doing five sets of six 30 total reps will produce less soreness than three sets of ten 30 total reps.
How Many Reps Should You Do to Build Muscle? The Shocking Truth
I love being fresh and ready for anything that life throws at me. Some muscles are predominantly fast twitch, some are predominantly slow twitch, and others are mixed. But before get into let me just state that again that newbies should always stick with low rep training, no matter what.There are some problems with this general thinking.
First, muscles don't count reps, so these numbers could be completely different for someone who takes 10 seconds to complete one rep, compared to someone who takes 2 seconds for each rep. Muscle Mass for slow twitch fibers - 12 - 20 or more reps per set such as thighs and calves, and for some this still includes the outdated notion of high reps for definition.
Misapplication Of Reps. A good example of this misapplication is recommendations by the late Mike Mentzer. Mike usually recommended 6 to 10 reps per set. People then got the notion that Heavy Duty was about lifting extremely heavy weights but in truth this was not the case.
Mike advocated rep speeds that took about 10 seconds to complete each rep. For 6 reps, that's 60 seconds of TUL. However, the way most people perform reps, that's only about 12 - 18 seconds. That's a huge difference, which would result in a huge difference in weight used and probably a big difference in the progress the trainee made. This is a very important part of this concept that has gotten lost over the years.
When studies were done that showed 8 - 12 repetitions was the optimal number of reps in a set for most people, the accepted cadence was 2 seconds for the raising positive part of the rep and 4 seconds negative for the lowering of the weight.
Each repetition took 6 seconds to complete for a total rep time of 48 - 72 seconds for the entire set. This is a vital fact of exercise physiology to understand if you wish to optimize your progress.
Muscles Don't Count Reps! While weight training to add muscle mass, muscle tension beyond a certain point, and maintained within a certain time frame without moving into aerobic territorycauses the chemical reactions in the muscle that triggers the adaptive response. With enough rest before the next workout, this allows the muscle to over compensate and grow larger and stronger. The amount of tension or load placed on the muscle, and the amount of time the muscle can maintain that tension are inversely proportional.
Does that sound familiar? Yes, once again, to add muscle, you must work out harder, not longer. You need to use enough tension to keep your body from using its aerobic power, but not so much tension that you don't keep the muscle under tension long enough to elicit a positive anaerobic reaction. This is where the 8 - 12 repetition guide came from. The problem is that the repetition guide was born out of the recommended time under load, not the other way around.
Eventually, the 8 - 12 reps were always prescribed, and the time under load fell by the way side. Unfortunately, it was the time under load recommendation of 48 - 72 seconds per set that was the reason the 8 - 12 reps were effective. Next time you go to the gym to workout, pay attention to the rep speed of the vast majority of people in your gym. In The Gym You will find two things. One, almost no one counts the time under load, or rep speed. And the rep speed of the majority of trainees is about 1 second up and 1 second down.
For a set of 8 - 12 reps, most of them have a time under load of about 16 - 36 seconds, at most. This is far below the effective recommendation. The only way to accurately measure progress, and to ensure that you are keeping the muscle under adequate tension, is to use seconds to measure time under tension, and not number of repetitions. Excluding such things as mental effort, fast twitch fibers respond best with a tension time of approximately 40 - 50 seconds.
Slow twitch more endurance oriented respond best with a tension time of 90 - seconds, while a mixture of the two does well with a time under load of approximately 50 - 90 seconds. As you can see, most trainees today use load times well below the most effective tension times for inducing a positive response in their body. They also ignore the fact that the ideal time under tension or number of repsmost likely varies from muscle to muscle within the same individual. In addition, they compound the problem by trying to make up for this by adding more and more sets.
All they end up doing is cutting into the muscles recovery time and never allowing it to over compensate and grow larger and stronger.Wanna start a fight?
Walk into a room filled with strength coaches, personal trainers, and exercise physiologists, and ask how many reps per set you should be doing to build muscle.
Then take cover. High reps, medium reps, low reps—each approach has been touted as an ideal way to build muscle. Stalwarts in the exercise business argue with deep-rooted passion, but incontrovertible conclusions are rare, leaving the average Joe wondering: Okay, which range should I use to get bigger? Here we build separate cases for high, medium and low reps and render a verdict on which is the best choice for increasing muscle mass. The weight room will now come to order.
So what, you ask? Simply put, type-2 fibers are where the potential for growth resides, and they respond only to heavy weights at least 75 percent of your one-rep max. High-rep training is, however, an excellent means of increasing muscular endurance. In weight training, one adage has stood the test of time: To get big, you have to get strong.
Taking that to an extreme, many lifters adopt a powerlifting approach, coupling very heavy weights with low reps. However, low-rep training has one significant shortcoming: Muscle-fiber stimulation, and thus growth, is correlated closely to the amount of time a muscle is under tension.
The time-under-tension theory leads us to our third suspect: 8—rep sets. At a cadence of two seconds on the concentric lifting action and two seconds on the eccentric lowering movement, your set will end up right in the middle of the optimum to second range for a given set of exercise. Why is that range critical? Because when the set lasts longer than a few seconds, the body is forced to rely on the glycolytic-energy system, which leads to the formation of lactic acid. When lactic acid, or lactate, pools in large amounts, it induces a surge in anabolic hormone levels within the body, including the ultrapotent growth hormone and the big daddy of muscle-building, testosterone.
The increased time under tension also leads to more muscle damage, imperative if you plan on getting larger any time soon. Theoretically, the longer a muscle is contracted, the greater the potential for damage to the tissue. The moderate-rep range, when coupled with a challenging weight, will also bring about a much-desired condition: the muscle pump. That tight, full feeling under the skin, caused by blood pooling in the muscle, has value beyond its ego-expanding qualities.The optimal number of reps per set to achieve maximum muscle growth is a fiercely debated and disputed subject amongst the bodybuilding community.
So, back to the question — what rep range should you really be training in to maximize muscle growth? There is much more overlap than people think, as increases in muscle mass are seen across of wide spectrum of repetition ranges.
With that said, there is a narrow rep range to work within most of the time to optimize when training for gains in muscle size. Of course, there is plenty of overlap a lot, actually in result outcomes across these ranges, as you can see from this visual illustration. And lifting outrageously heavy weights that induce trembling arms and bloodshot eyes is not the catalyst, either.
Growth stimuli from resistance exercise is caused by a combination of mechanical tension and fatigue induced metabolic stress, and to some degree, muscle damage. The magnitude and the duration of the load lifted creates the stimuli that brings about hypertrophic adaptations. Now, some of you might be thinking, heavier weight lifted means more tension, and that more tension means more muscle growth.
Moderately heavy weight provides a good balance between the two, meaning your trained muscle will get an optimal combination of growth stimuli. To help you understand how load and reps impact growth, you need to understand something called your one rep max or 1RM. Metabolic stress also causes muscle cell swelling and increased muscle fibre recruitment — factors that contribute to growth promotion of the whole muscle.
Cell swelling is a phenomenon that increases intracellular hydration and has been shown to increase protein synthesis and reduce muscle degradation, which is really the key drivers behind augmenting muscle tissue. They fatigue easily and are the most powerful. The lower body tends to have slightly more type 1 fibers compared to the upper body.
It would make sense to assume that lighter, high rep sets would favor growth of type 1 fibers, and that heavier, low rep sets would favor growth of type 2 fibers. There is some scientific evidence out there to support this theory.
The aforementioned 8 — 12 rep range gives the best combination of muscle fiber recruitment, metabolic stress, mechanical tension, and time under tension for the goal of muscular hypertrophy. To build muscle, you need to maximize muscle protein synthesis and inhibit protein breakdown.
A study in conducted by Kumar et al. Journal of Applied Physiology measured the fluctuations in muscle protein synthesis after weight training. This means that the muscles are not receiving enough time under tension to trigger the adaptive growth response, or any metabolic stress.
So, training anywhere between 8 — 12 reps to concentric failure is the optimum rep range for muscle growth. Studies show that training within this moderate range with a weight you can handle with good form is best for building mass.That being said, a number of studies have been done on how different rep ranges affect your ability to build mass.
Greg Nuckols of Strengtheory. In other words, different rep ranges caused very little difference in muscle growth.
These reps will place enough stress on your body to induce muscle growth, but avoid overstressing your body and extending your recovery time. And this means that your average rep will be higher quality. Think of how many guys start half squatting or half benching when they get close to their max.
And this results in lower quality reps for the remainder of your workout… and less gains throughout the week. And this means you get more high quality reps over the course of the week, resulting in more mass being built. Different exercises require different amounts of power, stabilization, and mobility. And this makes different rep ranges better suited to different exercises. Reason: Barbell compound movements allow you to move more weight and build more strength than any other exercises.
Also, form can break down after a few reps, and the risk of serious injury is greater than with most exercises. However, there are still reasons to use other rep ranges.
Some exercises, such as deadlifts, are better suited to lower reps for example. For example, using low reps builds more strength and power, while using high reps builds more endurance and oftentimes leads you to improving your form. Therefore, I suggest you incorporate all rep ranges into your training, while focusing most of your sets in the range. Great article. Far too many contradictory, anecdotal information out there on this topic. This explains it all very well.
Excellent article. I came across it by searching for rep ranges for the deadlift. Nice guidelines David, simplifies things greatly. Will have to keep these rep ranges in mind.
The Rep Range That Builds the Most Muscle
I think most people discount the quality of work for the quantity but as you say not every rep is going to be the same and that is going to make a big difference. Thanks Charles. David, once again, thanks for your advices. After a deload week and getting back on track, I now have a more clear vision of the reps for each kind of exercise which is very important for mass.
Hi from colombia, How about velocity? Hi Andres, in general I recommend a slow, controlled negative going down and a fast, explosive concentric going up. What I miss is what you think about time under tension. IMO that counts more than the number of reps. Plus, how many sets do you recommend? TUT and number of sets are at least equally important as the number of reps. ATM I do 1 set to failure some exercises focusing on exentric, some reducing the weights after 6 reps etc.
Quick contractions actually recruit more muscle fibers and motor units than slow reps, so focusing on increasing TUT can even hinder your progress. We can all tolerate different levels of volume, so the main thing is to gradually increase over time IMO. Should i not do any 5 rep work with dumbbells even though i am only doing it once per week with upper and lower body?
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