If you’ve been working out for any length of time than no doubt you’ve heard the debatesover how many reps you should do per set in order to maximize your muscle growth.
– Some people say “high reps for cutting” and “low reps for bulking”.
– Some say “go heavy or go home” and recommend super heavy weights for low reps.
– Others like to train a bit lighter and “pump it up” and strive to keep the musclesunder tension for longer periods of time. But the question that’s on your mind right now is…“Which rep range is the best one and which one should you use in your workouts?”
Well, there is no cut and dried answer to this, in fact you can literally make muscle gains training in all of the above rep ranges provided that you are putting enough demands on the muscle, training in a progressive fashion, and that your nutrition and recovery are adequate to support muscle growth.
But there are some general guidelines that you can follow to help you better structure your bodybuilding workouts and maximize your muscle growth. And that’s what I’m going to share with you here in this article.
Rather than randomly selecting some magic number as your rep range for all your workouts, you need to break things down and get more specific. There is really no such a thing as the one best rep range that works for all exercises. How many reps you do will vary greatly depending on the particular exercise you are doing.
For example, if you were doing deadlifts and then afterwards going to do abdominal crunches. Do you think that you would use the same set and rep pattern for both exercises? Of course NOT.
One is a heavy mass building power move, and the other is a small isolation exercise. They both work the muscles totally differently, so obviously you wouldn’t train these 2 exercises the same way and use the same set and rep patterns.
Certain exercises are classified as Heavy Mass Building Power Moves and they work better for heavy weights and low reps. These are the “meat and potatoes” exercises that should lay the foundation to your muscle building workouts.
Than you have Mid-Range Power Moves that are still basic compound lifts, but these exercises are better worked with higher reps compared to the Heavy Mass Builders.
And finally you have Isolation Moves that are used for targeting specific areas of the muscles. These exercises work better with higher repetitions, lighter weights, and very strict form.
Generally with the heavy power moves your main focus is on moving the weight. With these exercises you should strive to increase the weights you lift on a regular basis (provided you can maintain good form of course). Than as you get into the mid-range and isolation moves your main focus should be on feeling the muscles working and getting a good pump. Rather than simply trying to increase the weights you are lifting.
Some examples of Heavy Power Moves are:
(Best Used With Heavy Weights / Low Reps)
These are big basic free weight exercises that allow heavy weights to be lifted for low reps. The classic 5 sets of 5 reps routine works really well for these exercises. And advanced powerlifters and strongman competitors will even work up to heavier weights by doing heavy triples, doubles, and even single rep sets for these basic powerlifts.
Some examples of Mid-Range Power Moves are:
(Best Used With Moderate Weights / Moderate Reps)
Dumbbell Bench Press:
Dumbbell Shoulder Press:
These are mid-range compound exercises that still allow for heavy weights to be lifted, but work better with moderate repetition range of 6-10 reps per set. These mid-range exercises will make up the majority of your muscle building workout program.
Some examples of Isolation Moves are:
(Best Used With Lighter Weights & Higher Reps)
1 Arm Dumbbell Row:
Side Lateral Raises:
Tricep Kick Backs:
These are isolation exercises that work best when trained with light to moderate weights and high repetitions. Ideally you would use these exercises as finishing moves and do them at the end of your workouts. The idea here is to really pump up the muscles after you’ve already completed your heavier power moves. Keep your reps for these exercises to 10-15 per set, and in some cases you can even perform higher reps (i.e. 20+ reps per set) especially with abs and calves.
These exercises and rep ranges are applicable to most weight training workout programs. However, there will always be exceptions to these rules depending on the particular training program. For example, the classic 20 rep squat routine is one such example of using a heavy mass building power move for high reps. And there will be other times when you may train isolation exercises with heavier weights and lower reps, especially if you are following a body part specialization program such as Blast Your Biceps.
However, the general training guidelines for most workout programs are:
– Heavy Powerlifting Exercises: 5 reps per set
– Mid-Range Compound Exercises: 6-10 reps per set
– Smaller Isolation Exercises: 10-15 reps per set
Now even if you have your weight training program structured perfectly with the correct sets and reps for each exercise, that’s only one piece of the whole muscle building puzzle. What you feed your body is just as important (if not more important) than the actual workouts you do in the gym.
If you don’t have your muscle building nutrition program nailed down pat, than you may end up like a lot of guys who waste their time and effort busting their butt in the gym only to look the same, day after day&, month after month.
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About the Author:
I got started working out when I was 12 years old. In 1990 my dad gaveme a home gym for Christmas, it was a York 2001 machine and a York barbelland dumbbell set. From that point on I was hooked on working out. Duringhigh school I worked out consistently and I would read every bodybuildingand fitness magazine that I could get my hands on. I’d get bodybuildingand exercise books from the library. I would record every bodybuildingcontest that was on television and watch them over and over again.I was obsessed with learning as much about bodybuilding, exercise andnutrition as I could. While in my last year of high school I enteredmy first Bodybuilding contest, The 1995 Newfoundland Provincials,I was 17 years old at the time. Since then I have competed almostevery year in bodybuilding competitions.