What Is The Best Rep Range For Mass & Strength?
It’s by far one of the most commonly asked questions on fitness and bodybuilding forums.
I bet you’ve either asked this question yourself, or you’ve seen or heard of someone asking it. And the answer? Well it seems everyone has their own ‘theory’ when it comes to what works best.
So here’s my take on it, from my own personal experience and research
Applying Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is the key to increasing both muscle size and strength. Incase you’re not familiar with the term progressive overload it refers to the ongoing increase of either repetitions, weight or time under tension for a muscle. You can read up on progressive overload on my previous blog post here.
That’s all well and good but in terms of rep range…
The majority of individuals tend to lift within the typical 10 – 15 rep range as prescribed by pro bodybuilders, fitness magazines and internet forums. However, if you’re an average guy that isn’t a genetically blessed god you should be lifting in the single digit rep range for optimal strength and size gains.
Regardless of whether you are in a cutting or bulking phase your workout does not need to change at all, you won’t get increased vascularity or striations by performing a higher number of repetitions, that’s a load of crap. I keep my rep structure the same all year round and simply manipulate my caloric intake based on whether I want to gain mass (calorie surplus) or burn fat (calorie deficit).
I’m certainly not the first person to advocate lifting heavy for fewer reps…
“If you must use dumbbells for daily training, use heavy ones with fewer repetitions rather than light bells with numerous repetitions” – Arthur Saxon, 1906
If you don’t generally train in the lower rep range I recommend you give it a try, stop lifting in the 10 – 15 rep range for at least a month and focus on heavy, low rep sets. Once you start to see results you won’t want to go back.
Now, you may still think high reps are beneficial, but let me tell you they’re far from it.
High repetitions result in increased stress on your CNS, increase in localized inflammation and increased soreness.
“Movements or exercises that do not give the muscle the required resistance, but are the kind that involve a great number of repetitions, never break down any tissue, to speak of. These movements involve a forcing process that cause the blood to swell up the muscle, and simply pump them up”– George F. Jowett, 1926
So should you discard higher rep training completely?
Smaller muscle groups such as the calves and biceps from my experience respond better to a slightly higher rep range (8-12).