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Low Reps vs High Reps for Muscle Growth (Which is Best for You?)

Find out what you should be doing.

Jeremy Ethier explains the relationship between low reps vs high reps for muscle growth, and which is best for you.

Low Reps vs High Reps for Muscle Growth

“How many reps should you do to build muscle” or whether you should train with “high reps vs low reps to build muscle” is a common question I get asked. And rightfully so, because using the right rep ranges within your workout is an extremely important factor for muscle growth, yet is an area of confusion for many lifters. In fact, most of us simply follow what’s known as the “strength-endurance continuum” which is the belief that: training with low reps, for example a powerlifting type routine, is the best for increasing strength but not the best for adding size. Training with high reps on the other hand is best for muscular endurance and again not the best for size. And as a result, there exists a hypertrophy rep range of roughly 6-12 reps, which is often proposed as the best rep range to build muscle.

Low Reps vs High Reps for Muscle Growth

“But the truth is, recent emerging research has indicated that this hypertrophy rep range is actually much bigger than most people realize. In fact, given that 1) volume is equated for, 2) you’re training close to failure, and 3) you’re using a weight that is at least 30% of your 1RM, then muscle growth and size gains will be similar regardless of what rep range you choose to use – therefore disproving the concept of this hypertrophy rep range altogether. However, when you take a step back and start to think about it more practically rather than scientifically, the hypertrophy rep range actually starts to make more sense.”

annie thorisdottir Low Reps vs High Reps for Muscle GrowthSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

“Although lower reps enable you to lift heavier weight, you will need to do more sets in order to match the volume you’d be able to achieve by using higher reps. This in turn can cause a lot of joint aches/pains and burnout if this makes up most of your routine. And the problem with higher reps is that it’s very metabolically taxing and presents risk of injury when doing so with compound movements. However, this doesn’t mean that lower reps and higher reps should be altogether. Lower reps are more beneficial for strength gains and higher reps are great for helping you push through metabolic fatigue.”

Low Reps vs High Reps for Muscle Growth

“Thus, you want to stick to 60-70% of your sets performed in the 6-12 rep range (moderate rep range with moderate weight), 15-20% of your sets performed in the 2-6 rep range (lower reps with heavy weight), and 15-20% of your sets performed in the 12-15+ rep range (higher reps with lighter weight). Doing so will enable you to reap the benefits from all rep ranges.”

“Keep in mind that rep ranges are just one of many factors that you need to optimize in order to see the best results in the gym.”

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Add the Pallof Press and Cable Crunch into your training.


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