Are You Sabotaging Your Gains with the Wrong Rep Range?


oly-lifter-back-miloIf you’re a genetically average, steroid-free dude who’s struggling to gain muscle you should forget about doing anything above eight reps for a while.

All the magic, for guys like you, occurs in the 5-8 range.

Lower reps are far superior to the typical 12-15 prescriptions you get from pro bodybuilders. Especially if you have less than two years of proper training experience.

Heavy training targets the muscle fibers with the greatest potential for growth and builds size and strength more effectively than light training will for the typical so called “hardgainer” or skinny guy.

Shocking info, I know.

When you’re a skinny, weak maggot you need some serious overload to kick your body into an anabolic state.

Low reps provide that much needed overload. Simply pumping out sets of 12-15 on a pulldown or dumbbell press won’t cut it. You need to load up the bar for a heavy set of 5-8.

If you must use dumbbells for daily training, use heavy ones with fewer repetitions rather than light bells with numerous repetitions. ” – Arthur Saxon, 1906

In the Golden Era of Physical Culture real men trained with low reps and heavy weight (like my Muscle Gaining Secrets program) to build incredible size and strength. They felt that high reps tired them out and were all but worthless.

Mass monster, Captain Kirk Karwoski seemed to live on a diet of 5’s in his workouts.

Olympic lifters like David Rigert (pictured below) have developed awe inspiring levels of muscle mass with nothing but six reps and under.

The Negatives of High Rep Training

Low reps, performed explosively have a very beneficial effect on the CNS. They energize you and keep you fresh while high rep training, done to excess, can drain you.

When you have less than a few years of serious training under your belt your work capacity will be fairly low. In that case, higher reps cause more overall systemic fatigue and lead to greater levels of soreness. They also cause more localized inflammation.

That’s why when you embark on a high rep program you may look a bit bigger but most of the initial size you put on is intracellular fluid, increased glycogen storage, edema and just overall swelling from the trauma inflicted.

This systemic fatigue and soreness limits your ability to train more frequently in a fresher state, which limits your ability to build muscle faster.

People get confused and claim that they shrink when they abandon high reps. They are actually right; you will shrink. But it’s not real muscle that you’re losing. It’s just swelling.

“Movements or exercises that do not give the muscles 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 muscles, and simply pump them up.”
-George F. Jowett, The Key to Might and Muscle, 1926

Why Lower Rep Training is Actually Safer

Lower reps come with a lower injury risk when training the big lifts. I don’t believe in doing any of the traditional powerlifting or Olympic lifting exercises for more than six reps unless you are a master of technique with years of experience.

Even in that case I’d only do it on a squat or press; never a deadlift or Olympic lifting variation. Both of those would be better suited for sets of 1-3 reps most of the time.

When you go higher than that on the big lifts the injury risk increases exponentially with each rep as form starts to deteriorate. You’d be far safer doing triples with a weight you could handle five or six times.

Remember that one of the keys to developing strength is the ability to maximize tension. You can only maximize tension for 5-6 reps, tops.

That is why numerous strength coaches have always advocated limiting reps to six and under for anyone interested in boosting performance.

An example of the muscle building power of low rep training.

Can You Ever Go Above 8 Reps?

Sure. On exercises like kettlebell swings and snatches I wouldn’t advise going under eight reps. If you’re doing direct neck work you’d want to stay above eight as well, just purely for safety. Things like sledgehammer swings will be done for higher reps and any type of drag or carry can be done for a longer duration than it would take you to complete eight reps.

When you’re injured and rehabbing something you can also do higher reps. In fact, you’d be wise to do so.

And after you’ve gotten strong and have been training for several years you may actually never go LOWER than eight reps. If you’re over 35 and pretty well experienced you may find that sticking with the 8-10 range works best for you.

But, in general, if you’re after high-performance muscle and want to avoid excessive fatigue and soreness I’d keep it eight and under on most of your other exercises.

If you’re struggling to gain size and strength, have average genetics and are drug-free I’d be willing to bet the farm that you’ll get far superior results with low rep training.

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232 Responses to Are You Sabotaging Your Gains with the Wrong Rep Range?

  1. Kerry May 10, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    Wow…I’m shocked to know that heavier weights and lower reps are superior to high reps like the magazines say….

    Way to preach it brotha! I’ve trained heavy for years with minimal issues and stay make progress. I wish more people would understand this concept and stop with the P90X and insanity nonsense.

    • eric May 14, 2012 at 9:20 am #

      Amen,I used to lift light to moderate for anywhere between 12-20 reps.No more,go heavy as i can for 6-8,and have gained strength,size and lost fat

  2. Lucas May 10, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Jason, should we be keeping the amount of sets low as well? Or higher sets with lower reps?

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:01 am #

      Usually there is an inverse relationship but it really depends on how many workouts per week you do and your frequency per movement pattern.

  3. Richard May 10, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    I tired low reps for about 1-year and got a good base. But switched to high 8-12 reps and it really sped up my development and strength. I also felt there were noticable cardio benefits in the higher range. I agree that most skinny dudes waste time And effort and really never shock their CNS enough when they do high reps–not to mention selecting appropriate exercises. Congrats on your numptuial

  4. David May 10, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    Good article, as always.

  5. Umberto May 10, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Hello Jay, how does that apply to bodyweight exercises? I remember from a recent post that you said that on bodyweight exercises in some of them a good number to get to was 20 picture perfect reps. Thanks.

    • Jarrod May 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      You can still go low with bodyweight exercises by increasing the leverage such as handstand pressups, one legged pistols, one armed pressups/chins etc, or the various stages leading up to the exercies.
      By doing this you can train more frequently even everyday for a week or two is the reps are kept to 5 or less. This can lead to fast gains in strength.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:03 am #

      I wrote those numbers as a way for people to test themselves. In general all the same rules apply to handstand pushups, ring dips, chins, pistols, etc. as would apply to barbell lifts.

  6. Hannah May 10, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    As a woman, I fucking love low-rep lifts. I got lucky when I first wanted to learn to work out; I have a good friend who is a serious strength lifter and insisted I do low-rep, heavy weight sets of barbell exercises. I did, and I went from being unable to do a push-up to banging them out for warm-ups and doing multiple sets of dips and pull-ups unassisted. I can bench, squat, and deadlift well above my body weight and I look great doing it too.

    I may have never done high rep sets, but the personal trainers at my gym love to prescribe them to the other women at the gym. After a little more than a year of lifting I look better and can lift WAY more than those following the trainer’s advice.

  7. Jeremy May 10, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    I tend to switch every 6-8 weeks between high rep and low rep training. You’re right that my muscles recover faster from the workout and I can hit the gym more often during the week with low rep high weight training, but to be honest, low rep heavy lifting makes me feel like shit for at least 30-40 minutes after working out. I am completely drained and it takes a while before I’m amble to function and start my day.

    Is there anything I can do to recover faster from the workout itself, or is that just part of pushing yourself to the limit every workout?

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:05 am #

      You named it- you’re pushing yourself to the limit every workout.

      This article won’t make sense unless you truly understand submaximal training and how to stay far from failure and always be explosive.

  8. Rob C May 10, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Hey. Thanks for this info! I’ve started a new program w/ low reps on two days and high reps on one day a week. After reading this, I’ll do low reps for all three days. I do have a question: What if you are 46 years old, like *ahem* me? DO you still recommend low reps for my workouts?

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:06 am #

      Rob- I still use sets in the 5-8 range with guys your age but always with a 10-12RM and low rest periods, staying far from failure.

  9. Craig L. May 10, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    I like to cycle between 2 weeks heavy lifting (sets of 4-6 reps) and 1 week light (7-10 reps). I find changing things up helps with my motivation, gives my tendons and joints a break, keeps things new and exciting, and also allows for the benefits of both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

  10. sean May 10, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Thanks Jason, great article.

    Someone told me ” for triceps: lower reps with heavy weight; and for biceps: higher reps with lighter weight”. How many reps is the best for biceps?

    The program Im using now is about 4 weeks for 8-12 reps, and 4 weeks for 5-8 reps, in these two periods, I’m usually take 8-9 reps in average. Sometimes I do feel ‘Shrink’..

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:09 am #

      If you’re doing direct biceps work it’s better to up the reps a bit into the 8-15 range otherwise your wrists and elbows can take a beating.

      • jay March 5, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

        I read somewhere else it is just the.opposite. Biceps have more white fibers and triceps red ones. Any.thoughts on this?

  11. JONESY May 10, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    I agree 100% Jason this is my usual program in 1 way or the other. Myself I have 1 week left of German volume training which is as you know high reps pushin 50% or less or my 1RM. The weeks leading up to it my workouts were stale and I have been dealing with injury. So Decided to rock the boat for 6 weeks with this. I definitively leaned out shorts that didnt fit a month ago are fitting HA and when im done I will check my PRs for gains YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS

  12. Alex May 10, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    I think that the exercise itself and its range of motion should be also considered, i think youre referring mostly to compounds.. in short range of motion exercises the time under tension will be much less and the energy system will be a different one if using the same rep range as on a compound..

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:10 am #

      Time under tension per set has nothing to do with size or strength.

  13. Suneet Sebastian May 10, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Couldn’t agree with you more Jason.
    Its good to see I’m not the only preacher of the low-rep training

    Maximal overload is what recruits maximal muscle fibers. Recruiting maximum muscle fibers is what stimulates maximum muscle growth.

    And particularly love how you mentioned how low rep training works for “drug free” trainees
    Often, people doing roids and lifting pansy ass weights end up serving as a wrong example to fitness enthusiasts

    Research has proven that a person on steroids and NO Training gains more muscle than someone who trains but without steroids
    That should be enough for someone to disregard a trainee on drugs

    Low rep training is what causes myofibrillar growth(actual muscle growth) whereas high rep training stimulates sarcoplasmic growth (increase in sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscles)
    How difficult is that to understand?

    Anyway…
    Thanks for the lovely article
    Keep em coming

    Sincerely yours,
    Suneet Sebastian

    • Scott Tousignant May 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      Great point on the muscle recruitment. That’s a HUGE benefit to lifting heavy and in the lower rep range. This benefit carries over when I perform the higher rep ranges. That’s why I feel that all rep ranges can feed off of each other. The lower reps and heavier weight definitely creates a nice dense muscle.

      It’s nice that “drug free” was mentioned, but not everyone who trains in a higher rep range and not every bodybuilder is on “roids”. You could say the same for the big powerlifters who are training in the low rep range. They are incredible beasts, but many of them are taking pharmaceuticals as well. So are those people who are on roids and lifting heavy ass weight that I could never dream of lifting setting a better example than the bodybuilder lifting “lighter” weight and on roids?

      There’s drugs in all sports, but that doesn’t mean everyone is taking them.

    • PK May 12, 2012 at 6:08 am #

      for maximum strength its not abt recruiting the most muscle fibers but recruiting the the most possible amount of fast twitch fibers. just to clear it up a bit :)

  14. Brian May 10, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    After back surgery, lifting heavy has been a bit tricky as too much vertical load can cause problems. I don’t want to go thru that again. Note: injury was from car accident. That means, lighter weight higher rep ranges. I was not satisfied and decided to try to combine a few methods. Jason is correct, the low ranges work and allow for much better recovery. My solution was to use a weight that allowed me to lift in 6 seconds (4 down/2 up) and shoot for about 8 reps with good form. this means an average of 48 seconds per lift. A great measurement. I was able to increase all my weights this way and can see more strength and muscle already. The bottom line is you always have to do more each workout, however, you have to be able to measure it. Once muscles perceive less work, they usually atrophy (shrink). I don’t believe any of us (in the fitness industry) have a perfect solution. But, you cannot continue to overtrain and expect results.

  15. Dave May 10, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Great article…I am now in my 50′s and have been lifting weights for 35+ years…2 years ago I tore my bicep tendon deadlifting – and may have avoided that – had I stuck to lower reps (especially for something like deadlifting as you mention….I now start each work-out with 1 power exercise (squats, deadlift, bench press, overhead press) and do 5 sets of 5…and then add 2-3 more exercises – where I keep the reps below 10 – unless they are body weight exercises (eg. plyo squates, hand stand push-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, pull-ups etc.) where I will go as hih as I can
    .
    I woiuld very much value you (Jason) writing an article with training suggestions/routines for folks who want to continue to gain strength when they are over 50….

    Thanks again for your articles and tips.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:12 am #

      Dave- That’s going to be my next Renegade Inner Circle program.

  16. Scott Tousignant May 10, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Personally, I believe that there is great benefit to all rep ranges, which is why I incorporate them all into each workout. This is where I’ve experienced the best gains… and I used to be a self proclaimed hard gainer.

    One of the reasons why I found it difficult to gain muscle was because I was sticking with only the higher 8-15 rep range with little to no rest between sets. This was great for keeping me fit and lean, but I struggled to put on mass.

    Once I began to incorporate strength training into my workouts my results went through the roof. But I emphasize that I INCORPORATED strength training… not ONLY used strength training. The higher rep ranges definitely play a key role in my overall physique development as do the heavy lifts for low reps.

    I’m just coming off of a 4 week program where I focused solely on strength and the lower rep range. It was indeed a nice change of pace and I really enjoyed lifting the big weights throughout the entire workouts. My joints do feel good and recovery has gone well. I wouldn’t say that I have more energy. Taxing your CNS can be draining.

    It’s a different feeling, and I definitely feel better off for taking that month to focus on the lower rep range. This week and next week I am focused on training with resistance bands, which is really helping me blast through my strength plateaus, then I will get back to incorporating all the rep ranges into my training.

    So, I guess to sum this up… I hear what you are saying… but I guess that I don’t necessarily agree with the whole black and white stance.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:17 am #

      Scott- The Renegade Method of training uses low reps but not the way most people do. When used the way I teach, with low rest periods, ramping weights, staying far from failure, being explosive on each rep and letting speed dictate when the set is over you actually do have far more energy. It stimulates the CNS vs draining it.

      That’s why the huge caveat to this article should have been that if you (not you personally) haven’t grasped the concept of being explosive and staying far from failure then you should ignore everything I wrote.

      For most people low rep training will beat them up and fry their CNS. But they’re doing it completely opposite of the way I have people do it.

      I’d really need to get people in the gym for them to experience the difference.

      • Scott Tousignant May 11, 2012 at 5:20 am #

        Cool man! Makes sense… and by the sounds of all these comments and all of your success stories you can’t argue with the results.

  17. Niel Rishoi May 10, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    I began doing lower reps when I had the good fortune to happen upon “Muscle Gaining Secrets”. I had spent the previous X number of years doing high reps. The longest plateau period ever.

    When I began doing low reps, working up to heavier weights, real results came. Strength, never my strongest point, finally arrived.

    Excepting arms and legs at certain intervals, everything else is low reps.

    It works.

  18. Robby C May 10, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Jason,

    Would you recommend the same philosophy for the 50-over lifter?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:17 am #

      Robby- Sets of 5-8 with a 10-12RM, lower rest periods, etc.

  19. Connor May 10, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Is this method good or bad for increasing fast twitch muscle fibers? I want to maintain or increase athletic performance/explosiveness while gaining bulk.

  20. Marci May 10, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Does the same theory apply to females looking to gain muscle? I remember reading an article where you stated that they tend to do better with slightly higher reps and a higher overall training volume. What would you suggest for a woman whose goal is to develop a physique like your lovely wife’s :)

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:19 am #

      Marci- Instead of 3-8 go with 5-10 and the occasional lower body set of 12-15.

  21. Robert May 10, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Jay,
    Great Post. I whole heartedly agree with the lower rep ranges for big barbell lifts of any kind. But, I think going strictly bodyweight is a bit safer to extend rep ranges due to the lack of external loading. Plus it’s fun and exciting to rep out push-ups or pull-ups from time to time and kind provide that competitive atmosphere that get’s everyone excited to train. But over all yeah, good philosophy.

  22. mr. p May 10, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Yea I think mixing up reps is better than just staying in one type of rep range. I found that sticking to 1 range gets boring after a while but complete newbies should stick to lower reps. I definately would not completely ignore higher reps. Everyone has to see what works for them. When it comes to bodybuilding/strength training, nothing is ever just black and white. But you cant go wrong with lower reps.

  23. Maximus May 10, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    One size doesn’t fit all. I got excellent results performing 6-12 rep range and gained 40 pounds over a 2 year period. When I performed lower reps, my joints and ligaments suffered. I think you just need to find what works best for you. Most people that label themselves hardgainers, really aren’t they are a genetically typical person that hasn’t dedicated themselve to the hard work and proper training, along with the proper nutrition to go along with it. Dial in proper macronutrients and stay consistant in the gym and the muscle bellies will grow!

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:20 am #

      Maximus- I agree about the hardgainer label.

  24. Matt May 10, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    How many sets per week and how many excercises per body part on low reps? Would u consider this HIT training?

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:21 am #

      Matt- That’s a very difficult question to answer. Too many factors. No I don’t. That’s the last thing I’d consider it.

  25. Jon Cooper May 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    I always used to train with sets of for hyper trophy but found I had better gains working to sets of 5. My progress stalled recently and was looking to drop some body fat without losing size. I started Jim stoppani’s 12 week shortcut to size last week which is sets of 15 for the first week. I was sore for 3 days after each workout, could barely walk for 2 days after the legs session. It distupted my sleep and felt as though i was on the verge of overtraining.The rep range has come down to 11 this week and still feels uncomfortable for a couple of days post workout. I’ve tweaked my diet and am feeling better this week. I’m going to stick it out now as I feel I’m over the worst of it as the rep’s continue to fall. I certainly won’t be making 15 rep sets part of my long term training plan!

  26. Ben May 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    I messed up my shoulders doing high reps and supersets with light weights. I also made almost zero size gains. I even trained as a personal trainer and still didn’t have a clue. Thanks to the advice on this site I’ve fixed up my shoulders and started to make the size and strength gains I was chasing in the past. Thanks for your help Jason and congratulations on your marriage.

  27. Hugh May 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Jason, your site is brilliant! This advice has convinced me to go back to heavy, low rep, compound moves, which is where my biggest gains have come in the past.

    Do you see any benefit from training say 1 week every 5 in the high rep range to keep your muscles guessing, or is that more magazine rubbish?

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:23 am #

      Hugh- You could certainly do that for a break.

  28. Joe May 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Do you do 5 reps 3 sets? Or just one set?

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:24 am #

      Joe- If you are strong and advanced you’d take 5-10 sets and work up to one top end set. If you are more of a beginner you’d usually do 4-8 sets with the same weight.

      • Joe May 11, 2012 at 7:02 am #

        Thank you! I have been lifting for 5 months, really liking it! I will do what you suggest and work my way up to one top end set! Love reading your posts!

  29. Michael M May 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    So does this also apply when targeting a specific muscle like bicep, tricep, trap, abs, etc???

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:25 am #

      Michael- If you are trying to bring up a weak body part more volume can be used. For direct arm work I would always recommend sets of 8-15 reps. Traps respond quite well to Olympic lifts, deads and farmers walks so they really don’t need much in the way of high reps.

  30. Joaquin May 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    i usually leave the work with a bar or difficult body weight stuff between 1-6 reps. then finish off with higher rep stuff. it’s working alright but i’ll try the lower reps heavier weights and get back to you on that. it worked wonders years ago when i was working with a USAW coach and perfecting the oly lifts. maybe i should go back to that :P

  31. Mark May 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    A low-rep, compound lift regimen is the only way to build lasting strength and fitness.

    In 45 years of hardcore training I’ve never done more than 8-rep sets or more than 25 reps per body part. (And never, ever more than 75 total reps in a session.)

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found the 3 – 5 rep range is most effective to continue building serious muscle well into my 50s. Plus, it keeps my head fresh.

    Like you’ve always said, Jason, if you’re truly strong you’re gonna look strong. Duh.

    Finally got my girlfriend onboard. She got frustrated not seeing results with local gym “pros” advice — blasting numerous isolation exercises in the 12 – 15 rep range for something like 200 + repetitions per workout.

    Got her on a modified version of my regimen and she’s dropped two dress sizes in six months. Looking fit and feeling awesome. It was counterintuitive for her, but she actually got leaner by going heavy.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:27 am #

      Mark- 45 years, huh? That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing.

  32. John F. May 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    I spent way too many years doing too many reps, and not getting much out of it in either strength or size. I started doing low reps, and my muscles started responding immediately. I don’t get nowhere near as sore, and I’m always ready for the next training session.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:29 am #

      John- That’s the effect you should be getting.

  33. Barry Kinsella May 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Hi Jason,

    You mention that low rep training is what is best for developing muscle for clean lifters, yet you put up pictures to two weightlifters who are not or were not clean lifters. Rigert is a legend and one of the best of all time, but no one in any stretch of the imagination would ever suggest that he was clean, including himself.

    The other 77kg Chinese lifter is also a world champion and the world record holer in the Snatch and this last world’s he narrowy missed being the world record holder in the Cean and Jerk. He is also not a clean lifter and is possibly the leanest lifter above the 56kg class in elite workd weightlifting. At that level, just like many sports, drug use is a reality, particularly when testers have to apply for a visa to get into the country and then spend weeks travelling to their training camps!

    I understand that the point of your post is to work within these rep ranges for maximum benefit ( I am also a weightlifter and subscribe to this rep range) but using the pictures of two chemically enhanced lifters and mentioning Captain Kirk as another example does not seem to be appropriate illustrations of your point.

    Yours respectfully,

    Barry Kinsella

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:30 am #

      Barry- I knew someone would mention that and I get your point.

  34. Nick Outlaw May 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Jason, I would have to agree with you personally with my own experience. However here is an article that says to our contrary that I thought you would find humorous too:
    http://sweatscience.runnersworld.com/2012/04/light-weights-build-muscle-as-effectively-as-heavy-weights/

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:30 am #

      Nick- Nonsense. This has been beaten to death already.

  35. thg May 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    coincidentally, last month my trainning was low reps…
    in 2 weeks, I got 2 kg of mass, streght, more pleasure to trainning

  36. travismreid May 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    This is the truth. I worked out with a buddy the other day. Used his program to humour him. It was full of stuff in the 12-15 rep range. Safe to say, I was sore as hell for the next couple of days. Missed my next workout because I could barely walk. Fucking bullshit man! I’m 100% sold Jay – heavy weight, low reps all the way from now on.

  37. Ricky May 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Before starting MGS around 12 months ago i was training high reps, body building style splits with a friend who thought he knew what he was doing.(so did i)

    As mentioned we ‘looked’ like we were strong but when it came down to it.. we were wrong…

    I will never forget the day that i could not perform A SINGLE DIP after only 3 sets of flat bench press, and i was so fried i couldnt continue my workout! After 3 sets!!(and weeks of high rep splits which was clearly overtraining)…. way to make me feel like a weak bitch.

    After switching to Jays Muscle Gaining Secrets program for the last 12 months which follows basically what is mentioned in this article in terms of rep ranges; I never have a problem performing all my perscribed exercises with near perfect form. in fact my current friday session consists of Squats, Overhead presses, chins AND deadlifts!

    Low rep = Love it.

  38. Raymond May 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Only from my personal training I can say 8-10 reps works well for me. 12s yes it is draining and I seem to go backwards, 3-5s feel great to lift heavy and hardens the muscles but 8s-10 just feel right.
    Good article makes a lot of sense

  39. Mason May 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    I have defiantly made good gains using the 12 rep range (8 pounds of muscle in 21 days) and the gains i made stayed. But it was much to exhausting and i made gains like this before using the 5-8 rep range and felt next to no fatigue afterwards while increasing my strength, double whammy. So i agree through experience with this article.

  40. blabla May 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    why are you all asking him questions? He never replies a damn call !? Everyone just shut up! Just train with low reps to 3-6 sets frequently enough for a complete recovery and then stimulate again with same exercise keeping shy of failure throughout a 6-8 week program always trying to aim for that slight progression by means of gradual observation and experimentation. By the final two weeks of the program you reach down to 1-2 max.reps with bit higher volume following the 6-3 rep range within rule of no more than four x a year. After that then hence its best to undergo a 6-8 endurance program or change the form of the exercise themselves with relation to specificy and compounds like bulgarian squats with deep squats or push press with bench press to prevent adaptation and staleness depending on your specific goals…. now i talked too much , now do that or just hope in wait maybe until he answers hello ! btw im a troll and im proud

  41. S.Truth May 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Tried the low rep protocol for a couple of years and got know where.
    Started the 8 to 12 rep range and never looked back. I guess it’s what ever floats your boat.

  42. John May 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    So I believe that bench, squats, deads with low reps but biceps and triceps with high reps. Would that be a good idea?

  43. danison May 11, 2012 at 1:00 am #

    the first 3 years i trained without getting ANY amount of muscle mass… no i am training in the 1-5 rep range with only 3 workings sets per day, and im growing :)

  44. Tom May 11, 2012 at 1:03 am #

    More of a question than a comment.

    I’ve recently read Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade (Dragon Door Publications, just in case you were wondering), and he advocates high rep bodyweight work, working from sets of 50 reps for very easy variations down to lower rep sets for harder variations.

    My understanding of the higher rep work is to build up connective tissue strength in preparation for harder variations (so doing sets of 40 push ups on your knees to build up the connective tissue strength so you can attempt one arm push ups without something going pop).

    Slightly related, as a climber, I’ve read that using what I imagine would amount to high rep work for the fingers helps to build up tendon strength, which would support the high reps work in CC.

    Any thoughts?

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:33 am #

      Tom- Yes, sir. This is true. There is some benefit from higher rep work and you just named it. I wouldn’t make it the focus of my training though.

  45. Eddy May 11, 2012 at 2:47 am #

    I went on a high rep program for about 6 weeks awhile back. I have to say the workout was quite repetitive but having said that I believe I have packed on a bit of muscle in that time as confirmed by the mirror haha. The workouts though like you said are really draining and does take abit of self motivation to get myself to the gym at times.

    I am back doing the majority low rep exercise program, on to the 4th week now and I think it’s true with the low rep heavy weights program, you feel more energized and I’m quite happy to go to the gym every chance I get.

  46. Stu Phillips May 11, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    That’s why when you embark on a high rep program you may look a bit bigger but most of it is intracellular fluid, increased glycogen storage, edema and just overall swelling from the trauma inflicted.

    Absolute BS… JF, this is an outrageous mistruth!!

    • Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 5:35 am #

      Stu- You can definitely gain real size from high reps. Of course. But not in a week or two. Most people can put 1/2 inch on their arms in just a few weeks of high reps but it’s not real, lasting muscle. It disappears after you stop the high reps.

  47. Joe May 11, 2012 at 5:32 am #

    How many sets do you do? Thanks!

  48. Steve Truglia May 11, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    So how do you explain the fact that no bodybuilder in history has ever built a great physique with only low rep training? Sure we need heavy load to induce growth, but that only takes care of one aspect of hypertrophy. Saying glycogen stored in muscles is not real muscular size is ridiculous, as that is an essential part of muscular size development. Btw Arthur Saxon looked like a strength trainer or weightlifter, perhaps he would have been bigger had he combined different rep ranges in his training. Good article, but way to simplistic and generalised IMO. For more thorough information try Poloquin.

  49. David - The Natural Health Service May 11, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Perhaps the best system I ever used was to do ramped sets of 3 reps, followed by a set of 10 – 12 at the end. But sets of 2 – 5 reps are definitely best for improving performance. You do need a bit of variation though.

  50. Jason Ferruggia May 11, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    Guys- one critically important thing to remember here: The Renegade Method is all about improved performance.

    Also, I will repeat- if you don’t fully grasp the concepts of submaximal training, being explosive and staying far from failure than this will not apply to you.

    Lastly, I think some of you missed the fact that I listed 8 reps as acceptable. That’s considered high reps by a lot of people. Do sets of 3-5 on the big lifts and pump up with some sets of 8 afterwards if you like.

  51. Umberto May 11, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    So Jay, when you said on your past article “Top 20 bodyweight exercises” that an impressive number on pull ups would be 20, on dips 25 and on pistol squats 20, is that on a single set? And if so is something that you would do mainly to impress your girlfriend and friends occasionally and on the actual training if you can already hit those numbers you would increase the leverage on those exercise with dumbells or something of the sort to keep your reps low? Thanks man.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      Yes, single set, one time test.

      During training keep reps in the range of 5-10 for most sets of bodyweight stuff.

  52. ROC May 11, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    AWESOME INFO. AS ALWAYS BRO. I’LL START LOW REP TRAINING ASAP!

  53. Daniel May 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    Jay, I have 2 quick questions, but first off loved the article! Cleared up a lot of things for me. You mentioned in the comments that when doing arm focused exercises that we should go higher reps because of our wrists, is it only for the sake of saving our wrists our is there specific thought behind that? Also could you do an article on what amount of rest you should take between sets (or point me in the direction of an already written article)? Thanks, and low rep compounds FTW!

    • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      Wrists and elbows can get beat up from heavy curls.

  54. Chris May 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    I only started getting strong when I increased the weights and sets, and lowered the reps. I’d been training without much focus for a long time before I developed the confidence to increase the weight – mostly thanks to reading your stuff, and feeling capable of experimenting on myself!

  55. Ken Okada May 12, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    I think that people getting confused about this article and freaking out about it need to delve a bit deeper and read many more articles on this site. This article isn’t a black and white thing. My interpretation of the philosophies on this site is that everything has its specific place in a training regimen, given that the specific factor will actually contribute to the given goals.
    Something that helped me a lot in training is to simply ask myself after an exercise or activity, “What did that do for me?” If i can answer with a good response that it helped build myself, then I suppose it was a good thing. If I can’t come up with anything, it was most likely a waste of energy. For example, going out for a long slow jog: What did it do for me? Deplete me and destroy my ankles. Never doing that again…

  56. Julio May 12, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    This article on it’s own plus the Top Bodyweight and Top barbell lifts give you more information than what anyone will find in practically any other training site or study.
    Thanks for all the hard work you put in your site Jason!
    Just one thing I still don’t get really clear; When do you know it’s time to increase the weights?
    (This is, applying the way of training you recommend in this article: work up to a heavy set 1-2 reps far from failure, lower the weight and pump out as many low rep sets as you can before reaching failure).

    • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      Thanks Julio. Increasing your weights too fast can lead to injury. Make small incremental jumps when whatever you are doing becomes easy. Strive to make consistent improvements over time but not workout to workout necessarily.

  57. Ahmad Al-Sawad May 13, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    I tried the low reps first time in 2009 following a program called: Waterbury Method, by Chad Waterbury! it is (10*3) and (4*6)! After 1 month, I became like a beast?! then I sworn that, I will not use the high rep again! (except for calves and forearms)

    Thanks for the article homie!

  58. Marty J May 13, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    You are absolutely right! I have found that when I use high reps, my shoulders are on fire with imflamation for several days. Good advice

  59. Taylor May 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Before I say anything, you are bigger than me, and I am well-aware of this. I’ve gained about 30 pounds since I started training. So there’s some background on me. Although I want to agree with this article, because you are bigger than me, and it would only make sense to agree with it, based off of my research, I have to disagree.

    In my newsletter, I actually covered the topic. Here’s an excerpt from that email:

    According to “Size Means Strength,” an article on
    BodyBuilding.com, when you’re lifting heavy with low
    reptitions, your muscles are not under enough tension for a
    long enough period of time, and therefore, the growth
    process is not stimulated. In simple terms, if you don’t do
    enough repetitions, your muscles will not grow. [1]

    “The muscle simply does not have sufficient time under
    tension to stimulate the growth process.”

    Although lifting heavy does have its’ benefits, increasing
    motor recruitment and firing rates, which increases ones’
    strength, lifting heavy will not result in muscular growth.

    “Research has shown heavy lifting enhances neural
    efficiency (improved motor recruitment, and firing rates),
    which enhances strength, but does not necessarily result in
    muscular growth.”

    To build size, you should focus on high rep training, as
    used in the ****************** Building program. High rep training
    will allow you to build the most size.

    “High rep training produces high levels of phosphate and
    hydrogen ions, which enhance the growth process.”

    So next time you hit the gym, be sure to train for size
    at 10 to 12 repetitions for all upper body exercises, and
    15 to 20 repetitions for all lower body exercises.

    Let me know what you think about this info, man.
    Taylor Thompson
    91 Day Challenge

    PS: As I always say, there are a million different ways to build muscle. As long as you find one that works for you, that’s really all that matters.

    • Alex May 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      I also agree with you, in my oppinion, much more important than rep range is intensity and mostly time under tension.

      You can do 6 reps with a 101 tempo, taking 12 seconds to finish the set, having used mostly atp and eliciting a neural adaptation.. and you can do the same 6 reps with a 412 tempo, taking 42 seconds to finish the set, using mostly an anaerobic glycogen energy system, wich elicits an hypertrophy adaptation due to the request for higher glycogen stores..

      The same thing happens with different range of motion exercises, for example you will take much longer to perform 6 reps on a squat then on a curl with the same tempo, and that will influence the time under tension, therefore the energy system used and the following adaptation.

      But i totally agree with the intention of the article and also think that training mostly for strength using less total reps during a workout and working for a more functional muscle is the key for long term, healthy lifting..

      In my training i use all three types of training, focusing on a heavy compound of usually 5×5 not going to failure, followed by a 3×8 either compound or some kind of weighted bodyweight almost to failure, no grinding reps yet exercise, and finishing with a high rep finisher to total failure..

      I have to say that because i also do a lot of cardio (swimming, bike riding and running) i use a 3x a week, training each body part just once, wich lets me train more intenselly and minimize the influence on the other activities.. but if it was just the gym i think that the 2x a week refered in the article should be the ideal.

      Purelly medium and high rep, high volume training is ideal for quick hypertrophy but on the long term leads to joint overuse, adrenal fatigue and to an injury prone body..

    • Aj May 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      Much like was mentioned in the article I have found it to be true. The “higher rep” scheme is phony. It isn’t muscle. It’s pump-fluff. Nothing more, nothing less. There are certain tendon/ligament exercises that benefit from higher reps, but that’s about it. If (if) you want “real” muscle…..there’s no way around it. Once again, as stated, it’s a time-tested proven fact.

  60. John May 15, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    Hi Jason,

    What you state in this article has a lot of merit and I would agree with most of what you have layed out. Ive been training for about 13 yrs now, I was a late starter as im 42 now. I did alot of research and wanted to put on as much size as quickly as possible plus manipulate my “T” levels as best as i could since i was getting old..! lol… my research showed that low rep training was best.. As such my training consisted of a 4 day split of 4-6reps max with max weights etc. I went from about 79kg and somewhat soft (average muscle tone) to 110kg with lots of muscle some fat. “T” levels were also high as Ive consistentlly had blood works done to monitor. So yes, ive found that what youve outlined here is spot on..! BUT.. then I discovered the magic of muscle fibres and started to understand that different weight and rep ranges greatly manipulted their activation plus high reps also activated the hormonal responses for IGF1 etc due to the high pump and lactic acid build up..(or so i read..lol). So I started to experiment with high reps as well and also found them to be beneficial but certainly took their toll on the cns and i would also agree that the damage caused deep soreness in the target muscle. I also found that strength curiously went up and i was shedding alot of fat..hmmm.. so.. what would happen if i combined the two? well.. I tried that. One and a half yrs later im between 80kg – 85kg pretty muscular as ive retained quite a bit of muscle and also very lean, most peoplet think im on the gear which ive never tried… So, I think there is a place for both styles of training. Some things to note. I tried several different variations of combining the two. What works best for me is the following.. Split body parts, 5×5 reps of only compound excercises for that body part. 2x high rep(15) circuits (5-8 excersises for that body part). Circuit consists of compound plus isolation for that body part (dont go to light on the compount tho 50%-60% of max), no rest between the excersices only 2min max rest between the circuit sets. Thats it. Hard training but works..! covers both types of muscle fibres, increases required hormone levels and the circuit gives you a damn good cardio session. I know many of you are thinking thats alot to do.. well.. im in and out within 1hr so it really isnt too bad, does take some getting use too..oh and yes.. recovery is pretty good.. even at 42. ;)

    • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      Thanks for sharing, John. Yup, there is definitely benefit to using both rep ranges, as I do with the majority of my clients and programs.

      For the average guy who is struggling to gain, focusing mainly on lower reps will be his best bet. Going forward he can start to introduce more variety.

  61. Mike Echague May 15, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    Is it okay to have the first set light with high reps for a warm up?

    • Maximus May 21, 2012 at 8:32 am #

      For each muscle group, perform 2-3 light progressive warm-up sets with an 8-12 rep range before performing actual working sets (i.e. First warm-up set with 50% of working weight with 12 reps, Second warm-up set with 60% with 10 reps, Third warm-up set with 70% with 8 reps).

      Make your first working set the heaviest, start with a weight that allows 6-10 reps in perfect form. Do not perform the set to absolute failure; rather terminate the set one rep shy of a true repetition maximum (RM). Always train with progressive resistance in mind, so with each workout try to gradually increase your repetitions on your working sets. When you are able to do 12 reps with perfect form, add more weight. Don’t let your form degrade to get extra reps.

      Always use proper form. Never attempt to perform a rep without near perfect form. Don’t be in a big rush to use as much weight as possible it will only lead to improper form and injuries. You will also be cheating yourself out of gains in the long run.

      Try to leave each workout knowing that you can improve in at least one exercise for the next workout.

  62. Michael May 15, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Jason,
    I am a 64 year young man who began training in 1968. I had the privilege of watching guys like Art Jones, Casey Vitor and Mike Mentzer build astonishing physiques using heavy weights and low reps. Of course it was training to MMF, momentary muscle failure.

    You do need periodization since you can’t tear your body down all year long. However, the meat and potatoes of building muscle are big weights and low reps.

    Thanks for clearing the air for those who believe you have to spend all day in the gym to get results. Lift heavy, low reps and you won’t be able to spend any extra time in the gym. Get it done and get out of there. You don’t grow in the gym, only when you are recouperating!

  63. Taylor May 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    Jason, this article honestly scares me. So many noobs are going to read this, and think that they constantly need to be lifting low reps to build muscle. Instead of building muscle, they’re going to hit the gym, and as the Hodge Twins say, “Snap some shit up.”

    AJ, you said that the higher rep range is phony and creates “Pump-Fluff.” If it’s pump fluff that I am creating, then why am I building size, and seeing an increase in strength? In just 50 days, my bench press is up by 50 pounds, and my single arm curls are up by 10 pounds, while doing 12 repetitions. My weight is also up. So if it’s “pump-fluff” that is making me stronger and bigger, I am all for it. Don’t really see where you got the term or the idea though…

    Fact of the matter is, training with low reps and high weight will help you build strength. Training with high reps and normal weight (where the last 3 are tough) will allow you to build size. Also, for best results, mix up your rep range. According to Men’s Health, weight lifters who mixed up their rep range increased their strength by 28% in their bench press.

    To get back to my main point, this article really scares the hell out of me. I know that many people here look up to Jason, and I am definitely NOT trying to bash him. (He’s been at this way longer than me, and is much bigger). But saying that lifting heavy is the only way to build muscle is not only a fallacy, it’s dangerous.

    As I always say; There are many ways to build muscle. If you find one that works for you, then that’s totally awesome. But again, I think it’s dangerous to tell people to get in the gym, and lift heavy.

    • vlade May 16, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

      completely agree with you

    • Trev May 19, 2012 at 5:54 am #

      @Taylor,

      Jason isn’t talking about training bodybuilders. He is not saying that massive reps will not cause hypotrophy and build you size. What he is saying is that for the NORMAL, average joe off the street, weighing 150-lbs soaking wet, that wants to put on muscle, the best protocol is one of full body workouts with complex lifts and a low rep/high weight design.

      ANYTHING you do will work in the first six months, be it P90X, lifting heavy, going for CrossFit circuits with massive rep pyramids. Why? It’s the “novice effect” in which your body adapts to the stimulus, and it will adapt to ANY stimulus you give it (read Rippetoe). Does this mean that average people won’t see results of absurd high rep bodybuilding routines? Of course not. They will see results. But Jason’s point is that doesn’t make it the best program for them, and it runs the risk of physically and mentally burning them out early.

      Do bodybuilders use lots of high rep schemes to “shock” and “change up” their game? Of course. They have to, as they’re theoretically already ELITE athletes. They’re already strong, so their bodies won’t respond as quickly to the same old stuff, so periodization of weight and rep schemes becomes exceptionally important (read Rippetoe).

      Jason isn’t saying his way is the only way; he’s saying it’s the best way. And if you’ve been reading Jason for any period of time, he’s not worried about getting people “big” for the sake of appearance. He’s focused on getting them faster, stronger, and leaner. That’s why his programs are all based around complex lifts and bodyweight movements, not single arm curls.

      Jason’s right (and Wendler, Rippetoe, Berkhan, Tate, and a lot of other people agree with him), and you’re not wrong, but you’re also missing the point of the entire article.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

      Taylor- I’d hate to see you watch people cross the street.

      Toughen up a little. Things can’t be so scary if you really want to enjoy life.

      I wasn’t going to respond to you but now you’re getting disrespectful with all of the silly posts quoting Bodybuilding.com and Men’s Health as your scientific sources.

      You’re 20 years old and look to weigh around 150 so yes, just about anything will work for you for now.

      Also, you’re commenting on something that you don’t know about. The Renegade Method of submaximal training prevents injuries instead of causing them. But it takes years for people to full understand this. Renegade Inner Circle members and those who attend my live workshops get it.

      After you have been at this for a quarter of a century and trained several hundred people you will have a better comprehension of the discussion at hand.

      Also, never sign the name of your website in a blog comment. That’s spam and looks childish and desperate.

      • Taylor May 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

        Hey Jason,

        I just wanted to say that I look up to guys like you, man. I wasn’t trying to disrespect you, your readers, or spam you. It takes a long time to gain respect in this business, and I realize that, and appreciate you and your thoughts.

        Like yourself, I am very passionate about muscle building, and have very strong opinions and beliefs. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the topic. Just cause I am small, doesn’t mean I don’t know anything. I’ve gained 30 pounds over the past couple years. I may not agree with everything you say, but I’m definitely not trying to be an ass.

        In my opinion, there are a million different ways to build muscle. What I always tell people is, if they find a way that works for them, then that’s all that matters. :-)

        Keep doing what you do, man. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot by reading your blog, and hopefully, one day, I can become as big as you are, both in this business, and physically.

        Hope you have a good day, man.
        Taylor Thompson

        • Maximus May 22, 2012 at 8:06 am #

          @Taylor:

          FIrst ask youself what your goal is. Is it to get super strong, is it to get as big as genetically possible w/o steroids, or is it both? Your goal is going to determine which kind of weight training you should be doing. Someone that is wanting to get as big as humanly possible (bodybuilding), they should not train the same way someone would train for football or competitive lifting. Bodybuilding is not a performance sport and shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s a misconception to treat bodybuilding as such. If bodybuilding is your goal look for a training strategy designed for the bodybuilder.

      • Taylor May 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

        Hey Jason,

        I have given this more thought, and I just wanted to say that it’s always a possibility that I was misinformed. That being said, I’m still a firm believer in high rep training for size, and low rep training for strength.

        In my experience, high rep training has always gotten me much better results than low rep training. Although, I do think it’s a good idea to do both.

        I just wanted to clear that up. I’m trying to be more open to what well-respected individuals have to say, so next time, I’ll be sure to give the opposing side of an argument more thought.

        The type of people who succeed in this world are those who appreciate the success of others, and I am a firm believer in that.

  64. Mike May 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    Taylor, don’t want to be rude but I think you’re missing the point of this article. Jason isn’t talking about grinding out heavy reps with bad form. He suggests heavy reps with perfect form that stop well before failure. As for noobs many strength coaches will start new lifters with low reps of 5. For most, form breaks down with high reps. Injuries can occur with any rep range. Form is the key. Jason’s business is to help athletes improve. Same with coaches like Wendler and Rippetoe. Do you really think they want athletes to get injured? Read the first sentence of the article.

  65. Taylor May 16, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Hey Mike, I read the first sentence. :) I read the entire article. Well, I suppose everyone can train their own way. I know that lifting heavy is good for some things, but I just don’t think it’s best for building size. Hence, myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. To each his own, though. :)

  66. Maximus May 17, 2012 at 5:42 am #

    Strength gain in the 1-5 repetition range can take place without muscular hypertrophy. This does not mean that growth cannot occur at this rep range, it’s just not the optimal rep range if muscular hypertrophy is your goal. For muscular hypertrophy, the 6-12 rep range has been shown to be the most effective to stimulate growth in the Type IIA and Type IIB muscle fibers. Progressive overload is key for muscular hypertrophy and strength gains. Every time you step into the gym, simply push to increase your rep count each time you perform a particular exercise. When you reach 12 reps increase your weight so that you can get at 6 reps with good form. Then progress again up to 12 reps.Simple as that.

  67. Julio May 17, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Taylor, you’re understanding “lifting heavy” as “lifting maximally”, what Jason is actually preaching is to stay away from failure (sub maximal lifting, focusing on the SPEED of the reps).
    By staying away from failure you can lift more frequently in a fresher state and with more volume. I, for example, do as many sets as I can for 3 reps of military press 3 days a week. Yesterday I managed 8 sets of 3 with 120 pounds.

    But of course, if you just go for a 3RM (and repeat it for another 3 sets) in all your lifts everytime you train, you won’t be able to train as frequently and it will be dangerous.
    So, lifting heavy doesn’t neccesarily mean lifting maximal weights to failure (you could simply get 85% of your 1RM and do 6 sets of 3 with 1 minute rest, or sets of 2 with a 90%)… That’s heavy training, but not to failure

  68. Richard May 17, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Hey Jason, Great Post.

    I logged onto your site to check out your diet tips and found what I’d been pondering over for ages.

    I struggle to gain size so I’m keen to test out your theory on low reps, I’m hoping it works because I freakin’ hate high reps.

    So to clarify: -

    I’m lifting up to 6 reps but not to failure so if I was to use a weight I can manage 8 reps with would this suffice?

    How many sets?

    Using what rep tempo?

    I generally rest 1 min between sets, is this ok for the experiment?

    Training each body part how many times per week?

    I’ll run the experiment for 6 weeks and comment again with my progress.

    Cheers.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      Richard- There’s no way to answer those questions simply.

      But yes, six reps with an 8RM is a decent place to start.

      Hit each muscle group or movement pattern 2-4x per week for a grand total of around 100 reps.

      Tempo is nonsense.

  69. Taylor May 17, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    This is the last comment that I am going to leave here. :-) As I learned in Communications class today, it’s extremely difficult to get people to change their minds about their beliefs.

    That being said, everything I have shared is backed by fact. Most people here seem to be pretty knowledgeable, and we can all agree that there is such a thing as training for strength and training for size. (myofibrillar / sarcoplasmic)

    - In general, strength training is done with low repetitions.

    - And size training is done with high repetitions.

    Although this is true, I have managed to build strength while training for size, and it seems like many people here have managed to build size while training for strength. At the end of the day, if you’re building muscle, getting good results, and not getting injured, just keep doing what you’re doing.

    If you’ve always experimented with strength training, and you’re stuck, try training for size, and vice versa.

  70. Taylor May 17, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    PS: Julio, I see what you’re saying, man. But I still don’t believe that kind of training (3RM) etc, is for size. It’s strength training no matter how you look at it. Just my two cents. :) But you did clear the difference between “heavy” and “maximally” up for me. So thanks for clearing that up. :)

  71. Bill P May 18, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    What are your thoughts on incorporating ballistic kettlebell lifts (those used for conditioning, in higher reps increments, 10 or more reps) on conditioning days? My workouts typically follow this pattern, three days of lifting per week alternated with three days of conditioning.

  72. stavros May 18, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    Jay, i am starting this low rep thing right here , right now !! will report you back after a month ! won’t be going above 6 reps for a month is scary but i will try !

  73. Gudmundur May 18, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    Hi.
    I totally agree with Taylor and am missing Jasons answer ;-)
    I have been a follower of Jason for years and have trained acording to MGS and other programs for years. Great stuff.
    On the other hand, I am 45, my joint and ligaments are starting to give in more than i like cause of the heavy weight, therefore i tryed Doberman Dan´s program, and am reading about Gironda´s 8×8 and Ben´s Palkulski´s MI40. They use perfect form, maximal tension, lower weight.
    For me this is a great break for me and my joints, my CNS is in mutch greater shape and i am fresher all week long. Tough i have my doupts of those high reps, i think Gironda and Ben are spot on, 8 reps in 4010 tempo in perfect form, with some higher reps for calves and abs and … are working great for me. No pain no gain is the stupitest frase i know, you should not have to be in any pain to gain ;-)
    I´m going to work out with this lighter multiple 40 sec sets, 40 sec break, maximal tension workout, with a shock week now and then ( higher weight – lower reps ) all summer and in the fall we vill see ;-)
    Sorry for my english
    Gudmundur … Iceland

    • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

      I have older guys who are beat up use higher reps. But not on everything. It depends.

  74. stavros May 18, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    Jay, i am starting this low rep thing right here , right now !! will report you back after a month ! won’t be going above 6 reps for a month which is scary but i will give it a shot !

  75. Maximus May 19, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Newbies should NOT be performing low rep/heavy weight training programs until their connective tissue have adapted to weight training. Their first focus should be perfecting good form on all exercises with moderate weight.

    In the 6-12 rep range, Myofibril, Sarcomere, and Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy occurs. According to science, the 6-12 rep range is the best range to train in for building muscle. The 1-5 rep range is the best rep range for making strength gains.

    • Taylor May 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      YUUUP!

  76. Brandon May 19, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    I do a four day upper/lower split. Each session starts with three sets one of the main lifts (bench, squat, military press, deadlift). I usually stick with 3-5 reps per set but will do 6-8 reps on the last set if I’m feeling well and can do them with good form. After that I will do five sets of 10-12 reps on the assistance work or one rep short of failure on body weight work. I do that for three things. At first I was worried it would be too much volume but my gains and recovery have been good. I wanted to do something different and it has been worth it.

    • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

      That’s a good program. I’d like to see the assistance work more in the 6-8 range with a few sets of 10-12 here and there but otherwise it’s good stuff.

  77. Mike May 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    This is a funny debate. Missing the point of the article. Jason clearly stated a rep range of 3-8. Some of you seem to think this article is recommending noobs to go max out all the time. Seriously, doing 6 x 3 of explosive reps at 75-80% is not dangerous – its productive.

    • Taylor May 19, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

      “Despite what your favorite pro bodybuilder or muscle mag might tell you, the best rep range for the average, steroid-free dude looking to gain size is 3-8; not the typical 12-15 prescription.”

      Not missing the point… It’s simply an incorrect statement.

  78. Ryan May 19, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    Wow Taylor…just wow. I’ve read Jason’s site for awhile and I have to say I’ve never seen a single poster argue a moot point as much as you.

    Let’s keep it simple shall we?

    If 12-15 reps was the bees knees, then every Planet Fitness D-Bag would be putting Ronnie Coleman to shame. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to more than one public gym in your short life, but the vast majority of men looking to get jacked lift in that rep range, and are far from impressive.

    Now, instead of pointlessly arguing, take a second or two and look at some of the vids Jason has posted on Youtube. Look at the big ass mofos who train according to the principles he’s highlighted in this article. It’s simple. The proof is in the pudding man.

    So you can have your bodybuilding.com “science,” but I’ll take what works in the real world. And what is that again? Oh yeah, 3-8 reps for the genetically average, drug free lifter. Simple, isn’t it?

    Next time, just work on your reading comprehension a little bit before you take a trip outside of the internet “science” fantasy land kids table.

    • Taylor May 20, 2012 at 9:51 am #

      Please take time to research Sarcoplasmic and Myofibrillar hypertrophy.

      • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

        @Taylor- That’s what I was actually going to suggest to you.

  79. Muwt May 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    That Chinese lifter has one of the most amazing backs i’ve ever seen.

  80. Mike May 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Lyle McDonald wrote an article titled “Reps per set for optimal growth”

    Lyle concludes – “And that’s the answer that repeatedly comes up among people in the field who aren’t clueless: 5-8 repetitions.  If you had to pick a single rep range to work at to optimize the growth response, it would 5-8 reps per set.”

    • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      @Mike- Agreed. People missing the point of this don’t quite understand what we’re talking about.

      If working up to a heavy triple on a standing press followed by 4-5 sets of 6-8 on chins, dips and shrugs has doesn’t build size there’s going to be a lot of bewildered powerlifters and strength athletes who would have thought otherwise over the past century.

  81. Maximus May 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    My buddy split his shoulder bursa and tore his rotator doing low rep/ heavy weight on his bench. He was using good form, he hit the 5th rep on his 1st working set and “pop”. He was a newb with less than a few months experience under the bar. He had no business going heavy so soon, but he was pressure by peers in the gym telling him that he had to go heavy with low reps to get big. Well he never stepped back into the gym after the surgery. He should have focused on perfecting form with moderate weight, but listening to bro-science he end up getting hurt.

  82. Mike May 19, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    This is just silly. I’m sure plenty of people got hurt on their 12 or 15th rep. Just ask the crossfit crowd. Done with this conversation. Much respect for everyone’s opinion. Just love talking about this stuff.

    • johnbain October 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      Crossfit crow is totally different. Many times their form is garbage and they use ultra fast reps when they should not.  Just take a look at their deadlift (shudder) and their pullups.  It has nothing to do with rep range. No matter what rep range they use they are at huge risk.

  83. Alex May 20, 2012 at 2:36 am #

    I’m loving the discussion and all the different oppinions but does anyone here have any experience at all ??

    because if you did, you would all know that you need to work on ALL REP RANGES !!

    Doesnt matter if youre going for strength or hypertrophy, you will prioritize one and assist with the other, allways..

    the less the volume, the less the chance of injury, and if you want to use low volume you have got to work with intensity to get results..

  84. Gudmundur May 20, 2012 at 3:45 am #

    Alex I dont totally agree
    You allso can get the hypertrophy with multiple sets in the 8 rep range…. and “the less the volume, the less the chance of injury” is wrong.
    I have been working out for years with low reps – high weight and my joints and ligaments got fu**´t up one after another. I used perfect form and warmed up perfectly, but all this weight was to mutch in the long run. Now i use more volume and a bit lower weight and my injurys are all healing and my CNS is in better state than ever,…. and my gains are great :-)

    • Alex May 20, 2012 at 4:13 am #

      Off course you will get hypertrophy working out in the 8 rep range, i dont see where i denied that.. but will also have to do some strength work to get out of a plateau and you will have to do high rep to have better capilarization of the muscle and better nutrient delivery if you really wanna progress.. thats why i said that every good program will focus on EVERY rep range and not just one, but off course prioritizing the one you wanna really get gains in.. and you must periodize too if you dont want injurie..
      Anyway you might have gotten hurt because you only used low rep, again i cant see where i supported that, i said ALL REP RANGES..
      The only way you could get good results with strictly low reps would be with submaximal training like jason preaches..
      I really cant see how so many people just use one kind of rep range.. even top elite powerlifters will do A LOT of high rep work.. and their only goal is strength.

      • Gudmundur May 20, 2012 at 4:35 am #

        I was actually mostly disagreeing with “the less the volume, the less the chance of injury” but you are right on the other things.
        One of my favorite splits is 4 day upper/lover split.
        1. lower body, low reps
        2. upper body, low reps
        3. off
        4. lower body, high reps
        5. Upper body, high reps

        But now im moving into Gironda style 8×8, great fun, great stuff.

        But mixing things up now and then must be the best way.

        • Alex May 20, 2012 at 4:57 am #

          I agree with you in that manner, usually if you do less volume theres less chance of the joint overuse type of injuries, but if you allways go too heavy the problem remains the same..

          Your split looks interesting altough i prefer to do them all in the same workout:

          5×5 heavy compound

          3×8 weighted bodyweigth or some kind of free weight.

          2×15 isolation finisher

          But this is just the core of the program. because i will throw in some high rep compounds and some low rep isolation exercises too and even change the tempo and rest periods when periodizing..

          Theres so many tools available that i cant see how using just one can be the best way to go..

          In the end its a matter of listening to your body and studying yourself and your response to different programs untill you find what suits you better..

          For example the 8×8 might be a result driven program, wich will shock your body and you will see quick hypertrophy results, but if you dont want your joints to start hurting again i wouldnt recomend it, but it all depends on how you feel doing it.

          • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

            That multiple ranges in one workout program you listed is one of my favorite ways to train. AND it has the high reps in the correct proportions. Just as a finishing touch. Very nice.

      • Jason Ferruggia May 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

        Alex- Multiple rep ranges should be included for the best possible gains in size. You just have to know how to do it, what exercises to do it on and when.

        And if you are a struggling hardgainer you’d be better off just going low rep for a while until you build up your base strength and can actually get something out of high reps.

        When you are weak you’ll be doing 20lb dumbbells for a set of 12-15. That will be too little resistance. When you get stronger and can press the 100′s for 12-15 you’ll grow from it.

        • Alex May 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

          You are totally right, i also think that begginers should use lower reps than they usually use on most gyms, if they have good coordination and learn good form quickly.. orelse they have to stick to light weight medium rep untill they learn it properly.
          I also agree with you in terms of the need for a high rep finisher being strictly for medium and advanced lifters, i dont see the need for them on a begginer..
          I worked thru a lot of different stuff, but in the end i also think that this type of multiple range rep workout is what works best, at least for me and most of the guys i train with, if i stick to 3 exercises per body part, keeping my total reps in the 70-80 zone im fine in terms of recovery and steady progress..

          • Gudmundur May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

            Alex – what kind of split are you using ?
            Are you doing full body exersices – upper/lower – … ?
            2x, 3x or 4x times per week ?

  85. Gudmundur May 20, 2012 at 3:51 am #

    @ Mike
    The crossfit guys are doing things on time. Theyr form is shitty. All this jerkink and bouncing is risky. So high reps is not the same as high reps ;-)

  86. Maximus May 20, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    What does the National Strength and Conditioning Association have to say about this topic? They propose that shorter bouts of anaerobic training (2 to 4 repetitions) are best for improving muscle power, moderate bouts of anaerobic training (5 to 6 repetitions) are best for building muscle strength, and longer bouts of anaerobic training, 8 to 12 reps per set, are best for increasing muscle hypertrophy.

    This is also backed by real science, not bro-science.

    You also have to consider a person’s bone structure and what type of loads their body can handle. A person that is heavy boned can handle the 1-5 low rep/heavy weights, whereas a thin bone boned person can not. The thin boned person is not genetically built to withstand these types of loads and their joints and ligaments will suffer when perform this type of workout for more than a few weeks. The thin boned person can implement this type of training periodically and for a short duration, but based on their genetics they will respond better to a 6-12 rep range. If your short and thick boned do the 5X5 routines you will probably respond really well.

    I hear people bashing high rep/ high volume routines, but look at the 8X8 and 10X10 routines. These have been proven to be awesome mass builders. I use these types of routines regularly and my joints don’t suffer, whereas when I do low rep/ heavy weight routines after 2-3 weeks of the heavy load my wrists and shoulders just ache tremendously. I’m just not built to handle these types of loads and I have over 15 years weight training experience to know and understand how my body responds.

    • Gudmundur May 20, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      @ Maximus
      I agree with that all.

  87. Mike May 20, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    @gudmundur. Thanks I am well aware of the shitty form going on in crossfit. I was just using a bad example.

    Training comes with risk. All sport has a risk. Jason was just talking about a proven rep range for the genetically average drug free lifter. If you don’t agree don’t do it. To reach your maximum genetic potential you have to lift heavy

  88. Maximus May 20, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    @Ryan.
    Your post disrespecting Taylor was uncalled for. We are all mature adults here, so there is no reason to flame someone because you don’t agree with them.

    Jason is a strength and conditioning coach. His goals and his clients goals are different from that of a bodybuilder. If you want to gain maximum hypertrophy follow the typical 6-12 rep range known for growing huge muscle bellies. If you want impressive strength stay in the 1-5 rep range. If you want both size and strength then do both rep ranges. One can not say a strength routine is best for gaining maximum muscle hypertrophy, and this is backed by science.

    • Taylor May 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      Thanks Max. And I am not at all trying to act like I know everything. I’m just sharing what I read, and what I have heard.

      At the end of the day, people can train however they want to train. :) If they’re happy with their results, then that’s the most important thing. I really can’t stand it when people try to coach people in the gym. Drives me crazy. Just let people be.

      In high school, I believe my weight training coach had us do high reps for the first few weeks, and then switch to low reps for a week, and repeat.

      But again, there are many methods of training. My client base is primarily skinny guys who want to build size, so I have them lift with high repetitions. Thus far, my clients have seen an improvement in both strength and size, even while using high reps.

      I know I saw a video by the Hodge Twins the other day though, where a guy told them he was lifting with high weight and low reps, and still building size.

      So at the end of the day, it just comes back down to if you’re happy with your results, keep doing what you do. :)

      PS: Jason knows way more about this stuff than I do. A lot of the guys here probably know a lot more than I do. I have an average build, and am working on building muscle at the moment, although I used to be wayyyy skinnier. (30 pounds skinnier) I’m always looking to learn more about muscle building. My take on things is the more knowledge you have, the better.

      From this though, I think we’re forgetting… What about lifting MEDIUM weight, with a MEDIUM number of reps?

      My buddy, Alain was talking to me about this the other day. Maybe MEDIUM targets both size and strength? What do you guys think?

      • Alex May 21, 2012 at 4:19 am #

        Taylor, first i would like to congrat you on your calmness and how you kept being respectfull to others during this discussion, wich is rare these days when people think they know everything and stop to learn, wich is the main point here, our objective should be to keep learning and sharing experiences..
        Now for my oppinion, why shouldnt someone try to use ALL REP RANGES ?? its what i do, its what has gotten me the best results, kept my joints healthy, made me perform better in all kinds of activities..
        I do 3 sets, one heavy low rep compound usually 5×5, one medium weight 3×8 usually with a weighted bodyweight like dips or pull ups, and an high rep isolation finisher..
        I have great strength gains without frying my cns, i have nice hypertrophy gains, i remember i gained 60 pounds in my first 2 years naturally, and i have good conditioning from the high rep..
        On top of that i will periodize with weeks of higher rest periods and a fast tempo for strength gains and pr’s, and weeks of lower rest periods and slower tempo for hypertrophy and better conditioning..
        To throw in some variety you can even use some drop sets on the finishers or some supersets between the medium and high rep exercises..
        You can also periodize in cycles where you do a strength week, and hypertrophy week and an endurance week, but i prefer the first option, because on the second option you will allways have 2 weeks not training for one objective..
        This is just my oppinion and my way to share my experience, and i hope this can help others..
        I cant forget that this is a strength and conditioning site, in wich the main objective is to work for strength, low rep, and than use conditioning work on off days or after the strength workout if time is short, but there are many other ways to do it and many diffrent objectives..

  89. Maximus May 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    Here’s my advise on this. Like I said earlier I’ve got over 15 years under the bar so I’m not a newb. I research everything and don’t take someone’s word as gold. I listen/or read and then go to see what real science has to say about it, not bro-science. If strength and conditioning is your goal listen to someone like Jason Ferruggia, but if maximum muscle hypertrophy is your goal listen to someone like Jim Stoppani or even the lesser known Mark McManus. Both Jim and Mark use science to back their statements. I would like to see Jason do the same thing here on his website. He has a great following, but I would like him to back his statements with real science. It would just bring more credibility to what he teaches here. There is way too much myth and misleading with bro-science leading people to minimal gains, overtraining and injury.

    You also have to understand that Jason is using this website to draw people into buy his products, he’s a salesman in addition to a strength and conditioning coach. If you like what he has to say, and your weight training goals are in line with his teachings, then buy his products.

    • Gudmundur May 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

      thumbs up !

    • S.Truth May 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      Well said Maximus.
      As the title of this website states, “strength and conditioning”

  90. Timothy May 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I’m planning on starting a 5 sets of 5 reps routine soon for the next few weeks, I am currently doing body weight stuff…but should I do an uppers day, legs day, and back day? Or mix in some lifts of each into each workout? Some of the lifts I am going to incorporate are the barbell bench press, back squat, dead-lift, lunge, pull-up, and dumbbell shoulder press

  91. Mike May 21, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Hmm. Jason training hundreds? Thousands? Of athletes over the course of 15+ years wouldn’t really count as broscience. Trial, experiment, analysis. Sound like science to me.

    • Maximus May 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

      Real science is performed with control groups, bro-science is word of mouth in the gym. I didn’t say Jason was providing bro-science. I said he should back up his statements with real science to add crediability to what he is teaching here. Also just because someone has been doing something for x-number of years doesn’t make them right. (Don’t twist my words here and say that I am referring to Jason) Many so called experts could have been taught or learned through bro-science. So do you follow their advise or would you follow someone with just as many years of experience, a PhD and backs up their statements with real scientific data? You also have lots of people following advise from muscle mags that are owned by supplement companies. These companies have one main agenda.. to sell their supplements. In these supplement catalogs they provide workout routines of popular bodybuilders. And most of the masses don’t even realize that many of the routines provided aren’t even what the bodybuilder actually does in the gym. Bro-science and muscle mags have been misleading the masses for years. Everyone needs to do their homework and not just blindly believe and follow what someone says, expert or not. How many people have started a fitness program or weight training program and tranformed their own body, then later released their own fitness/muscle building program? They don’t have any formal education or training. They built their body using someone elses program. They are self taught, but now they are seen as experts.

  92. Niel Rishoi May 21, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    I think it’s important to remember that Jason is talking about using the 3-8 rep range as a BASE principle; an intuitive lifter will instinctively know when and how to extend their boundaries. Variation and flexibility is the key here. I think many misinterpret the “heavy weights, low reps” thing in some respects. When Jason says heavy weight, it’s a weight that you can maintain using good form for that 3-8 rep range. If you’re struggling to lift a weight and you’re not doing full ranges of motion, you’re merely trying to prove your strength rather than build it; bad form just doesn’t work. Regarding the 12-15 rep range, I don’t really like it except for calf and forearm work, and occasionally on squats. Arms I do about 6-9 reps because too heavy a weight fucks up your elbows. But 12-15 is just tiresome, it has a repetitious effect, and not in a good way. Also, the higher rep range for the most part just feels too “easy” – it doesn’t give the same power effect or tension. Sometimes, 8-12; if I’ve gone beyond 12, I’ve had a surge of unbelievable concentration – or, it’s happily time to increase the poundages.

  93. Mark May 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Vigorous and interesting discussion. One that demonstrates there is no hard “science” behind getting strong. There is a basic principle — adapted from Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion (mass x velocity = force) — which is, MOVE HEAVY SHIT.

    How one does that and how many times and yadda-yadda will vary according to each person’s physiology. There is no Rosetta Stone for strength-building.

    Experimentation and adaptation are essential.

    Follow a guy who’s DONE IT and gotten RESULTS you admire (like Jason) and see where you end up. If a routine doesn’t work for you, move on to the next.

    Couldn’t be any simpler.

  94. John May 21, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    Always enjoy your articles Jason!!
    Got a question…for the intermediate lifter who is looking for maximum strength and size gains, should you work upto 1-2 heavy sets or should you perform 4-6 sets with the same heavy weight or should you wave the weight up and down throughout the work sets?
    My form and reps always suffer usually after the 3rd set of a 5×5 program.
    Thanks

  95. Karthik May 22, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    Hi Jason,

    I am an athlete and I workout for speed and strength. Been following your Intermediate Workout plan of Muscle Gaining Secrets with low rep and heavy weights which has given tremendous results for me in terms of strength and speed. I am planning to start your advanced workout plan. My only concern is if I follow the advanced plan with low rep range, I might gain in size and it might affect my speed.

    Should I still be following the low rep range advanced plan or should follow some other special work out plan.

    Karthik

    • Julio May 23, 2012 at 4:50 am #

      I know I’m not Jason, but hope this clears your doubts: in order to also get bigger, you must also eat in surplus of your caloric needs (muslce doesn’t simply appear).

      So by following the program as laid out in MGS but restricting you calories to a maintenance level or just slightly over maintenance you don’t have to worry about gaining too much size… You will just get f*cking strong and maintain your bodyweight, although you should appreciate lower %BF by not eating as much as when you want size gains.

  96. Jack Sexton May 22, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Taylor:

    How much weight have you gained over the last few years mate?

    • Taylor May 23, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

      I went from 135 to now, about 170 pounds. I am 6-feet-tall.

  97. Ben May 22, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    Hey Jason, I just want to say that i discovered low rep training when i tried the MAX OT program for the first time, and that low reps heavy weight works for me a lot better than lifting in the 10-12 range. I pretty much stay in the 5-6 rep range and i packed on mass and gained strength doing this. If what you are doing is working for you fine, but if your struggling with gains i urge anyone to try lifting in this rep range.

  98. Matt May 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Lower reps = myofibrillar hypertrophy
    Higher reps = sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

    Myofibrillar hypertrophy SHOULD be the goal.

    • Taylor May 23, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

      Myofibrillar hypertrophy SHOULD be the goal, if you’re trying to build strength. :-)

      • Alex May 24, 2012 at 1:22 am #

        I would say that if your goal is size, both Myo and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy should be the goal..
        The difference in size between powerlifters and bodybuilders is that inteligent bodybuilders develop both types of muscle fibers and powerlifters only develop one.. altough type II are the ones that can grow the most, powerlifters only focus on type II and bodybuilders focus on both of them, wich can explain the difference in muscular development.. the best approach, if youre not into competition in my oppinion is powerbuilding..

  99. Justin May 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    J,

    So glad you touched on keeping lowere reps (below 6) for the big lifts and olympic lifts. The emphasis on injury prevention was well stated. Thank you.

    I am a crossfit competitor but hate the programming they give. I focus on getting as strong as possible while mixing in energy system training to allow for proper lactate, aerobic, etc… ability so that I can handle the WODs.

    High rep oly-lifts (ie: 70 snatches with low weight) just screams lower lumbar injuries.

    Love the post!

    Justin

  100. Maximus May 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    Myofibrillar hypertrophy is characteristic of competitive weight lifters.

    Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is characteristic of bodybuilders.

    80 to 90% of the 1RM for 2–6 reps causes myofibrillar hypertrophy as seen in competitive lifters.

    Sub-maximal loads in the 6-12 rep range causes sarcoplasmic hypertrophy as seen in bodybuilders.

    12 or more reps develops muscular endurance with minimal muscle hypertrophy.

    • Taylor May 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

      THUMBS UP

      This is what I have been trying to explain the entire time.

    • Ryan May 23, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

      @ Minimus

      THUMBS DOWN.

      So uh, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is what you see in bodybuilders. Well…if you say so. But here’s a video of Ronnie Coleman deadlifting 800 pounds for a double, five weeks from the Olympia. Imagine what Ronnie Could have achieved if he was smart enough to realize what you just explained.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI5bCcPQN1k

      And by the way, what you’re seeing from most pro bodybuilders nowadays is what’s known as Synthol. It’s the ultimate filler goo and multiple pros have openly admitted to using it (along with any other substance that might artificially pack on a few more pounds).

      Well anyways, hope you have a great day ;-)

      • Maximus May 24, 2012 at 10:19 am #

        @ryan: I see you are good at trolling & flaming. What do you have to prove by bring disrespectful by calling me “minimus” I’m trying to have an intellectual conversation and you resort to childish name calling.

        Ron Coleman is not a good example for drug free weight lifters to follow. He uses pharmaceuticals to inhance his training and physique.

        Study real science covering myofibrils and sarcomeres and come back with something intelligent to contribute.

  101. Ben May 23, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Taylor you weighed a 135 pounds you would have gained weight lifting in any rep range.

    • Taylor May 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

      From a bro-science perspective, I lifted for 3 years in high school without gaining a single pound, all while lifting heavy at around 6 to 8 repetitions. Granted, my nutrition wasn’t on par…

      Still, for me, high repetitions has always delivered better results, while allowing me to lift with proper form.

      But again, lift heavy with low reps for strength, lift medium with high repetitions for size, or, I would think something in between for size and strength.

    • Taylor May 23, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

      Lol Not trying to hate, Ben, but lifting at “any rep” range is a little broad…

  102. Ben May 24, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    Google Warriors on here

  103. Maximus May 24, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Progressive overload is the most important principle behind muscle hypertrophy. That means either increasing the weight, the repetitions or the sets from one workout to the next will all have a positive impact on muscle growth.

    Muscles are composed of tubular cells called myocytes (muscle fibers) and these cells contain many chains of myofibrils. Myofibrils are composed sarcomeres. Myofibrils hypertrophy only a small amount when stimulated properly. Sarcomeres hypertrophy larger and their growth is stimulated by a larger rep range (6-12).

    Here’s a good hypertrophy plan:
    Increase training volume by 5-10% from previous training session. Increase either by reps, weight, or sets.
     
    Perform 2 – 4 exercises per target muscle if not performing a full body routine.

    Pick a weight that produces full muscle fatigue between 6-12 repetitions. This should be around 65-80% of 1RM

    Perform 3-6 sets per exercise.

    Rest a minimum 2 days before working that muscle again.

    • Alex May 24, 2012 at 6:53 am #

      I agree with almost everything you said but now with the volume part.. even if you just increased 5% every workout in 20 workouts you would have increased 100% of the volume..
      Even if what you referred as volume is either more intensity or less time doing the same work, a 5% increase in each workout is a good target for an absolute begginer, and even for a begginer it might be too much, altough most bodybuilding magazines say that, experience will tell you otherwise.. orelse every intermediate guy would be squatting 1000 pounds by now..
      You can progress thru more volume but the best is surelly thru more intensity, or less time doing the same volume.
      More and more volume is the begginers mistake, and i dont think it has its place here..
      Just my 2 cents

      • Jim October 27, 2013 at 3:55 am #

        what he said if I am reading it right this kind of training gives you what your seeking with lessoning your chances to over train.

    • mrapollocreed November 19, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

      You are like a human encyclopedia my dude. Was all that off the head though, like a freestyle, cause if so, I gotta tell you, that was fucking awesome dude, I learned so much reading this. The myofibrils & glycogen storage, etc.

  104. Maximus May 24, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    @ Alex

    Progressive overload should be your goal. You can’t lift the same weight from workout to workout and expect your muscles to grow. You have to progressively increase something; number of reps, amount of weight, number of sets. Even decreasing rest time between sets is part of progressive overload. More and more volume is not a beginners mistake, if executed properly it’s the right way. Maybe you should pick up a Book called Beyond Braun by Stuart McRobert. The author takes a very conservative & drug free approach to building muscle. It also addresses what you mentioned and your theory of squating 1000 lbs.

    • Alex May 24, 2012 at 7:44 am #

      Agreed Maximus, progressive overload is my main goal, but not thru volume, i’ve gone that road before and ended up with a lot of overuse injuries and overtrained..
      Volume is simply the number of exercises, reps and sets you perform during a workout.
      Intensitty is a totally different thing, as is the time you spend doing the same exercise..
      And i cant see how i need a book to prove wrong that you cant progress 5% on each workout, that is simply impossible, if you have experience you also should know allready.
      I workout 260 times a year, if i progressed 5% from workout to workout i would have progressed 1300% per year, ive been working out fo 10, so i should expect a 13000% increase right ? i remember my first squat was 150 pounds, so i should be squating 19500 pounds by now..

      • Jim October 27, 2013 at 4:04 am #

        that is not what he said brother.. if you do not increase weight increase at least another added rep, then maybe the next week another set, he did not say increase only weight? I was dealing with some same issues as you brother, so I decided to get real advice, and I did. now I am lifting properly making gains slowly and in strength like I want but muscle growth is part of it and I have not had any over training issues as I follow strict ranges in which change I make weekly, monthly. I don’t look that far yearly. you should be monitoring your training minimum every 14 days. By the way why would you keep doing a exercise if it give you joint pain rather than muscle soreness due to proper lifting. Just trying to help you think like I do now without the wrong mindset.

  105. Maximus May 24, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Alex you know that kind of weight is ludicrous. The book will explain it in better detail. At some point a person will plateau on weight. Increments will become smaller the more advanced a person becomes. A beginner should follow progressive overload as I described until they reach an advanced stage. At which point they would then implement different lifting techniques like supersets, drop sets, rest pause, etc, etc.

    A beginner should focus on strict form and slowly progressing in weight adding 5 – 10 pounds on the bar for the big lift exercises like the squat, deadlift, and bench. On smaller lift exercises like barbell curl, french press, etc these would get a smaller increase in weight like 2.5 – 5 pound increases. At some point the increases would slow, so a 1 – 2.5 pound increase would be all that is possible without affecting proper execution of the lift. At that point the lifter should switch to an advanced technique to bust through the plateau or maybe consider an alternate exercise for a period and then return to that exercise to ramp the weight again.

    Before a lifter considers increasing weight he should focus on increasing reps. If the lifter is working in the 6-12 rep range he should pick a weight that he could execute the exercise at a minimum of 6 reps to near failure with good form. From workout to workout he would try to increase by one rep. When the lifter reaches 12 reps with that weight, he would then add enough weight to the bar to allow a minimum of 6 reps starting the progression again.

    Weight training doesn’t have to be complicated, but over thinking and over analyzing everything will complicate it. You do have to still educate yourself though. You should pick up books and read them. More the better, that way you become more knowledgable in weight training. What is sad is there are more weight lifters more knowledgable in pharmaceuticals than in the science of weight training. And who do most people listen too? The people on gear should not be our mentors, period! It would be nice to not see known steroid users being referenced as examples for drug free bodybuilders and strength trainers.

    I’ve used the progressive overload technique for over 15 years and it has help me achieve my maximum genetical potential for muscle mass without the use of steroids. My goal has never been strength, so I sparingly used the 1-5 rep ranges. When I do it’s been to bust through a plateau and I’ve restricted it to just a few weeks as my joints and ligaments suffer from the excessive weight.

    • Alex May 24, 2012 at 9:27 am #

      Sure, that seems like copy paste from a book, but anyway i agree with every point, im in the game for a while now and have read a lot too..
      I was just disagreeing with you saying that you can progress 5% from workout to workout, i know that its written in books but in real life it doesnt happen, sometimes you will progress 5%, sometimes nothing, sometimes you even regress, its never linear, because strength gain isnt linear..
      If youve been into this for 15 years it sounds awkward to me how you dont agree with me, but thats ok..

      • Maximus May 24, 2012 at 10:46 am #

        You can say its cut and paste in an attempt to invalidate the point of view I’m discussing. It’s nonsense to think you can do what you are describing.

        I have stated that progression is multifaceted. Starting with a rep increase as the first step. It can take six weeks to go from 6 reps to 12 reps. Then an increase in weight. Then another ramp of 6 to 12 reps with that weight. Then more weight. Keep progressing until you plateau. It’s simple and it works.

        • Alex May 24, 2012 at 11:04 am #

          Im not invalidating anything Maximus, what you are describing is simple progressive overload, thats what we all do from day 1, its nothing new.
          What i was describing was an example of how it is impossible to progress 5% every workout.

          • Maximus May 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

            I’ve explained that 5% rule. It’s not as you describe of simply adding weight to the bar with every work out. Progression starts with reps first. Progressing thru the rep range and then adding weight. It is possible to add weight in 5 – 10% incriment up till a point when gains slow and then stop. That’s when you make changes to your workout. Read the book it may help you get a better grasp of what I’m trying to explain.

  106. Maximus May 24, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Alex.. overtraining comes with not taking proper breaks. You can’t lift balls to the walls and not stop to regenerate your body. You have to give your body a break with a de-load week.. A de-load week can be either no lifting or light lifting not taken to failure. A light endurance 12-15 rep range would be perfect for a de-load week. You will come back refreshed and finding yourself able to lift a little more wait.

    Knowing when to take a de-load week is important. You can schedule them every 8-12 weeks in your routine, but you may have to take them sooner than that depending on how you are lifting.

    • Alex May 24, 2012 at 9:23 am #

      Sure, that is basic.. if you periodize your training it will work even better, but i do take a week off every 8 weeks..
      I was just saying that it is impossible to progress 5% from workout to workout, that is great in books but doesnt happen in the gym..

      • Maximus May 24, 2012 at 11:33 am #

        Have you heard of the KISS principle? Keep It Simple Stupid. Please don’t take that as me calling you stupid. It’s a principle that good to follow.

        Weight training doesn’t need to be complicated. A beginner can follow the example I explained and get excellent results in muscle hypertrophy. It’s basic, it’s simple and it works.

        Yes periodization works. I actually use micro-periodization. I use 6-8, 8-10 and 10-12 reps range in my periods. But I’m also far from a beginner.

        When I was out for a lay off for four months because of a broken hand, I use the 6-12 rep range for 18 weeks to recondition myself before going back into my current training model.

        • Alex May 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

          Yes, deffinitly, the basics are still what works better..
          Your periodization looks good, i use a litlle different type because i focus more on performance than looks, so my workout is not a bodybuilding one, it has less volume, and because i engage in many other activities i dont do well with a true bodybuilding split because of recovery.. i use a 5×5, 3×8, 2×15 type of workout periodizing power, speed and different rest periods in macro cycles, around 4 weeks long..

        • Eric May 21, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

          This sounds interesting. How many sets do you suggest for each rep range?

    • Jim October 27, 2013 at 4:20 am #

      I do exactly as like you prescribed I take my break at the end of every 6th week, I’m 48 would rather be safe than sorry with improper lifting technic. I make steady gains by making small changes, if you really think about 5% is not much, whether you change your rep one week to add another set the next, really gains are within the ranges of what you have stated. Guys like you are a huge help to this industry to just learn how to lift. is it really science and at the same time a simple training method with real results. when you restart you do not loose your gains, you just adjust for new gains, you just repeat what you done but at the beginning with your new gains I know that sounded flakey but really it does work. I start with 3 sets with 3 to 5 reps at the end of 6 weeks I’m at 5 sets with 6 reps max. with adding weight but doing it smart.. just thatsimple and it works great. if I only add 60 lbs for the year for each exercise or just get where I want to be and only added 50 lbs, that still great. 48 year old guy with 11% body fat.. hell yeah

  107. Ben May 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    For all this rubbish about this builds strength and this builds size blah blah in general the bigger guys are always the stronger guys.

    • Maximus May 24, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

      Not so, just because they are bigger doesn’t make them stronger. It’s all dependent on training style. You can have two individuals that are visually equal in muscle size. One does the typical bodybuilding training model and the other incorporates the more performance driven strength training. So one guy will be all show and no go, and the other all show and ready to go.

      • Alex May 25, 2012 at 1:28 am #

        I totally agree with you on this one Maximus, size doesnt mean just strength..
        If someone works out in a gym where only bodybuiders workout they might not see the difference and usually the biggest guy is the strongest because they all workout the same way..
        But for example i workout in a gym where we have bodybuilders, powerlifters and powerbuilders, like myself, and i can say that the huge chemically enhanced bodybuilders are much weaker than the smaller powerlifters and us powerbuilders..
        We have 180 pound powerlifters outlifting by far the 220-250 pound bodybuilders, and when i say by far i mean sometimes double the weight .
        I am not saying that bodybuilders are worse athletes, i used their method for a long time untill i started to focus more on performance than size, and i can say that we have to honour how much volume a bodybuilder can take and how they are able to completelly exaust a muscle and work thru their pain barrier..
        The problem in my point of view is different types of training volume and rep range but also that usually most bodybuilders forget and totally put aside their conditioning in order to get the biggest gains in size possible and that also hinders their performance.
        Usually just looking at 2 guys the same size you can tell who is the strongest just by how dense their muscles are..

        • Maximus May 25, 2012 at 6:00 am #

          I don’t have anything against low rep training. For those not wanting to incorporate the 1-5 rep range because of age, joint stress or what ever other reason (fear of heavy s*#t), the 6-8 rep range would give an ideal combination of neural recruitment for performance/strength and metabolic fatigue for muscle hypertrophy. Time under load is what greater contributes to muscle hypertrophy and te 6-8 rep range will give you the best of both for size and strength.

          • Maximus May 25, 2012 at 6:34 am #

            If you think about this for a minute the progressive overload scheme I described with the 6-12 rep range is like micro-periodization. You are starting with 6 reps, then next workout 7 reps, then 8 reps on the next, and so on until you get to 12 reps. You then increase the weight and start over with 6 reps. It’s a 6 week micro-periodization program using a ramping method. It is a good program for the beginner and intermediate level lifter, at the lower end of the rep range you are developing your strength.

  108. Maximus May 27, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    You’ll find this interesting. A study presented at the 2009 American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting looked at the effects of two different training weights–heavy and light–and the impact that either training to failure or stopping short of failure had on muscle-protein synthesis. Researchers reported that when subjects worked out with 30% of their one-rep max (a weight with which they could complete more than 30 reps) or 90% of their 1RM (a weight with which they could complete only about 4 reps) protein synthesis increased by the same amount. Yes you read that right, both rep ranges to failure were equal in effect. Now there us more, when they trained with 30% of their 1RM and stopped short of failure, protein synthesis only increased by about half of what it went up to when they trained to muscle failure. What does this mean? First, it’s important to train to muscle failure to maximize protein synthesis and, therefore, muscle growth. Second, you can mix up your training, going very heavy (3-5 reps) in some workouts, heavy in some workouts (6-8 reps), moderate in some workouts (8-12 reps) and very light (15-30 reps) in other workouts to prevent stagnation in your training, but still increase muscle growth by ensuring that you train to muscle failure. You must fail to grow and that’s backed by science.

    • Alex May 27, 2012 at 7:00 am #

      Maximus, does the study state if the subjects were begginers or experienced lifters ? im curious..
      Anyway, that proves what most people know by experience, and itis the reason why i think that bodybuilders achieve more size, they train all types of muscle fibers.. altough type II fibers are the ones that grow the most you cannot forget to use type I muscle fiber growth if you want to get the most growth possible, altough i think that you shouldnt overdoit, orelse muscle fibers type IIA will start to become more of an endurance type muscle fiber than an explosive type pf muscle fiber, because they can become both..
      I use all 3 rep ranges and usually perform sets of even more than 30, like 5×10 drop sets but with much less volume than i use the lower ranges..

    • Ken Okada May 29, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

      Once you’ve been training enough, you’ll realize research done in labs have very little carry over into the real world. I doubt that elite olympic athletes and NFL athletes would screw around with just 30% of their training max on the main lifts at any point in actual training.
      All of the magic is in the programing and experience. Experience and any competent coach will know that training to absolute failure on a regular basis is a bad idea.

  109. Maximus May 27, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Don’t out think yourselves and lose sight of what’s really important. The most basic and direct approach is often the most superior approach. This isn’t rocket science. People tend to lose site of the most basic and simple things in favor of various high tech distractions or new trendy schemes. Almost everyone will go through this phase at one point or another. So if what you’re doing isn’t working there’s a good chance it’s because you’ve lost sight of the basics and you’re focusing too much on complicated details.

    The point is, muscle hypertrophy isn’t as dependent on rep range as a lot of people think. As long as you use progressive resistance you can build solid muscle doing low reps or high reps. Providing that the volume is equal, reps of 3-5, 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 or even 15 or more (when taken to failure) have been shown to result in exactly the same stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. Obviously the higher rep range will tax muscular energy stores so in addition to increasing the protein synthesis you also get more glycogen storage. In either case the primary stimulus is the same, the muscles activated are the same, and regardless of rep range, reps are not the primary event to muscle hypertrophy.

    As I said before, if you want to avoid joint abuse and overtaxing your CNS, limit your 1-5 rep work. It is prefered to use the 6-8 rep range in your training model, as it will provide the ideal combination of CNS recruitment for strength gains and time under load for metabolic fatigue to induce hypertrophy. If your goal is more muscle than strength, then the higher rep range (8-12) will provide the benefit of less joint stress and pack on slabs of muscle.

    • Guðmundur May 31, 2012 at 3:42 am #

      As i said before, I am 45, the low reps 1-5 are now wearing my joints and ligaments out more than it used to do. Joint pain, ligament tearing or any injuries are not what i want to get when working out. I have worked out in the low rep range for years, great for building strength and some muscle gains.
      Now i have started to focus on a bit higher rep range, 8-12, and time under tension, perfect form, slower on the eccentric, and the gains are great, and the joints are great again, and all ligaments are healing. There always have to be a deload week ( rest week ) and a shock week ( 1-5 reps week ) every 8 – 12 weeks )
      Like Maximus says you have to apply progresive overload trough more reps, sets, less rest, more weight.

      So guys ;-) no matter what you say when you are in your 30´s you have to be aware of not fucking up your joints with to much weight for to long time. It will bite you in the ass when you get older … and you spend your later half of your life wishing you had taking more care.

      My advise is: no matter how you train, for strenght or size, or both …..or endurance, NEVER ever do less then perfect form, if you cant, then you are not strong enough for that weight, and you have to back off a bit.
      Heavy is not the only answer tough it is cool to say you can deadlift heavy load ;-)
      Look at this guy :-)
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0ySblouCKs

  110. Elisabeth May 30, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Hi Jason,
    In a previous article you said women typically get better results with the 8-15 rep range, but does that also apply to deadlifts and squats? I’ve been doing 3-5 reps per set since I learned how to properly deadlift, and I’ve recently been using the 3/2/1 wave system developed by Christian Thibaudeau. I really like the wave system for the deadlifts, but should I maybe use one that requires higher reps?

  111. Lee May 31, 2012 at 3:04 am #

    Here is my new workout that was given to me. Been using this for last few weeks and found excellent gains. Loving it:-
    CHEST / BACK
    Exercise 1 - 4sets 5 reps
    Exercise 2 3 4 – 4s x 6-8r

    LEGS
    Exercise 1 – 4sets 5 reps
    Exercise 2 3 4 5 6 – 4s x 6-8r

    BICEPS / TRICEPS
    Exercise 1 – 4s x 5r
    Exercise 2 3 4 – 3s x 6-8r

    DELTS TRAPS
    Exercise 1 – 4s x 5r
    Exercise 2 3 4 5 6 – 3s x 6-8r

    At end of every exercise, drop set by 1/2weight.
    30 sec rest between all sets.

    Day 1 Chest Biceps
    Day 2 Back Triceps
    Day 3 Legs
    Day 4 Delts Traps
    Day 5 Off
    Day 6 Repeat

    • Ben May 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

      You’ve experienced excellent pure muscle gains in a few weeks? I only know one person who can experience muscle gain any quicker and his name is Bruce Banner. Maybe you lost some fat that showed the muscle you already had?

      You work your back the day after your biceps and your triceps the day after your chest.

      Your back (and by association, your biceps) warrants an entire training day on its own as it will hopefully incorporate a lot of heavy lifting that engages your legs and core.

      You will want a day of rest before and after your leg day, as it will involve squatting and you shouldn’t feel like running back to the gym after this.

      Put shoulders away from chest day – put it with leg day.

      Every day is leg day because legs involve using the entire body. Base your workout around your legs and back.

  112. Maximus June 1, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    @ Ken
    In regards to failure, that is why proper rest/recovery, diet and incorporating deload weeks are important. Also, lets look at DC Training; it relies on taking the activation set and following mini-sets to failure, then it incorporates static holds and extreme stretching. DC is a proven method to build incredible mass. Lifting to failure works and it’s proven through experience.

    If real science has very little carry over into the real world of the gym, then try telling that to Borge Fagerli the creator of the Myo-reps training technique. His research, muscle biopsies, EMGs, etc has proven that this lifting technique works to activate all muscle fiber types and incredible mass. Myo is not using super heavy weight and not going to failure. It’s moderate weight (8-12 RM) to near failure.

    FYI, I work at a prison and the inmates have no weight training equipment. I’ve seen these guys build incredible size by just doing body weight exercises only using high volume and going to failure. We are taking super extended sets, like 300 to 500 push-ups total in a set using rest pause technique. These guys simply do body weight squats, dips, pull-ups, inverted shoulder presses and push-ups.

  113. David June 6, 2012 at 4:23 am #

    HI Jason

    I have read somewhere that good figures to aim for would be:-

    Bench: Your bodyweight.
    Squat: 1.5 times your bodyweight.
    Deadlift: twice your bodyweight.

    Would this apply to 5 – 8 reps?

  114. Jason June 9, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    I have experimented with both styles for years on myself and on clients (strength and conditioning specialist/trainer). I can clearly tell you from experimenting that the low reps even while performed in a circuit, paired sets, or combo training with explosive full body movements elicit a better recovery, and a happier athlete or client. The willingness to train is much higher and measurable from doing low rep sets even in high volume vs. the higher reps. I find my clients shot down and have low willingness to come back in after crushing out 15 plus reps on compound exercises. I work with many ex championship bodybuilders who would disagree with me, but in my rebuttal they only look to get a pump set not to increase strength or performance. Just my own input…

  115. Jamie June 13, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Well i’ve been doing 3 sets of 20 on 12.5kg dumbells frequently enough and it has built me up over a long time but now i will start on low reps of 5 – 8 on 20kg dumbells and i will be back 1 months time!

  116. Oswaldo sanchez August 10, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Really good avice I like it.

  117. Joe Griffiths September 23, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    Good players have good and bad days, great players have good and great days. With higher reps training, it’s easy to become a good player. To explain, my gains were average, I had puffy muscles and my nervous system was really taxed. By the end of a training week I was sore, swollen, tired and my intensity (% 1 rep max I could lift) would begin to suffer. It’s very frustrating to know you are not lifting at your full potential because of fatigue. So I took your advice and lowered my rep range with 8 being the absolute maximum I could lift. I went from 3 sets of 10-12 reps to 4 sets of 6-8 reps. Not only have I increased muscle and strength but my nervous system is way LESS taxed. I have more energy and my muscle is starting to look and feel more dense. You spend the time giving this advice, so it’s only worth while if we use it, and I did and I thank you.

    • johnbain October 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

       Higher rep training actually can require more rest in many people.

  118. Exter November 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    @Ben

    No way this is true. Just look at the light powerlifting weight classes.

  119. Johnny wayne December 18, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    Hey Jason, Ive checked out all your articles and man you have Helped change a lot of lives. This is my favorite article the 5-8 rep range and captain Kirk really was the deal breaker for me . however, I’m taking a DELOAD week and I’m not going to lift for 7 days or do any Plyos , parachute sprints, any type of resistance . Now can i still do sprints everyday to keep my conditioning up to par ????? Or do I have to lay off the sprinting I heard its easier on your joints than long distance runs and sprinting Is a completely natural way to exercise . I’d really appreciate it if you could get back to me thanks !

  120. Ben May 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Protein synthesis does not equal muscle growth.

    Most people do not make enough pure muscle from a genetic standpoint to make noticeable changes to their body in short periods of time – you can minus lean tissue and fat derived from overeating that disappears when you stop eating so much fat boys.

    The reason that the notion that low reps does not build muscle is that everyone wants to swap and change too much(with each new edition of Mens Health probably.) Therefore, they never give the time to low rep training to reap its rewards. It takes a lot of strength to build a little muscle.

    I doubt you could really find anyone in your gym (sorry, not you, hardcore lifters who seem to have access to gyms resembling Westside) who can pick up 500 lbs off the floor at a reasonable body weight (12-15% bodyfat).

    I know, I know, EVERYONE in YOUR gym does 20 rep deadlifts with 500lbs bro! WIth chains bro!! We actually beat up people who don’t warm up with with six plates at my place. We laugh at them and we use an Arrrgnolds laugh too. Look at ze weakling, we crush him yes? Yes, ve crush him.

    But, in reality, if you can pick up 2,5 x your bodyweight off the floor and press your bodyweight overhead for about 5 reps, you are strong, probably look pretty good and can now bask in the glory of your lifting prowess. Go and buy some short shorts and hit the beach you manly man.

    • Billy Boy September 29, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

      Finally someone with some common sense.

  121. Rick July 31, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    “When you’re a skinny, weak maggot you need some serious overload to kick your body into an anabolic state.”

    Come on really? Maggot? Do you really think you’re being cool by writing like this? Your information is valuable, but I’d rather watch Leroy Colbert’s videos on You Tube, or re-read Steve Reeves, men who get/got their message across without resorting to this sort of writing.

    • Exter July 31, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

      Shut up you skinny maggot. Eat some food instead of bitching.

  122. zeeshan September 3, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    Nice article.

  123. Nate September 24, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    Is reverse pyramid training good for hypertrophy?

  124. Scott November 14, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Hi Jason!

    I am 6’3″ 240 19% BF and I want to maitain most of my muscle and maximize fat loss, looking to compete in BB naturally, what rep range is best for me?

  125. yannick January 14, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    I bought the adonis index which is amazing and its between 8-13 for phase 1 and 13-21 phase 2 and phase 3 is supersetted.

    I also have most of vince gironda training and the 8 X 8. I don,t belelvie in high reps very low weight unless you are doing a rehab program.

    For me to lose fat Vince Gironda 8 X 8 with 30 seconds break between sets is the best i use i am 41 injured myself in the back and missed 11 years out of training due to heavy squatting and deadlifting, you won’t gain mass from them you will gain an awful bulky physique. Anyone wanting mass can just eat more and do safer exercises.

    If you lift too heavy say on the bench press like i used to do it turns out to be a front shoulder exercise and triceps and the chest gets nothing.

    Go for forms contract the muscles 8 X 8 with the right weight will give you the burn and you will grow and totally reshape your body and its free, choose 3-4 exercises for chest back and legs and 2-3 for shoulders and arms.

    Its that easy

  126. F0x March 23, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    There are only two words anybody needs to know about any kind of training.

    Progressive Overload.

    Everything comes down to this.

    You can do 1 set or 20 sets, 1-5 reps or 6-12 or 12-20 or whatever. You can stuff your face with calories, or you can have just one apple a day as your only calories. From examples I have seen in life, (not just science) none of the above particularly matters, AS LONG AS from the previous workout you were able to:

    1. Do more reps
    2. Do the same amount of reps with more weight
    3. If your timing, do the same amount of work in shorter timespan, or more amount of work in the same timespan.

    If you can do this, you have empirically, no bullshit, proven you have gotten stronger, either through more muscle, or a better mind to muscle link. Whatever the case, you are a better human then you were from the previous workout, and thats what you need to know. The human body is one of the most amazing adaptive forces on the planet. And muscle growth, strength gains are very simply an adaptation. Even if you are starving, and have a low bodyfat %, do you think that standing out in the sun WONT get you tanned ? Of course it will. Your body HAS to adapt to it. It will divert its resources to the most life threatening source at the time. If thats from picking up and dragging heavy shit, well, its gotta do it. Even in the absence of excess calories either from food or bodyfat it will still go ahead and make do with what you have, because it has to. I am sure prisoners are not eating 5 star buffets packed with protein, yet their simple bodyweight workouts gets them pretty big and strong. Gorillas are eating rabbit food all day and are huge.

    So.

    Super critical to keep a journal of your workouts. If your improving, your improving. The numbers wont lie. Stress less about Diet, particularly Protein and how many reps, sets etc, BUT be consistent with something for at least a while so you can measure if your getting better. Protocol hopping makes it impossible to measure anything.

    I am on the fence about submaximal training. I understand the idea behind it, but I am not sure about it. Heres my take and examples:

    We pick up a weight and strive for 10 reps. We get to 9 and fail on the concentric 10. We now have a benchmark, again, a no bullshit, empirical number (9) we know is our limit. If we can get to 10 or more next workout, we know 100% we have made progress. No ifs or buts.

    With submaximal, a bunch of factors could come into play about how “close” to failure you are. Same example as above but we stop at 8, leaving “a couple in the tank”. We pat ourselves on ther back and GTFO of the gym. We come back the next day and get to 9. We are stoked, we reckon we’ve made progress ! But really… HAVE WE ? As per example, we did 8, thinking 10 is our max. But how do we know ? On a good day, feeling jacked, our compadres slapping our heads and giving awesome encouragement, our max might have been 12. On a low day, where we found out our best friend and spouse did the horizontal tango together, it might only have been 9. So in this case, we have come back to the gym, done 9, patted ourselves on the back, but this might have been WELL within our bodies capability. Which means no adaptation necessary, which means no growth, which means a waste of time.

    However the other side of the coin for submaximal, obviously if you look at nature and certain other examples, (like gorillas, manual workers, etc) obviously, a Gorilla is not swinging around until it falls out of a tree from failure, but its got great strength, and its big.

    I guess my concern about Submaximal is not being able to measure it accurately. No one should be “feeling” whether or not the training was better, you should KNOW.

    Can anyone comment a bit more about the ideas on Submaximal, is it simply to achieve a higher volume of work per day ? I am sort of seeing it from an angle where, its breaking Homeostatis slowly to allow a quicker overall adaptation, because of a more subtle shift rather then really trying to just break through.

    Cheers,

    - F0x