How to Build Muscle with High Reps

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

Although I am not a fan of high reps on most exercises for most lifters, there are actually times when I do recommend them. So if you want to learn how to build muscle with high reps, then read on.

When you are more advanced and have developed a respectable level of strength, high reps can actually be a great tool for stimulating new muscle growth. The reason I don’t recommend high reps to beginners is because they don’t have the strength, coordination or stabilization to maintain perfect form throughout a long duration set and are likely to get injured. Also, when you are a weak beginner, it is very difficult to use a great deal of weight for more than eight reps on any given exercise.

The heavy weights for high reps concept only works with a few muscle groups and exercises and shouldn’t be used all the time. Also, the high rep set should always follow a heavy set. Therefore you would do a set of 5-8 first and then follow it up with a set of 15-20 reps.

Compound lower body exercises such as squats and leg presses are phenomenal muscle builders when done for high reps with heavy weights. My favorite set and reps scheme that I use with myself and all my advanced clients on leg days is one or two heavy set of 4-8 reps on some kind of squat followed by a high rep death set of 12-20 reps. If your legs don’t grow from that they never will.

Deadlifts are also great when done for high reps but you need to be careful to keep your back perfectly arched throughout. I recommend keeping the reps at twelve or lower on deadlifts to be safe. Rack deadlifts are a little bit safer and easier to maintain perfect form on so you may be able to push the reps to 15 on these.

Another great exercise to do high reps with is a one arm dumbbell row done with a slight cheat. I am a big fan of this exercise and am constantly trying to set new PR’s at certain rep ranges. When you can row a 130 pound dumbbell for twenty reps you will be far bigger and stronger than just about everyone else in your gym.

Whatever compound, multi joint exercise you can use a heavy weight with for high reps will be effective; just be sure that you have been training properly for at least two or three years and are quite strong before trying this. And when I say strong, I mean that you can bench press at least 1.5 times your body weight, you can squat double body weight and can deadlift 2.5 times your body weight (or at least be in the ballpark of those numbers).

High rep contests can always be fun with training partners also. Whenever I train with a friend or old training partner that I haven’t seen in a while I always like to have a heavy weight challenge and then a high rep challenge to finish the workout. We usually pick a weight that we know we can do at least 12-15 reps with and in the heat of competition end up doing nearly twice that number. For example we may choose the heaviest dumbbells the gym has for a set of one arm dumbbell rows and do anywhere from 15-30 reps for one all out, gut busting set. It’s a blast and really brings out the best in you. Not to mention that it helps pack on insane amounts of size.


PS. For more great information about how to build muscle, check out