In this post, I will discuss the various replicas commonly used in training exercises to build muscle – with science! Stay tuned to learn more. In the "Summary" section, I have a program suggestion that puts everything covered here into an organized training routine. Click the button to go directly to the program HERE.
Table of Contents
- Low repetition for muscle building
- High reps for muscle building
- Moderate repetitions for muscle building
- Practical consequences
- Context is still king
The most common idea currently floating around in the fitness world is the separation of the rep range – ie, low reps for strength, moderate reps for size, and high reps for endurance. Although not necessarily incorrect, the concept of ranges of replies is not so linear.
Fortunately, there is some research in the literature on this topic. In the literature, low repeats are defined as 1-5 repeats per set, moderate repeats 6-12 repeats per kit, and high repeats 15+ repeats per kit (1).
Also, for the purposes of this article, I'm going to switch between muscle building and hypertrophy (hypertrophy simply means "gaining size"). So let's look into it, right?
Low repetition for muscle building
As mentioned earlier, lower repetitions are more often known to be strength rather than size. Therefore, it is preferably used by coaches and athletes to increase strength without getting bigger. This is true because strength is specific – it is based on the modality of the workout performed, so low-repetition (or higher-load) workouts tend to increase maximum power production (as compared to other adjustments) (2).
However, as mentioned earlier, studies have found low repetitions that can also induce muscle growth. In a study conducted by Dr.Schoenfeld and colleagues, they examined 2 loading protocols for 19 resistance-trained men. The first protocol was performed 2 to 4 repetitions per set (designated as SERIOUS in the study) and the second protocol 8 to 12 repetitions per set (designated as MODERATE in the study), all repetitions were performed in 7 different exercises 3 times per week for 8 weeks (3).
At the end of 8 weeks, both protocols were found to be able to induce muscle growth, although the MODERATE group gained more muscle mass (we will discuss the moderate rep range later) (3).
A second study by Dr Schoenfeld (and colleagues) confirmed these findings. While the first study equalized the number of kits, this particular study equalized the volume load (i.e., x iterations x load per pound / kg). Participants in this study performed 7 sets of 3 sets of 3 sets with different sets of 10 sets and after 8 weeks there was no difference in muscle volume between the 2 groups (but the group of 3 sets achieved maximal strength, again proving the principle of specificity). ) (4).
In summary, low repetition can build muscle, although it has consequences that I will discuss later.
High reps for muscle building
In the case of high exercises, the literature on muscle building actually has mixed results, especially when looking at trained and untrained individuals. In repetition, high repetition is defined in the literature as 15 repetitions.
In untrained persons, either 1) did not appear to cause a significant increase in muscle size in one study where subjects performed 20-28 reps of 2 sets of leg training (5) or 2), it may slightly increase muscle size (compared to moderate reps that further increased muscle size) (6).
In trained persons, the high repetitions seemed to be moderately repetitive in muscle building (note, the group that did moderate reps gained more strength) (7). A person trained in this particular study was defined as a person who had been training for at least one year and consistently raised at least three times a week.
Another interesting technique that the research has focused on is the use of blood flow limited (BFR) training to build very light loads (ie 30% 1 rep max) of muscle (about 30 + reps per set). BFR training involves attaching an elastic cuff around the training limb to prevent blood from escaping from the muscle. It has been shown that failure during training causes more muscle hypertrophy than non-BFR training (using the same loads), despite the fact that more repetitions occur in the non-BFR group (8).
So it is quite clear from the literature that major repetitions can help with muscle hypertrophy, the consequences of which will be discussed later.
Moderate repetitions for muscle building
I put this one last because it is probably the most famous repas scheme used for muscle building (i.e. a 6-12 repetition pet kit). As for the studies, I referred to them in the previous paragraphs. Both of the Dr.Schoenfeld studies I referred to in the section "Low Repetitions for Muscle Building" also showed that moderate repetitions can certainly be used for muscle building (3,4).
In fact, a 2007 review by Wernbom and colleagues suggested that a response range of 6-12 (about 75-80% 1 RM) should be used for muscle hypertrophy (9). This recommendation was based on a review of 44 studies investigating four quadriceps muscle sizes (9).
This recommendation is further supported by the American College of Sports Medicine in its 2009 position paper (10). ACSM advised that beginners and mid-lifts should use a range of 6-12 reps. most of the time Exercise in the range of 6-12 RM and less than 1-6 RM as part of a well-updated exercise program (10).
If you have come this far, congratulations, you have successfully withstood my ramming (finally? So what can I do with all this information? Here is the following: –
- In general, most of your exercise routine should be concentrated in the range of 6-12 rep., Where muscle building is a top priority. This is because the rep range is the most time-efficient for volume collection, while maintaining relatively high mechanical stress and metabolic stress, both of which are key mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy (1).
- While it is true that with greater volume (15+ repetitions) you can accumulate more volume and induce more metabolic stress, it takes longer to assemble the kit. So it would be problematic for someone who needs time.
- Similarly, if you can build muscles with low repetition, it will take time to build up enough volume as you make more kits and take longer rest periods. People in the Schoenfeld study, who made 7 sets of 3, also had pain and lost motivation to exercise because of the heavy workloads involved and extremely tired of such a protocol.
Context is still king
While moderate repetition training is a general recommendation for muscle building, there are other factors to consider.
For example, adherence to a particular protocol and enjoyment play a huge role in the sustainability of long-term training. If one does not want to train in moderate repetitions, he / she may evade training. If someone prefers to work out with low or high repetition, this protocol would be much more useful to them than moderate repetition because they enjoy it more and continue to train.
Also, overlapping goals can affect the choice of loading protocols; someone may be more inclined to gain strength, and so it would be helpful to use few repetitions during training. A well-designed exercise routine would help to achieve this goal.
Lastly, the pathological condition may also influence the choice of loading protocols. For example, this study revealed that low-burden BFR training helped patients with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome to relieve pain and even gained muscle by doing so (11).
It is clear from current literature that all reps (such as low, moderate, and high) can cause muscle hypertrophy. Moderate range may be slightly better than others, but other factors still play a role in protocol selection.
If you want a program that takes into account everything discussed in this article, I recommend Dr.Bret Contreras Maximum Strength 2 × 4 HERE for both strength and size. This is a training routine for all walks of life (ie beginner, intermediate, advanced). If you notice, Dr.Contreras has also participated in some of the studies listed in the references section; Basically, he is both a lifter and a scientist, and combining both traits ensures that you get only the best programming supported by experience and science. BEFORE SERVING, be sure to read the disclaimer on my "About" page HERE.
I was hoping you enjoyed my post, that you found it useful and that you implemented some of these protocols in your training routine. And remember, Deadlift is medicine!
** Update: Eric Helms wrote here a comprehensive article on the consequences of low-load training. He posted it only a day after I wrote this article, which is wonderfully amazing.
- Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). Mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application in resistance training. Research on the strength and conditioning of magazines, 24th(10), 2857-2872.
- Beardsley. (June 29, 2017). Why is the maximum strength increased most under heavy loads? (strength is specific). Retrieved January 29, 2018 from https://www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/perspectives/strength-endurance-continuum/
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., & Peterson, M. (2016). Different effects of heavy and moderate loads on endurance and hypertrophy rates in resistance-trained men. Journal of sports science and medicine, 15th(4), 715.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Ratamess, N. A., Peterson, M. D., Contreras, B., Sonmez, G. T., and Alvar, B. A. (2014). Effect of Different Volume Equalized Endurance Training Load Strategies on Well-Trained Men's Muscle Adaptation. Research on the strength and conditioning of magazines, 28th(10), 2909-2918.
- Campos, G. E., Luecke, T. J., Wendeln, H. K., Toma, K., Hagerman, F. C., Murray, T. F.,… & Staron, R. S. (2002). Muscle adaptations in response to three different resistance training regimens: specifics of maximum repetition training zones. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 88(1-2), 50-60.
- Holm, L., Reitelseder, S., Pedersen, T. G., Doessing, S., Petersen, S. G., Flyvbjerg, A.,… and Kjaer, M. (2008). Changes in muscle size and MHC composition in response to endurance exercise with heavy and light exercise intensity. Journal of Applied Physiology, 105(5), 1454-1461.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Peterson, M. D., Ogborn, D., Contreras, B., & Sonmez, G. T. (2015). Low-impact effects of high-load endurance training on muscle strength and hypertrophy in well-trained men. Research on the strength and conditioning of magazines, 29th(10), 2954-2963.
- Fahs, C. A., Loenneke, J. P., Thiebaud, R. S., Rossow, L. M., Kim, D., Abe, T., … and Bemben, M. G. (2015). Adapting muscle tissue to fatigue training with and without blood flow limitation. Clinical physiology and functional imaging, 35(3), 167-176.
- Wernbom, M., Augustsson, J., & Thomeé, R. (2007). Effect of exercise frequency, intensity, volume and weight training on the total muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Sports Medicine, 37(3), 225-264.
- Ratamess, N. A., Alvar, B. A., and Evetoch, T. K. (2009). Patterns of resistance training in healthy adults. American College of Sports Medicine. Med Sci sports training, 41(3), 687-708.
- Giles, L., Webster, K. E., McClelland, J., & Cook, J. L. (2017). Strengthening of four pharynx with and without blood flow limitation in the treatment of patellofemoral pain: a double-blind randomized study. Br J Sports Med, 51(23), 1688-1694.
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