TODAY, we are talking about how you can use rep ranges to get the most out of your training.
We’ve have some great interviews over the past couple of weeks and if you have not checked those out yet, definitely check out The Perfect Shoe 2 part series (podcast / blog) as well as my Interview with Jordan (podcast / blog). There is some excellent content in each of those interviews and you don’t want to miss out on that. If you enjoyed them, never fear, I am working on getting some great interviews lined up. Two world champion athletes are in my sights so definitely stay tuned in for that. It is going to be awesome.
So many of you have probably played around with different rep ranges in the past, whether you heard it would improve your results or maybe just because you were getting bored of what you were doing. Some of you may have never changed your workout at all, and if that is the case, allow me to refer to another one of my podcasts, “Change it Up!” which talks about the importance of changing up your exercise routine every now and then.
But how many of you regularly change up your rep ranges or even know what the different rep ranges are supposed to do?
Welcome to class kids, get on your education caps because I’m about to learn you some knowledge!
Repetitions are how many times you repeat a movement before you take a break. Each rep range will have a different impact on how your muscles adapt, assuming you attempt to overload your muscles in each rep range. When you are trying a rep range, you want to be sure that you are FAILING in that rep range. You should not be able to push an extra rep, if you tried. Generally you want to pick a weight that in the first set, you are reaching the top of your rep range, and by the last set, you are failing at the bottom of the rep range. If you aren’t doing that, then I think I can diagnose why you aren’t seeing any of the results you want to see.
Before jumping straight into the rep ranges and their purposes, let’s go over actually programming these rep ranges. I will stick to two major ways to program your workouts:
Undulating periodization is following different rep ranges for different days of the week. This means that on Monday you are training in the 8-12 range and Tuesday you’re in the 3-6 range and so on. This form of training is effective for people who are new to weight lifting and for those that have not tried this form of training out yet. However, for those that have been lifting for awhile and have been using this form of training, you might want to switch to linear periodization. Staying in undulating periodization provides a lot of muscle confusion, and your metabolism seems to have trouble keeping up with all the different stimuli. This is sort of a guess at why it isn’t effective as linear periodization, if I’m being honest. Case in point, you should steer towards good ol’ linear periodization.
Linear periodization is progressing to more weight over time. You stick to one rep range for, say, a month, and you increase weight each week. Some people like to take a de-load week in between switching rep ranges, but that’s up to you. If you’ve never taken a de-load week, maybe you should try it out. Cycling through each rep range and progressively overloading the muscles each week seems to be the best way to force muscles adaptations, which is why we are all going to the gym in the first place. Right?
Now, what does each rep range do?
For simplicity, I am going to stick to 3 rep range that I usually shoot for:
3-6 reps for 2-6 sets at 80% of 1RM for strength
8-12 reps for 3-6 sets at 70% 1RM for Hypertrophy
15+ reps at 50-60% 1RM for Muscular Endurance and form
The number of sets I would go for usually just depends on the person. If it is someone new to the gym I might only do 2-3 sets, but if it is someone that has been working out for a while, I will bump them up to 4-6 sets. It just depends.
So let’s vaguely answer the why, because I don’t want to bore you with big, misspelled, scientific words and stuff. A very basic explanation for why those rep ranges force different adaptations is this:
The loading of each rep range forces a different system in the muscle fibers to adapt. The fibers are made of several different cells with several different jobs, including the endurance of the fibers and the strength of the fibers. To get your fibers to grow, you need to grow each individual system of cells. So the system responsible for strength gets overloaded one month and has to grow to meet the demands of the stimulus. Then the next month the endurance system has to grow to meet the demands of the stimuli you are placing on it. Some systems are smaller than others, but do you really want to cut out an opportunity to make a system grow?
To get the best gains, you need to cycle through ALL rep ranges. This is because certain parts of muscle cells adapt to certain stimuli, and if you aren’t training all of those different things, you aren’t getting the most gains you can.
Early on in your training program, if you are just starting out, studies show that your muscles will show a better adaptation to higher repetitions than lower repetitions. This is likely because the lower weight allows you to more properly practice good form and full range of motion, which, if done properly, will increase time under tension, which improves muscle adaptations. This study was done on children, and showed greater increases in strength and endurance through high reps.
Time over tension is how you make your muscles adapt and grow. That being said, power training requires explosive movements, and is important in your training. Never sacrifice your range of motion for weight, reps, or time.
Consider your VO2 max. VO2 Max is the most widely used indicator of fitness as it relates to preventable disease and obesity, an epidemic in America. It has been shown to improve more in endurance training than in strength training. Therefore if you only ever focus on strength training, you will likely get stronger, but being a strong individual does not make you a fit individual.
Main ideas: High weight low reps are better for strength and hypertrophy. Low weight high reps is better for endurance. That being said, all forms create muscle adaptations. It is common for people to experience strength gains in endurance training and often times people experience hypertrophy when training for endurance. This is because, as mentioned before, every system produces an adaptation and grows when you overload it.
SO, the best way to see results and “get swole” is to cycle through them all. Spend a month in each rep range. Try out something new.
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As always, thanks for reading!