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  • Writer's pictureJaydon White

Rep ranges - Which ones are the Best for Growth?


The talk of the fitness industry town - Which rep ranges are the best for growth? Is there a perfect rep scheme for muscle building? Let's find out.





Rep Ranges - Where do we start?


The debate for 'The perfect range' has been going on for years. Countless studies have been published and continue to experiment with different ranges to see what produces the greatest results for muscle hypertrophy. The most well known range to date to train in has been the 8-12 rep range. 'If you're training in the rep ranges between 8-12, then you can be sure you're growing. Well, this is only half true, because there is a lot that goes into determining whether we actually grow or not from training. The range in which we once thought was the 'key' to muscle building is actually a lot bigger.


So what have these studies shown?


Well for starters, the range at which we can optimise building muscle has gone from 8-12 to a whopping 6-50+, which is slightly bigger! Studies have shown muscle growth in a wide variety of rep ranges, indicating that whilst the range in which we train has a role, it may not be the main predictor of muscle growth.


"Rep ranges between 6-50+ reps have been shown to elicit increases in muscle hypertrophy, debunking the original idea of 8-12 being the one and only."


What is the main predictor for muscle hypertrophy?


The three main components to which we know contributes to muscle growth is:


Mechanical Tension - Load on the muscles (Think of this as the heavy work we do)

Muscle Damage - Intensity/Range Of Motion (Think of this as the eccentric work + the sets taken to failure)

Metabolic Stress - Volume/Intensity (This the pump work. Higher reps. Shorter rest. Bigger Pumps)


If we have such a big rep range to work with (6-50+) then it still begs the question:


'What is the best reps to grow muscle?'


'Do we go to the lower end of that range (6-8), the upper end (40-50) or somewhere in between (10-20)?'


Well, maybe all of them.


Time and time again, whilst the rep ranges at which individuals have increased muscle size has changed and been successful, there is one common dominator that has accompanied these rep ranges - Training close to or near failure.


It seems that regardless of the rep ranges we use, the one key factor that determines whether we grow or not is how close to failure we actually train.


In that sense, the rep ranges are relative to the load we use. From a training standpoint, we can then look at the 3 main components of muscle building (Mechanical Tension, Muscle Damage and Metabolic Stress) as well as training close to failure and combine these together to formulate a training plan.



Figuring out the best rep ranges for a workout


If we take the information provided above, then we can use a combination of different rep ranges across the scale given, whilst doing our best to cover all components contributing to muscle growth.


This might look like (From beginning of the session to the end):


Mechanical Tension - 1-2 exercises performed for 3-4 sets in the 6-8 rep range (Heavy compound work) completed with 2-3 reps in reserve (RIR)*

Muscle Damage - 2-4 exercises performed for 3-4 sets in the 8-15 rep range (Combination of compound and isolation work) completed with 1-2 reps in reserve.

Metabolic Stress - 1-3 exercises performed for 2-3 sets in the 15-20 rep range (Mostly isolation or machine work) completed with 0-1 reps in reserve.


*Reps in reserve (RIR) is a term used to determine how many reps we have left in a set. If the RIR was 1, then theoretically we would finish that set with the ability to only complete 1 more rep before hitting failure.*


This is just an example of what a day of training might look like to optimise muscle hypertrophy. This set up allows us to prioritise our heavy, compound work whilst we are fresh, followed by some more isolation work and training closer to failure towards the end of the session.


Considerations


- These are just simple guidelines that could be an effective way of training to ensure we cover a wide spectrum of rep ranges.

- Ensuring you execute good range of motion and apply enough stimulus to the working muscles will optimise your ability to grow muscle. Rep ranges will be irrelevant if your technique is poor.

- Training in the higher rep ranges (40-50) may be impractical due to time restraints and the amount of reps that have to be completed prior to reaching failure - (Think about the time it takes to reach failure on 10 reps versus 40 reps).

- Load and how close we train to failure will be a big determinant in how much stimulus we apply on the muscle and therefore - how much we grow.

- A calorie surplus or at least eating at maintenance will be needed to maximise the muscle building process.

- The best way to ensure you are maximising your potential to grow is to cover a wide range of reps that are close to/or failure across a training day/week.



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