You’ve probably heard that training in different rep ranges is better for muscle growth than training in just one range, and studies show that this is true for experienced weightlifters (but probably matters little for newbies).

In my training, for instance, I’m doing anywhere between 2 and 10 reps per set on primary exercises and 4 and 12 reps on accessory exercises. 

(Primary exercises being ones that involve several muscle groups and joints and relatively large amounts of weight, and accessory exercises being ones that involve just one or two muscle groups or joints and less weight, and that are meant to assist muscle and strength gain). 

Am I forsaking gains by not including higher rep ranges, though? Should I be doing sets of 15, 20, 25, or more reps?

Many people—bodybuilders in particular—would say yes, but I’m not convinced.

While research shows you can gain muscle doing anywhere from 6-to-20 reps per set so long as you take the sets close to muscle failure, there’s no evidence that sets of 15-to-20+ reps are superior for muscle building than other rep ranges.

That is, the physiological payoff of a set of 25 reps is more or less the same as that of a set of 12 or 8 or even 6 reps (if all sets end near failure). 

So any claims about the supposed supremacy of very high-rep sets are bunk. 

Why do many people report positive results after incorporating very high-rep sets into their programming, then? 

Often it’s because they’re adding sets to their workouts (increasing volume), not trading one rep range for another. And that, we know, can help with gaining muscle faster (to a point).

And what about periodized training that involves working in different rep ranges? Why not include some very high-rep sets?

You can if you enjoy it, but you can also probably squeeze all of the anabolic juice out of the lower-load fruit with 10-to-12 reps per set, which most people would prefer over 20+ reps per set.

Because very high-rep “finisher” sets of just about anything is about as fun as manually masturbating Karl Rove to completion.

BUT . . . 

If that kind of thing bastes your turkey, don’t let me stop you—pump away, partner. A couple of tips, though (about training, you maniac):

  1. Do high-rep sets later in your workouts, after your heavier training.
  2. Do high-rep sets with accessory (isolation) exercises, not compound ones.
  3. Limit high-rep sets to no more than 20-to-30% of your total sets for a muscle group (if you’re doing 15 sets per week for your chest, for instance, don’t do more than 3-to-5 high-rep sets).


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