This is the first installment in a four part series explaining how repetitions per set, total volume of sets and reps per training session and rest intervals between sets affect muscular strength, size and endurance. In part 4, the series will culminate with an unveiling of a scientifically optimized workout protocol designed to provide the most results based on these factors. Then, proper nutrition and execution of this workout on a consistent basis is up to you. However, this is a slam dunk strategy for success
First, in part 1, we will explore the effects of repetition ranges on muscular size, strength and endurance. Part 2 will delve into workout volume, or total sets and reps per training session. Part three will touch on the ideal rest intervals to use in between your working sets. Finally, Part four will tie all of these together to create the best workout plan for size, strength and optimum muscle performance, as science, and this author’s interpretation of the facts dictate it to be.
One of the most taught and practiced aspects of weight training is to optimize the amount of repetitions you do per set of an exercise. Conventional wisdom states lower repetitions in the 6-12 range are ideal for building size and strength, whereas higher repetitons of 13+ are ideal for adding definition and “getting ripped.” While this is true in a roundabout way, in and of itself, it is misleading. Lower reps do build more strength and size than higher reps. However, saying that higher reps “add definition” to your muscles is innaccurate. Rather, they burn more calories, which may lead to more fat loss, which then leads to more muscular definition. Every individual is born with a set genetic code. This genetic code dictates nearly everything that can happen to your body, dependant on how you adjust its environment; that is to say; how you tailor your eating and exercise patterns. For example, if you eat too much and gain fat, it will come on and go off in set places on the body in predetermined patterns. It is not possible, for instance, to remove only the fat from your midsection by doing abdominal crunches and not from other areas on your body. Likewise, it is not possible to change the shape or structure of your muscle. You can change the size by exercising it and you can add definition by decreasing your overall body fat %, however if you maintain a constant level of body fat, doing higher reps will not result in more definition for your muscles. It is definitely possible to target exact muscles and add size, strength, and endurance to those muscles and not others, however fat doesn’t work that way.
Adjusting the repetition range can result in three possible rewards. These are muscular strength, muscular hypertrophy (or size) and muscular endurance. Definition and toning are purely a function of body fat %. Multiple studies have shown that any working set will result in an improvement in all three to a degree and they have also shown that certain rep ranges optimize each one:
1-6 Repetitions: Optimizes muscle strength.
7-15 repetitions: Optimizes muscle hypertrophy
16+ repetitions: Optimizes muscle endurance
Most weight lifters and bodybuilders stay in the 7-15 range as muscle size is the most sought after affect, and this rep range still provides a solid benefit to muscular strength and endurance. As a simple and basic guideline, this is indeed a very effective method for building strength, size and endurance. And this rep range will yield results on an ongoing basis. However, it is not truly the ideal for maximizing your results. Employing some sets of each rep range can result in even greater results. The important factor is when and how many low rep, medium rep and high rep sets to do in your workout. We will incorporate this in part 4. For now, stay tuned for part 2 next week; as we discuss the optimum amount of workout volume to achieve desired results.
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