Posted on 29 Apr 2013
3 min read
Let me set the scene…
While busting out another pristine set of below-parallel squats, you spot some chief doing bicep curls.
There he is, throwing his back into every rep, and he just about gets 8 reps.
If you can call them reps.
You next spot him on the bench press where he proceeds to dip the weight down about a quarter of the way to a full press eight times, and then sits up looking pleased at his 100kg re-rack.
There is one in every gym.
And if you don’t think there is one in your gym, then it’s probably you.
Maybe give that person the following workout tips…
Let’s get one thing straight Arnold junior:
No-one cares how much weight you are lifting!
Not even the girl giving you the eye from the treadmill when you’re screaming through each sloppy rep.
She’s probably just checking you haven’t prolapsed.
Well, unless you’re a powerlifter or a strength athlete, you should be aiming for the 8-15 rep range.
To failure of course.
Countless studies1 have shown that this rep range gets the maximum physiological change out of your muscles when training for size.
Any lower and you are training your muscles for strength improvements, and while there is a cross-over between the two, just training strength will slow your progress towards your size goals.
The main reason for this is that strength training really builds on your neuromuscular system rather than your physical ‘hardware’ (your muscles).
While doing strength work does have its place in a bodybuilding program, it should not be like this in every workout .
Especially if you are training for size.
Hypertrophy training will still give you some strength gains, and visa versa.
Just keep in mind your goals when training.
Train with your head, not your ego.
So 8-15 reps, we’ve established that, but why?
Well the main reason is when you go much heavier, therefore hitting fewer reps, you reduce your time under tension.
This is usually because you have to power the weight up and have to lower the weight far quicker, missing out on that crucial negative portion of the rep.
Another good reason to stick to a little lighter weight and keep good form when training for size comes from Uncle Arnold himself: ‘Mind-Muscle Connection’.
If you have to throw that weight around like a fool then the muscle you’re targeting is probably being missed as more muscles are recruited to lift the weight, thereby having less effect on the muscle you are targeting.
Don’t misunderstand me though.
You still have to push/pull some serious weight to get size.
You absolutely have to hit muscle failure when training for size.
But know where the limit is – and be honest with your gym buddies.
Check their form and they can check yours.
Just put this into practice for one week if you don’t believe me.
What have you got to lose?
1. Steven J. Fleck, William J. Kraemer, Designing resistance training programs, 3rd ed, 2004
Prestes J, Frollini AB, de Lima C, Donatto FF, Foschini D, de Cássia Marqueti R, Figueira A Jr, Fleck SJ. Physiological Sciences Department, Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Federal University of São Carlos, 2009
BUILDING MUSCLE:SIGNALS INDUCED BY EXERCISE, NUTRITION, AND SUPPLEMENTS By Maria L. Urso, Ph.D, ACSM 2011, VOLUME 21: ISSUE 3