Rep Schemes? Should You Be Doing Low or High Reps?
As we set out to train, a common question to ask is ‘how many reps?’ and magic number is typically 10, but what is the purpose? In general health magazines there are plenty of workouts you can find with headlines aimed at either ‘bulking’ or ‘cutting’ where the rep ranges differ.
Bulking typically is said to train at Low Reps and Cutting at High Reps where rep ranges can vary depending on source of information. We will put together our view and thoughts on rep ranges.
To begin with; if you are to bulk or cut, you shouldn’t even worry about the rep ranges if the diet you have in place doesn’t support the goal. What we mean by this is that in bulking; you can train in the low rep scheme all you want. You will get stronger slowly over time but if your calories are at maintenance or below, you are not providing the body enough nutrition/calories for it to grow. So do not be surprised your body will come to halt in growth.
If you are training in a high rep range with a caloric surplus of +800 calories, you would still get stronger and likely see more visual growth as your body has the high calories/nutrition provided.
Let’s look into the Rep Ranges:
Low Reps 1-5
Low reps are said to stimulate the fast twitch muscle fibres and high reps stimulate slow twitch muscle fibre’s yet training at low reps with sufficient load will see all fibre’s activated. With a heavy load, the slow switch will not withstand the weight alone and so the fast twitch fibre’s will be recruited. It needs the help!
Low reps are effective for stimulating myofibrillar hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the increase of myosin filaments within the muscle tissue and this involves an increase in the tissue leading to strength gains.
Moderate Reps 6-12
This is the most typical rep range and you will find online and the hypertrophy rep range (8-12) which in studies after studies have shown to be most effective for building muscle as it has a bit of both ends.
Heavy loads allow for myofibrillar protein synthesis to take place and the increase in time under tension (more reps) will stimulate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This type of growth, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is not typically accompanied by strength but the increase in contractile proteins (inside muscle cell) so this is the reason bodybuilders tend to be more muscular than the strength when comparing to a power athlete.
High Reps 15+
High reps are considered very fatiguing but it has a factor in the effect of glycogen on protein synthesis. Glycogen is essentially stored carbohydrates within muscle tissue. It can cause muscles to swell due to glycogen storing water and with that, water increases the size of your muscles and will also increase protein synthesis. So what about high reps? High reps will deplete your glycogen stores and your body reacts to it by increasing muscular glycogen stores. So over time those cells will stretch and this can lead to muscle growth.
All rep ranges have their part in muscle growth through different pathways. Do not choose to use high reps for fat loss purposes, all weight training in rep ranges stimulates your metabolism and cause calories to burn. Diet and understanding energy balance are the primary tools to lose fat!
Our weight training phases utilise 6-15 rep ranges as these favour muscle growth and the visual changes it brings. 1-5 Reps is tailored to strength gains and considered more for power athletes. Otherwise keep it safe and opt for the moderate rep ranges, the general population should not be thrown into such low reps under heavy loads without coaching or experience.
Understand your strength in the rep ranges you are training in. If you can bench press 50kg for 8 reps and 4 weeks later you are able to bench 60kg for 8 reps, you have gained strength. Same can be said if you bench press 50kg for 8 reps and 4 weeks later you are able to do the same weight for 12 reps, you have gained strength. These are indicators of strength gains and most importantly, it is done in the moderate rep range to benefit from both the low and high end.
We recommend you train at your chosen rep range for a period of time before changing. This gives you time to understand the rep ranges and get good at it whether it is 6-8, 8-10 or 12-15. You need to spend time in a program in order to progress and that’s why we program phase to phase with our clients in the different rep ranges.
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