One of the most important principles of weight training is number of repetitions we perform in each set. Depending from our objective: increasing endurance, building muscle (hypertrophy), gaining strength or power; we train in different repetition ranges.
To make muscle grow we have to stimulate them. We stimulate them by lifting weights. Each repetition does the small damage to muscle fibres – this is called micro trauma. When we come back home from the gym, consume post workout nutrition and rest our muscles start repairing themselves (growing).
The objective of muscle mass building training is to do so many repetitions in each set to cause optimal stimulation for muscles to grow.
If we’ll not do enough repetitions in each set we might not cause enough damage to the muscles. The same will happen if we use too light load and perform too many reps. One way or another, our trainings will be ineffective.
Number of repetitions in bodybuilding and muscle building training
Generally in bodybuilding we perform around 20-1 repetitions per set however only the range between 12-6 is ideal or optimal to build muscle mass.
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Here you can clearly see how the amount of reps influences the outcome of our workouts. Training in repetition range between 12 and 6 is optimal for maximizing muscle growth (hypertrophy). It increases the production of Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone and gives us the ability to use quiet heavy weight throughout the set.
Low and high rep training
Although training within low (1-5) and high (12-20) repetition range doesn’t affect the growth directly it’s still very important in bodybuilding.
To keep muscles growing over longer period of time we have to keep getting stronger (lifting heavier and heavier weights). To do this we sacrifice couple months of the year for strength training – within low rep range (5-1).
High repetition training (12-20+) on the other hand is good for increasing endurance (ability to lift weight more and more times). It also improves our cardiovascular system (veins and capillaries inside muscles) which also helps with hypertrophy.
Usual mistake I see at the gym is using excessive load (too much weight) on the barbell in the last few sets what leads to drop in amount of reps below 5. It’s not bad to go heavy from time to time; it’s actually very good but only occasionally, not on every single workout.
The long term mistake is lifting whole year round within muscle building repetition range (12-6). You have to alternate your cycles and do some strength training as well. Natural athletes really benefit from low rep training (5-1). Besides you’ll stop to grow if you lift the same weights all the time.
The ideal repetition range for building muscle mass is 12-6 and this is how we should lift most of the time.
However the best long term results we’ll achieve by mixing it up with low rep training. For example: 8 weeks muscle building (12-6 reps) and 6 weeks strength training (5-1 reps).
You can also include high rep weeks (12+) within your schedule from time to time to improve muscle endurance (stamina) and cardiovascular system.