If you asked a million bodybuilders / weight trainers, or read thousands of articles on “muscle building”, or if you picked up almost every book written on the fastest way for natural trainers to gain weight quickly (quality weight of course), 99% of them will tell you that lower reps during sets, 10 reps or less, will build more muscle mass than any weight training program that requires you to use higher reps.
This philosophy has been around for decades and has led to the undeniable truth that lower reps are not the best way to build muscle without the use of anabolic steroids. If it were, why don’t we see millions more “muscle heads” walking around in everyday life? There are millions and millions of people who are very dedicated to their workouts, but most have nothing to really show for it. Sure, they can get stronger, but they don’t increase in size … and there is a huge difference between the two.
Unlike what most people think and say, the two are not the same.
Case in point: According to The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, in a study titled “Muscle Adaptations to Combinations of High- and Low-Intensity Resistance Exercises,” Japanese scientists caused trainers to separate themselves into two different weightlifting groups :
1) A strength training group
2) A mixed training group
They had both of them follow their typical exercise routine:
* 5 sets per exercise / 3-5 reps per set / 3 minute rest between sets
The change came in the mixed group. Once they were done, they went ahead and did 1 set of 25-30 reps 30 seconds immediately after they were done with the last set. The results were interesting, to say the least.
As reported, the mixed group not only continued to gain muscle mass, while the strength training group had a slight loss of muscle mass. Additionally, the mixed training group gained about 5% more 1-rep max strength than the other group.
Now, it’s not that you should put all your faith in weight training philosophy in one study. But this is in addition to all the real-world tests that clearly show that if you’re looking for sheer muscle building or weight gain … not necessarily sheer power or strength, you have to increase the number of reps you do per set. Higher reps provide a ton of muscle building factors that lower reps don’t, like longer time under tension, lactic acid build-up, increased blood pumping, etc.
Keep all of this in mind the next time you’re tempted to only worry about how much you’re lifting instead of how many times.