T Nation

Best Rep Ranges for Different Muscles


I have heard things such as hamstrings responding best to low reps and that it's better to do vertical pulling for higher reps.

Does anyone know more about this, or have found good ranges through trial and error?

I'm interested in chest, triceps, biceps, vertical pulling, horizontal pulling, glutes, hams, quads.


And what did you find on your own? Which rep range works best for you? Or are you trying to find generalizations?


It's hard to tell since I usually include low rep and high rep sets. I'd just like to know if there were some commonly held views. The rack chin thread sparked my interest because people were saying that vertical pulling movements are more effective if done for higher reps


Everyone responds differently man. MY Hammies personally respond best to 6-9 reps, as i am assuming youre asking about better muscle GROWTH, not strength or endurance.

My chest Doesnt grow unless i do a week of 4 or lower reps in a 3 week cycle though.

And calves respond better to high volume and Ã?ber-high reps.




Chest - Varies - honestly I don't work chest much because of a shoulder injury
Back - Width = higher reps...thickness = lower
Quads - moderate weight higher reps 12-20
Bis - moderate reps 8-12, but lower reps (shoulder permitting) from time to time def. helps
Tris - I'm doing super high reps at the moment to try and re-activate the MM connection
Calves - heavy and as many reps as possible
Traps - frequent heavy sets with low reps.
Shoulders - anything when they don't hurt
Glutes - whatever reps I use for squats or deads


As was said, it does vary by individual - first and foremost that is the case.

However, while this is true.. there are underlying similarities as muscle function is identical in all.

For example the soleus is predominantly slow twitch fibre.. as it is in rats too! This is due to the function of it.

Gastrocnemius fibres are a higher proportion of fast twitch for the most part, but then of course a sprinter will have more fast twitch fibres in the gastroc than Paula Radcliffe.

So yes - there are basic generalisations you can train with.

The fibre 'type' is not just about the fibre itself, but also related to the motor unit that innervates it. IIRC there are studies that show that motor units can change type and this affects the fibre type.

I would have to get out a big book to confirm that - but if memory serves me correctly this is the case.

In the most general sense - lower body fibres tend to be slower than upper fibres - of course this is not exclusive (what is?) - as the medial deltoid is slower twitch and at least one of the 3 muscles of the Hamstrings are faster (due to their role in sprinting of course).

Logically it is load bearing muscles that are going to be slower twitch - they are 'at work' more often so need the oxygen (slow twitch fibres being 'oxidative' fibres).

Of course when it comes to training - you need to do both.

i would suggest doing high rep (15-20) sets for a couple of months - followed by a couple of months of lower rep (5-9) and see what muscles responded best.



I just know for hamstrings when doing leg curls/variations better to stay around 8 reps. When doing sldl,rdls to stay in the upper range 10-15. (Charles Poliquin, does this with sprinters mentioned in one of his articles, so I'll take his word, most sprinters have huge hammies)

Other lifts are common sense and learning to what your body reacts to like many have mentioned. Which could take lots of training time to dial in!


I always thought that forearms, abs and calves are mainly slow twitch fibres therefore better worked in the higher reps. The rest are mainly fast twitch fibres but obviously dependent on the person. Any thoughts on this?


Also what I remember reading. 4-8 reps on leg curls, 8-15 reps for SLDLs and other similar movements. I know this because right now I only care about building my weak lower body.


I feel that you can make generalizations about muscle groups, i.e. higher reps needed for "high use" muscles like calves and forearms, while lower reps are needed for muscles intended for power, like hips or chest.

But more importantly than this generalization, hypertrophy also has to do with the # of fast twitch fibers you are able to activate (because slow twitch fibers don't get very big - again out of function). I have no idea what fiber makeup I am in every single muscle, nor do I know what specific range I grow best in (because I almost always do higher and lower reps for every muscle, but I can say that my chest grows fairly easily, but my explosiveness (balistic pushups) sucks, therefor I would guestimate that if I did some activation work, antagonist stretching, or explosive moves before my chest exercises, I'd grow much faster in chest regardless of the rep range I train in (as long as intent is explosive and I train close to or at failure by the end of the workout, and I don't completly drain my CNS, which for me is usually 40 total reps in the 4-6 range, plus 40 total reps in the 10-20 range.

There are other muscles I grow ever slower in (calves and shoulders for example). I feel that I would probably also probably get better hypertrophy in those muscles if I did similar activation/explosive work (and of course more volume)

Okay that was a tangent but but I feel it's really an important note.


will you have slow and fast twitch in the calves. So I know for standing variations, it's better to go heavy as fuck say 6-8 reps. Seated go around 12 reps. Doesn't have to be followed to a t, but I just keep that in mind. training Calves suck though if you were predisposed with shitty ones to begin with. Yet at least I've turned them from tooth picks to normal LOL


I agree that different muscles respond to different rep ranges but I would add that some muscles seem to respond better to different rep speeds. I used to try to do side laterals very strict, controlled and with a pause and of course light weight and now I increased the weight and do them explosively with a controlled negative. I think they are trying to grow again. My arms and legs seem to respond better to a little slower positive and negative.



Your calves are working all day(being that you're not a fat slovenly fuck, bed ridden or a cow)
So you need to stimulate them with both volume and extreme intensity/pain.


I train everything with 3 sets of 1-5 reps. Muscles grow just fine, but, quadriceps do like a little bit of a high-rep burn out after a set of heavy squats.


My lats and shoulders are growing better with high reps. My chest grows fine with anything.