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Help out a pup

Whats up t-men. What is everyones thoughts about the amount of sets and reps one should do in order to gain some mass?

First, the simple answer. 8-12 reps is about right for hypertrophy (size) gains. Lower reps like 1-4 are great for strength, but for most people add little size. This is why athletes like wrestlers often use low reps: they want strength but don’t want to grow out of their weight classes.

Now it gets complicated: According to Ian King, your hypertrophy range can change as you gain experience (training age). If you’ve been at it 10 years your ideal rep range for size becomes lower, maybe around 5 reps or so. Beginners, according to Ian, are better with the higher rep ranges (but not over 15).

Now, what about low reps but lots of sets with little rest between? Yep, even using lower reps, this can head to hypertrophy. So you could do 10 sets of 5 reps with little rest between sets and grow. So there’s a relationship between sets, reps and weight used.

Now, you can’t forget about time under tension, the genetics factor, muscle fiber type variations etc… Actually, for now, don’t worry about it. 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps will do you fine, although it’s okay to cycle in lower rep training for variety.

And as always, gaining mass is more about what you eat than about how you train (assuming you’re hitting the free weights hard). So get your diet in order first. Plenty of info at T-mag on that topic. You may want to start with the “Massive Eating” and “Diet Manifesto” articles.

Hope that made sense, pup!

1 set to falure!

Ghost, is this leading to a T-forum haunting by the ghosts of Bodybuilding Future and the spirit of Mentzer pASSt? Lata.

“MB Eric: Full throttle, full assault, makes the temple scream oi gavault! Since 1430.”


Pup??? I thought you were my Dawg, bro! Just playin’. This subject has puzzled me lately also. I think Shugs does a damn good job of outlining quite a few of the specifics. But one thing that’s really gotten me is that I’ve been reading–in books and even on the forum–where it has been suggested that the big exercises for lower reps (4-8) are the keys to mass. I don’t know if they mean short term, or if they are talking long term, where strength increases lead to heavier poundages used in hypertrophy stages. I’m currently employing 4-5 sets of the big compound exercises for 5-7 reps, with long rest intervals. I’ve mixed and matched in the past and think it’s a good approach (mixing various rep ranges on different exercises for the same bodypart in the same workout), but I wonder if it slows gains as it violates the law of Specificity. Best just to try out different protocols I guess.

Pup, there seems to be tons of literature supporting the 8 to 12 range. Chris Shugart says it, T mag says it, Arnold says it… and I ain’t about to argue with anyone. But I’ll tell you that, in my experiences, when I was doing that many reps in a set, I got very little growth or strength increases. My best growth came using heavy weights for six reps or less, usually, and short rest periods with lots of sets. While a pump and all that is nice and dandy from 12 reps, I never felt the power of doing that kind of work. I am more into killing and exhausting the muscle doing numerous sets of maximal loads (six reps or less). You should try various methods out, but that was what worked (and still works for me).

Hardcore…still training shirtless in front of that pansy-ass PT at your gym??? I love ya for that, bro…anyway, I noticed you said low reps with SHORT rest, did I read that correctly? If so, what are the RIs? If that’s the case do you lower the weight for subsequent sets to stay in the rep range, or do you use a fixed poundage and not go to failure? Thanks, bro.

reality time again, if your just starting stick to basics. 3x’s a week with a day off in between workouts(ie. mon,wed,fri) stick to basic exercises,chinups, pulldowns or rows for back. bb bench, incline bench or dips for chest. military presses or upright rows for delts. barbell or e-z curls for bi’s. overhead or lying extentions for tri’s. squats and stiff leg deadlifts for legs(if you want to put on muscle you have to squat!) now pick ONE exercise per bodypart. do 3 sets for each bodypart 3x’s a week, when you stop growing, cut back to 2 sets, when you stop growing again ( it will happen,but it should take 6-12 months)cut back to one set of each. when it happens again cut out the direct arm work(you won’t need it)when you stall again cut back to 2 workouts a week. make sure you are warmned up before your heavey sets but you should not have to warm up the smaller bodyparts(bi’s,tri’s,delts,) they will be warmned up from the back and chest exercises. ex. routine:dips 3 sets of 6-12,chinups(rv. grip to chest not chin)3 sets of 6-12,upright rows 3x6-12,e-z curls 3x6-12, over head extentions 3x6-12, squats(ass to calves)3x6-12, stiff deads 3x6-12. do ALL post warmup sets to failure ( most people THINK they train to failure but if they knew they could not do anymore sets they could get another rep or 2 or 3)do NO pulldowns or presses behind the head(unless you want to tear your shoulder appart) you will get alot of people telling you to work out 4,5,or6x’s a week but look at two things are they on juice and are they the same size they were a year ago. if you do this there is NO reason why you can not put on 20-40lbs of muscle in the next 2-4MONTHS.Oh yea keep a steady stream of protien going into your muscles(food or protien drink every 2-4 hours)

I don’t know what to believe these days so I try them all. I was at a seminar last weekend run by Pavel Tsatsouline and I asked that specific question about gaining mass. Here’s some interesting stuff I learned.

For mass you want 4-6 reps heavy weight with about 10 sets. Yea I know weird. Even weirder was he emphasized you should not train until failure. He had a lot of reasons for this but it's in my notebook and that in my car right now and it's raining outside :)

He said to stay or to get wirey strong you would go 4-6 reps for about 4 sets. Honestly I'll have to look at my book to find out exactly what the numbers were but they were shockingly low to me.

He also mentioned that isolation exercises are for pussies. When I do my bicep curls I keep my hands and forearms as relaxed as possible to let the bicep do the work. Pavel said that you should try and crush the bar and also flex the wrist. This recruits more “juice” for the bicep and allows you to lift more weight which then leads to gains.

I'm confused as hell too but I'm going to start this program next week and I'll keep you posted.

Don’t forget that everyone’s different. Some guys respond better to lower reps (me), other guys respond better to higher reps. So I say experiment, find what works for you. Also mix it up once in a while, there’s no reason to stick to a certain rep range all the time. Even if you respond better to 8-12 reps, doing a few weeks of 4-6 reps can be a good change of pace. I think Pavel’s right on with not going to failure. What’s the point? This sends the wrong sort of signal to your body. The whole point is protein degradation to cause hypetrophy, you’re not trying to train an energy system. As far as exercises, compound movements with free weights are the way to go. Isolation exercises are ok sometimes if you feel like a body part’s lagging behind or something, but I say 95% of the time stick to the basics. Rows, benches, chins, overhead presses, dips, squats, stuff like that.

reality time AGAIN… we are NOT all that different (except some juice and some don’t), if we are all SOOOOOO different than why aren’t there 100,000,000 different ways to perform heart surgery? why aren’t there 200,000,000 ways to treat a sprained ankle? why do we all need protien, fat, carbs, oxygen, water, sleep, ect… The point is that we are not all so special, that what works WORKS! and what I told you WILL WORK! PLEASE try my suggestions for one lousey month what do you have to loose? and what do you have to gain? and if someone keeps telling you what to do but they tell you " I don’t know why but…" DON’T LISTEN go check out medx and print yourself a coppy of the Arther Jones bulletin, also check cyberpump. nobody likes reality, 'cause it hurts

Cycle your training to get the best aspects of every type. I actually like to cycle my training according to the seasons. For the spring and through the summer I am on a diet and usually do higher rep training (8 to 12). I used to lift heavy during dieting and just always ended up injuring myself in some way. Inject as much novelty into your training as possible during this time and do lots of super sets or circuit training to keep up the intensity. During the fall I usually go down to the 6 to 8 rep range but keep my sets about the same. I tend to do more sets per exercise and in turn do fewer overall exercises. During the winter I switch to the 4 to 6 rep range and up my sets. I usually do some type of powerlifting routine during this time to improve strength and break my ordinary routine. This will give you a good balance and make your training at least a little fun. I never specified the number of sets because I think you will have to determine that based on your own genetic preference. Just be sure to raise the number of sets when doing lower reps to ensure you get enough volume. However to make sure you aren’t overtraining use the “less is more” approach in terms of estimating the right amount of sets. Good luck stud.

Hetyey, if only one thing works, then why are there so many different training regimes out there? Why do some work for some people, and why do some not work for others? I’m not saying that HIT isn’t a valid training regime, for SOME people, SOME of the time. But it certainly isn’t for everyone. For some guys it works great; of course, in my opinion it works because these guys are severely overtrained and switching over to a low volume, low intensity (intensity being the generally accepted version of the word, not the HIT version) helps them out - for a little while. Also, it’s a well known, scientifically documented fact that people have different leverages, different %'s of slow/fast twitch muscle fiber, different metabolisms, and people certainly have different goals, so how can only one type of training address all these issues? Now I will say that many BB’ers do too much volume - following a routine out of a BB mag is going to get you overtrained, unless you practice pharmocology as a hobby. But it doesn’t mean that one training protocol is the answer - it means you need to plan out your training intelligently.

hetyey225- This is why people tend to despise you HIT freaks. You don’t further your cause by coming off like an illiterate asshole.

Timbo, I have a pretty set RI which I adhere to for my workouts:

  1. For ANY dumbbell exercises, 1 minute or so (definitely less than 1.5 minutes)
  2. For Presses (shoulder, chest) I rest 2 minutes between barbell sets and maybe 2.5 minutes if I am about to do a maximal single in the next set
  3. For Squats, I take 3 minutes, maybe even 3.5 before a maximal single or double. Leg Presses and Hack Squats, I take 2 minutes between sets.
  4. For Arms, like barbell curls and close grip bench presses, I use around 1 to 1.5 minutes depending on how many joints are used in the exercise (CLose Grip bench has two, so I rest longer)

    *A couple of techniques I like using a lot:

  5. Pyramidding is excellent. Especially on power movements like bench presses and squats, you’ll always find me using some loose form of the 6-4-2;1 pyramid. I think, at least personally, that pyramidding has been the best way to get my poundages up on all my lifts; I’m always attempting to make some slight increase with every set and every workout.
  6. I have a strict “no reduction of load” policy. If, for example, I manage to do 80x7 on an incline DB bench press, and then on the next set, I am only getting 3 or 4 reps, then I deal with it. I never reduce weight between sets, or between workouts. You can’t give way to fatigue and what not. “WWDYD”?
    You’ll be surprised how well your body adapts to handling heavy loads with not that much rest time.

Spanky, you are right we all do have MINOR differences but most have nothing to do with how we should wt. train. leverage may have an impact on our exercise selection but not an the way we should train. goals might have an effect but again if you want more muscle you consume more if you don’t want much muscle you should consume less but the basics of wt. training are the same. about fiber type, science has shown that slow will adapt and act like fast twich if that is what we require of them and the opposite is true also. to be simple fast are used for strength, slow for endurance. you can NOT maximize both at the same time so what would you rather max. training one corupts the other. now people do respond to different reps differently but I’m not sure that the reason is not based on time under tension(I’m sure you have noticed that most trainees who use high reps perform their reps at a much higher rate of speed)the reps I recomended was just a guidline. as to there being so many different training methods think back to school, if the teacher put an equation on the board and you did it incorrectley you might get lucky and still get the correct answer but there is still only one correct way to do it. I can tell you 1000 different way to get from NY to Philly but there is still only one shortest route

Hardcore…excellent, my man. Thanks for the response. I haven’t done any pyramiding for…gee, I really don’t know how long it’s been. I like the idea of constant loading, even if reps will fall. Definitely some things there I’d like to fool around with.

Krak...man, there are just too many nicknames and pseudonyms that I could bust out:-) Seriously, did it stop raining yet??? I'd like to hear a little about the ol' Pavel-nator and the some elaboration on the above comments. Thanks.

Hetyey, I wouldn’t call them minor differences at all. Again, if everyone were the same, everyone would respond to the same training protocol exactly the same. That’s simply not the case, though. No two people respond to the same training protocol exactly the same - some may work for you, others may not. It all depends on your individual differences. As for leverages, take a look at Staley’s article on long vs. short limbed trainees (Training Right for your Type I think is the name of the article). This should show you that leverages do have an impact on more than just exercise selection. I will agree with you that you shouldn’t necessarily train for the fiber type that’s predominant in your body, but that’s not what I was saying. What I’m saying is that someone with predominantly slow twitch fibers is going to respond differently to “fast twitch fiber training”. They may need to use more or less volume, more or less intensity, etc. How can they not? Anyway, I’m not trying to hijack Pup’s thread here, so let’s just agree to disagree…