T Nation

High Rep for Hypertrophy

I have read a lot - mainly from T-Nation authors like Waterbury - about the purpose of using heavier weights for lower repetitions for hypertrophy. It makes sense to me - you recruit more fibers with heavier weight, and if you add more volume, you’ll see growth. So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve certainly seen progress.

What I don’t understand is what bodybuilders do. I see people doing reps of 25-30 (what I would consider almost worthless) and they’re still seeing progress. These are bodybuilders I’m talking about, and they do competitions, so their physiques are fantastic.

I mean - why do they look as good? I mean, these low reps must work! But the trainers here don’t recommend it. Is the progress is just slower? Is it less effective? Has anyone ever studied the rate of muscle growth when you compare a normal trainee doing low reps to a bodybuilder doing sets of 25?

Or, if they’re fatiguing themselves to the point where they can only train a muscle once a week, is the point that the ability to work a muscle more than once a week helps it to grow more quickly?

I feel silly telling gym members to step up the weight and do 6-12 repetitions, only to see someone with an incredible body walk by and do 25 repetitions. They keep saying to work more slowly and work the eccentric - I keep saying work on speed and the concentric movement, vary rep ranges, etc…

There’s no bodybuilders who ONLY do 20-30 reps sets, that’s preposterous.

If you look hard enough you’ll find well-built people doing all kinds of schemes, but most heavily muscled men got that way lifting heavy weights and eating a lot of food.

And if you’re so curious why don’t you just walk up to one and ask?

I actually work with them. My question is not what they’re doing - they tell me. My question is whether what they’re doing takes longer or what - because all of them seem to, but that’s the opposite of what everyone here recommends.

One benefit high reps have is occlusion. The pump afterwards is enormous.

Some studies have shown that your muscles are 10 percent stronger during the first 2 minutes of a pump.

Certain bodybuilders do a very intense and burning high rep set to prime the muscle for its “work set” of low or moderate reps.

I have tried this and it does work. I find the extra boost for strength is approximately one and a half minutes after you have completed the pump (high rep) set.

There is something about blood rushing into the muscles that makes them fire more efficiently (according to the study).

Maybe, just maybe, different people respond differently to different types of training.

Just because these guys, at their level of development, can benefit from higher rep sets (by the way is that ALL they’re doing?)doesn’t mean you should.

[quote]MytchBucanan wrote:
One benefit high reps have is occlusion. The pump afterwards is enormous.

Yeah, Francis Benfatto seems to train this way, real slow, with lots of reps. Saw some vids on YouTube of him training someone using this method.

Thib has mentioned that occlusion is one way to gain muscle in recent articles. There’s more than one way to get big, and this leads to confusion for people looking for the one right way.

I also remember an article by CP recommending higher reps for problem calves (Luke Sauder routine, I think the article was called).

I’m thinking of throwing in a workout or two per week using this method. Or perhaps an entire week once a month.

Take note that some bodybuilders do steroids.

I wouldn’t look at how the advanced guys train.

I’d be more interested in how they trained to gain the bulk of their size.

But I think in the end, you have to find a method that you are happy with and that works for you.

Just ask them how they were training to get that size, ask specifically what you need to do. Maybe even ask if they’re natural.

I remember word about WCW wrestlers doing only high reps to MAINTAIN because they had so many injuries and so much practice they couldn’t lift real heavy anymore.

Either way, if you’re talking to them just pick their brain.

Interesting topic and I think that a periodized training plan would yeild most hypertropy in the long run (i.e building strength and then training for hypertrphy at higher relative intensities).

I personally feel higher reps will yeild more hypertrophy but you need to gain the strength to train at high reps with big weights. I think it’s interesting that people say low reps yeild max strength, when olympic lifter train for max strength without muscle hypertrophy - please correct me if I am wrong, but don’t these guys train in low rep ranges?

The stength developed by Olympic lifters probably elicits a massive ‘base’ for hypertrophy but they don’t use it when competitive.

What i’ve noticed on here is that alot of authors are more into performance than size alone. Maybe with the exception of CT. When you look at CT’s workouts he tends to have more volume then some of the other authors.

Steroids or no steriods, your not going to get a lot bigger not moving alot of weight.

The bodybuilders I’ve seen do use high reps, but they do heavy weight for high reps. Half the time their light sets are other peoples max.
You also have to take into account that bodybuilders are extremely advanced, it takes alot more to get them warmed up then an average person.

For example if you do 8 reps of 425 on the bench for your hypertrophy, you can’t just walk in the gym and put on 4 and change plates. You might walk in and throw on 225 go for 20 rep warm up, move up to 315 do a set of 10. This doesn’t always go towards what they consider there actual sets, this is just their warm up.

GROWTH response(Hypertrophy):

Type I’s 25-50 reps are excellent (16-25 are very good) (13-15 are decent) (12 or less are low)

Type IIA’s 9-12 reps are excellent (6-8 & 13-15 are good) (below 6 and above 15 are low)

Type IIB’s 6-8 are excellent (9-12 are very good) (3-5 & 13-15 are decent) (below 3 & over 15 are low)

The reason some of the best built people you see do high reps or multiple rep schemes is because they are usually after maximal muscle hypertrophy. If you have a muscle thats 75% slow twitch, then it would be wise to include some exercise loads with a rep scheme to target those fibres.

Also, using load parameters to change certain fiber characteristics in certain fibres as in low reps and fast heavy lifts is another way to manipulate the muscle fibers.

You can use low reps in a drop set style also to create the hypertrophy response. You can use medium reps that are the norm for hypertrophy in a RE method. You can use high reps to failure to target the slow twitch hypertrophy response. The more the better.

Afterall, bodybuilders are usually after the most muscle they can get. If the tools are there, why not use them? Sometimes you need specific tools to accomplish a certain task. A hammer won’t screw a screw in, you’d have to pound it in and that may not always work… use the screwdriver.

Usually the best trainees are the ones that do not limit themselves to certain protocols. They seek anything and everything to get the job done and they stick to what weorks for them. Results is what they’re after, anything else would be a waste of their time.