T Nation

Science Behind Low Reps

Does anyone understand the science, the HOW and WHY, of why low reps and heavy weight builds muscle better?

Does it have to do with your body’s CO2 efficiency being reduced with every rep?
Or maybe a psychological/subconscious reason of the brain ‘seeing’ heavy weights?
Or does it have to do with work devided by time, and when people do high reps they usually do them at the same pace, thus work/time is less.

I’ve heard people say more muscle fibers are used, but assuming either high or low reps are done to failure, that’s not the case is it?

You see what I’m getting at… I’m wondering what the underlying mechanics at play are that cause this phenomenon to work.

Low reps and heavy weight build muscle better (in general) because they facilitate faster gains in strength, and therefor a greater demand for adaptation in the body.

As opposed to things like increasing volume, or decreasing rest periods, load is the only variable that is essentially infinite. That is why it’s the #1 focus in basic bodybuilding programs, not necessarily because there is some science behind motor unit recruitment or something.

There may well be a science behind it and another reason why it works so well but unfortunately - to my knowledge - there has never been a long-term study done on bodybuilding. Ever. So there might not be much information out there, but i’m sure somebody here has information on some short-term study thats been done as to what happens at the cellular level.

Sets of 4-6 will increase T levels more so than other rep ranges

Sets of 8-12 will increase GH levels more than other rep ranges.

Essentials of Strength Training NSCA

I have often heard that low reps are less effective at building size and more suited for pure strength gains.

I do think one reason behind this is when trainers drop their reps they tend to stick with the same number of sets, therefore totalling less reps.

So instead of 4 sets of 10, they may only do 4 sets of 4. Chad Waterbury (an advocate of low reps) has pointed out that the sets should be increased so the total reps per workout is higher.

So 10 sets of 4 may be superior to 4 sets of 10 in terms of strength and size.

analysis paralysis. Avoid it.

Joints are levers. you want to move that lever. Weight resists that. Muscles cause it coupled with neural signals. Increase neural recruitment to muscles to move levers with more and more resistance, bigger muscles. when you quit being able to move more weight, change something. I hear things all the time that say it is neural…that is not complete. The nerves do that via what? What do they recruit?

Just lift the fucking weight.

[quote]Alquemist wrote:
Just lift the fucking weight.[/quote]

More concise than my response and spot on.

because arnold said so

Low reps allow for higher weight, higher weight will increase muscle tension, and that’s essential for rapid gains in strenght. Rapid gains in strenght will: 1) make you bigger in the long run 2) not being laughed at for doing high reps to failure with barbie weights.

It also has something to do with forcing your body to do what it’s not used to be doing, so if you have been doing high reps with light weight first and foremost doing low reps with heavy weight will be a shock for your body. JMO

[quote]Alquemist wrote:
Just lift the fucking weight.[/quote]

sometimes that’s a good response. But not to this thread. The guy isn’t going back and forth on which will produce massive gains like some on here post about.

He’s just curious as to the science behind it. Nothing wrong with that.

There ya go. Try to ice your brain while reading this to prevent explosion.

“analysis paralysis” seems to be the new buzz word that everybody picked up on, but as usual the idiots and turds and going to use it inappropriately.

jehovasfitness is correct. The OP is just curious.

The mechanisms via which low rep training facilitate gains are usually two fold.

Firstly, muscular tension is one of the primary stimuli for hypertrophy (in addition to time under tension, lactate production etc.) The greater the resistance applied to the body, the greater muscular tension must be generated to overcome the resistance.

Secondly. higher levels of resistance train the efficiency of the nervous system in terms of motor unit recruitment, synchronisation, coding rate etc. The consequence of this training effect is being able to use greater loads in training.

With greater loads, one must develop greater muscular tesnion (a stimulus for muscle growth). Additionally with greater loads, one will experience a greater degree of mechanical damage to the muscle which is also a stimulus for muscle growth where resistance training is used.

Take home point- Sufficient volume, heavy fucking weight.

You simply have to find what works best for YOU and works consistently.

Myself, 75+% of my time is spent lifting relatively heavy, for relatively low reps. More so than most guys I work out with.

Again, find what works best for YOU and exploit it. Nothing works forever and I’m sure you’ve heard the best routine is the one you’re NOT on!

Keep a log, an open mind and make note of what works, and reject that which does not. Don’t get caught up in the latest pseudo-science, or the emotional whinings going on here. Just apply the effort, note the returns and forge on. Simple enough, right?

It’s the higher rate of protein degradation. More damage per rep.

[quote]jp_dubya wrote:
Alquemist wrote:
Just lift the fucking weight.

More concise than my response and spot on. [/quote]

Agreed!

CT gives a pretty concise explanation on the benefits of heavy lifting in this article:

(See Method #1)

I like how the OP just assumes low reps are better at building muscle and is now asking why… great thread… rollseyes

[quote]skohcl wrote:
I like how the OP just assumes low reps are better at building muscle and is now asking why… great thread… rollseyes[/quote]

Its not that low reps are better, its that heavier weights ARE better for building muscle. If your going to lift heavier weights, lower reps are a necessity. More weight, means greater MU recruitment + greater mechanical stress.

I like how people post random comments just for the hell of it, rollseyes