So, let’s say this lifter had a max bench of 400 lbs. When he first switches to sets of 20, maybe his strength-endurance is so crappy that he can only handle 175 x 20. Now, if he were to progress to 225 x 20, one may say that he didn’t really get stronger, he just became conditioned to doing high reps, or maybe his muscles now store more glycogen. Initial progress would probably not have anything to do with the contractile properties of the muscle.
But, what if he methodically progressed until he got to the point where he could do his old max of 400 pounds for 20 reps? How would we explain this? I don’t have the answer but it would seem that, at some point, sarcomeric hypertrophy occurred.
What about muscle size? Perhaps at first, there is no growth since the load being used is to small to elicit any growth response. Maybe even some atrophy would occur since the fibers that would handle the 5-6 rep loads weren’t being used at all. But, if he kept at it and was able to make progress, I think he would eventually see growth over and above his previous levels. [/quote]
Well you are getting very hypothetical now, and I dont think anyone truly knows the answer to this. But… If this lifter were to EXCLUSIVELY use sets of 20 until they reached their previous 1rm of 400 but could do it for 20 reps, you’d better believe that they are going to be much bigger. And this wouldn’t just be the result of increased glycogen stores, this individual would be MUCH stronger. A person that can bench 400x20 would be benching 600-700+ for 1 rep.
Training this way would be extremely inneficient and I dont think this person would likely ever reach this goal. I think this is why people are stating you should train in many different rep ranges.
Here is another way to look at what you were suggesting. Say this same lifter that could do 400x1, decided to start adding in more reps. They might start with with 10x1 @ 375lbs and in a matter of time be doing 10x1 with 400lbs. Then they continued to train with 400lbs and over time started adding reps, doing sets of 2, then 3, then 4, all the way up to 20. I hope you see that this would take forever, but the end result would also be the same as your situation training with sets of 20.
I would think that these two individuals would be very similar even though they took very different approaches. They both could bench 400x20. But here is where the difference might come in. The guy that only did singles may have a better max, and worse endurance, while the other guy would likely have a lower max, but better endurance.
So if you lowered the weight to 300, the guy that trained with singles might be able to do 30, while the guy that trained with sets of 20 imght be able to do 40 or 50.
The guy that never trained with less than 375 will start to display greater characteristics of fast twitch muscles, while the other guy would display more characteristics of slow-twitch muscles (or just more toward slow twitch on the spectrum)
But looking at 400x20 they would SEEM to perform equally. Because both of them can do the same number of reps with the same weight.
There is another difference though. The guy that trained with heavier weight and lower reps would begin his set with faster reps exerting more force, but as the set got closer and closer to 20, he’d begin to fatigue and his force would drop.
The guy that trained with 20 reps wouldn’t be able to exert as much force so he’d start out slower, but also wouldn’t fatigue as much as the set went on.
This is VERY hypothetical and theoretical and way more complicated than anyone on here needs to make it. Basically you should train with the rep range that is most specific to your sport. And if you dont have a performance based sport (like bodybuilding) then you should probably train in all rep ranges. Most of your training should be in the 6-12 range, with a smalle percentage being in the 3-5 range, and 12-15 range, and a even smaller percentage in the 1-3 range and 20+ range. But as everyone always says, your strength in the 6-12, maybe 6-15 range is going to be what you want to focus on.