T Nation

What Rep Range for Mass?


I always was told to lift heavy with less reps to get mass, the magazine I just read had a section on mass and showed guys doing 15-20 reps. Which is better ?


Check out "Program Design 101"
By Mike Robertson.

It's a very good article that speaks directly to the issue that you bring up (among other things).


We can still discuss it here outside of an article. The truth is, the answer is variable. That cleared everything up, didn't it?


Like mentioned we want variety, but generally speaking 8-12 reps with 12-20 sets per body part per week.


LOL...well actually it does.

How about this: Just about every good training program (almost regardless of rep range) will work to some degree for an unknown period of time.

And....staying for along period of time working in only one rep range may very well limit your progress.


I tend to believe that the weight used is what will limit progress long before the rep range ahs anything to do with it. I have usually kept my reps under 10 for most exercises except possibly calves and some leg routines. I make progress because of the weight used or changing up exercises occasionally. I stress "occasionally" because I rarely just toss in an exercise for the hell of it. I think lower rep ranges and heavier weight promote the most gains in terms of fast twitch muscle fibers assuming that food intake is increased. I do not train in an 8-12 rep range and probably never will.


bit confused by this statement. I think I get what you're saying, but not positive.


Personally, I've found that as long as I can move the weight up in some fashion, I'm gaining.

Remember it is called "progressive resistance."

That doesn't mean that you have to work in any particular set rep range per se. It does mean that there should be some sort of increase, either in reps or weight.

If you can lift 100lbs. (pick the movement) for 6 reps with good form, and the following week you can lift it for 7 reps with good form, you are stronger!

There was one system used by the old timers. And I mean the very old timers, back in the 1930's and 40's (I read about it in an old MILO Barbell catalogue). They would perfrom a movement in a rep range of 5's or 6's. Then each time they lifted they would add at least one rep to one set. So, it might look like this on week two: 7-6-6.

The next workout would look like this: 7-7-6. They would progress like this until they achieved 10-10-10. Then they would add weight to that particular movement and begin again with 5's or 6's.

I think if the T-Nation writers have proven anything it is this: There are many, many ways to train effectively. You just have to pick one that works for you. And make sure that you change it in some way after a period of time as the body adapts and gains will become much more difficult to achieve.


Thanks for the info. it does help.


I think that pure mass, provided that your maximal strength is kept up, comes from around 12-20 reps, but you have to do heavy sets to keep up your strength so that you will be using enough weight for the higher rep sets.

Dave Tate says 12-17, but he also assumes your doing heavy and dynamic training. A heavy triple is just barely taxing of the anaerobic energy systems, and depletion of anaerobic energy systems (local CP, ATP, Glygogen depletion and HLa production) seem to be a PART of the hypertrophy signal. If you want a single rep range, maybe 5-8. If you use two, I'd say 3-5 sets of 2-3 reps and maybe 50 total reps done in sets with short rest periods, like 5 x 10 with no more than 60 seconds rest, or 4 x 12, or 3 x 15-20.


I do have a question about your training philosophy Proff. Can you/do you go for periods of time, maybe 4-6 weeks where you can't add weight or reps to your exercises, and don't even necessarily improve focus or form, but still can grow? Is it an automatic sign that something is off if you go 2-3 consecutive workouts without adding 5 pounds or a rep to your last set, and if not, how long might you go before you consider it to be a problem to be fixed?


Yes, there are periods of time where you aren't able to increase the weight used. If there weren't, people would be benching over 5,000lbs after 15 years of training. During those periods, the main focus becomes performing the reps better with greater control. It is not as simple as "increasing the weight used". Other factors include weight gain, control while lifting, the ease of lifting, and even the speed at which I can do the reps. That means, no, it is not a sign that something is off if you didn't increase the weight used from one week to the next. Obviously, soemone training for close to a decade will not be seeing HUGE leaps in strength. Those are traits associated with being a newbie. As such, my focus is also on WEIGHT GAIN and appearance.

It is a cumulative observation. If I didn't increase the weight used, but I gained five pounds, the weight lifted was easier to manipulate, my muscles look more full and it does not appear to be all fat gain, then I have succeeded.


Over the last year I have never gone over 5-6 reps per excercise and I have gone up 200 pounds in the Deadlift, 125 pounds in full squat and 50 pounds per arm in the dumbbell bench. I have also put on 20 pounds of lean mass in this time.

My secret: I massively bulk 6 months out of the year and lift full body three times in two weeks.


Does that mean you only work out 3 times in 2 weeks? If so, don't you think that's a bit infrequent?


I'm guessing he splits 6 workouts over 2 weeks 3 of which hit half the body and the other 3 hit the other half.

I did something like that a while back when I tried a push-pull split for a few months (every 2 weeks was a full rotation).

Week 1:
Mon - Pull (deads, rows, chins)
Wed - Push (squat, bench, military press)
Fri - Pull

Week 2:
Mon - Push
Wed - Pull
Fri - Push

Mondays were 6x4. Wednesdays were 3x8. Fridays were 2x12. So every 2 weeks each group of body parts was hit 3 times.


That is all I do. I used to do a twice a week split over a year ago. I decided to try a full body last February and after changing my diet and toning down my alcohol consumption I started gaining mass and strength at a pretty decent rate. I was only squatting about 155 parallel, Deadlifting 135 and Dumbbell Benching 60 pounds per arm last February. After doing this routine for a year, with six months cutting and about six months bulking now, my full squat for reps is now over 250, deadlift is around 325 for reps and my dumbbell bench per arm for reps is 110 pounds. I can't explain the science of why this has worked for me, but it has.


All of them.


Well, its because you are in the fairly early stages of development. As long as it keeps working, go for it. How does each workout look? (exercises, reps and sets).

And the dumbell bench press is very good-if its for a single, it probably equates to about 275-285 bench press.


I usually do 3x5 for each exercise with the last set being one that I try to use a weight that I can get 2-5 reps. Once I get 5 on the last set I try to move up.

The exercises are the following in the this order:
(1)Full Squat
(2)Conv. Deadlift
(3)Dumbell Press (110 each arm for 3 reps currently)
(4)Dumbell Row
(6)Chin Pulldowns or Chins
(7)Machine Lateral Raise
(8)Machine Crunch

This usually takes me about an hour to complete the whole workout and I do this three times in two weeks or once every 5-6 days. I have also been eating like mad over the last six months and I am sure the extra food has been helping significantly with the gains too.


Well, considering you are really training your whole body about every 5 days, its well within normal parameters for volume. Not every muscle group recovers at the exact same rate though, and I also think that as you get stronger, you will have a hard time doing much after working up to a max set of squats and deads so its more an issue of whether you've got anything left in the tank after those lifts. If so, I wouldn't mess with it for now. It would probably be worse for someone to give you suggestions that would make you doubt your program than to not at this point.

And 110s for 3 reps probably would probably give you a strength base for 310 to 315 max bench with just a little practice. My point here is that your pressing is way ahead of your squat and dead at this point.