Strength Reps vs. Muscle Mass Reps | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Strength Reps vs. Muscle Mass Reps

How many reps do you perform to increase muscle mass?  How do you “tone” your muscles?  Generally speaking, I think there’s a lot of confusion about how many sets and reps to perform to build strength vs. muscle mass.  There is an antiquated notion that exists stating that you should do a lot of reps to increase your muscle tone and a low number of reps to increase muscle size.  Oddly enough, this is exactly opposite from the reality.

Before further discussing strength reps vs. muscle mass reps, I’d like to describe the difference between muscle mass and muscle tone.  In Visual Impact, Rusty Moore provides a good analogy involving a water balloon.  Getting big puffy muscles like a bodybuilder is similar to inflating a water balloon; it’s fast and easy.  Getting dense, toned muscles would be like making the balloon rubber thicker which ultimately makes it denser and stronger.

Strength Reps

The best way to increase strength is by doing low rep sets with heavy weights.  More important than either the number of sets or reps is that you must avoid training to failure.  You don’t want your muscles to feel fatigued at the end of your workout.  Always keep one rep in the tank.  This type of training allows you to tone your muscles, making them tighter and less soft looking.  Usually 3-5 reps provide a good range for building strength.  Because you don’t train to failure, you could easily perform 5-10 sets for this type of workout.

Strength reps give you the lean, Hollywood look

Muscle Mass Reps

The best way to increase the size of your muscles is through high rep training to fatigue.  By exhausting your muscles, you force them to grow larger.  However, with the increased size comes a tendency for muscles to look a bit softer and bulkier.  A good range for muscle mass training is 12-15 reps.  The most important thing is to ensure you work your muscles to failure.  Because of this, you probably won’t be able to, or need to, perform quite as many sets.

Muscle mass reps provide a softer but bulkier look

Rest Periods

An additional consideration when training for strength vs. mass is how long it takes to complete reps and how long to rest between sets.  When performing strength reps, it’s best to take a controlled approach, nearly pausing between each rep to give your nervous system a brief instant to recharge.  For mass reps, training to fatigue is the goal so you can perform a faster set of reps to really torch your muscles.

The same goes for resting time between sets.  If you’re trying to build dense muscles with strength training, then rest 2-3 minutes between sets to ensure your muscles don’t get fatigued.  For muscle mass building, 45 seconds to 1 ½ minutes is probably more than enough time since you’re trying to create cumulative fatigue.

The Best Approach

Needless to say, the best muscle building approach incorporates both muscle mass reps and strength reps.  You can build bigger muscles with mass reps and then tighten those muscles with strength reps.  Additionally, you can use different rep schemes for different parts of your body.  For example, I want my chest to be tighter, not bulkier, so I’m performing 3 rep sets with heavy weights, ensuring that I don’t fail.  However, I’d like to add some size to my biceps, so I’m performing 12 rep sets to failure with lighter weights.

For years, many have confused strength reps and muscle mass reps.  Just remember that if you want your muscles to be tighter and more toned, do low reps of heavy weights, avoiding failure.  If you want softer, but bulkier muscles, train with higher reps to failure.

Not Your Average Fitness Tips

  1. To build stronger dense muscles, lift heavy weights in the 3-5 rep range, and don’t lift to exhaustion.
  2. To build bigger, bulkier muscles, lift in the 12-15 rep range and do lift to failure.
  3. The less rest between sets, the more cumulative fatigue, leading to increased muscle mass.
  4. The best muscle building approach incorporates both strength reps and muscle mass reps.

119 Responses to “Strength Reps vs. Muscle Mass Reps”

  • I’ve gotten great results with the StrongLifts 5×5 method and can attest that lower reps is the way to go. Not to mention you will save a lot of time!

  • I like programs that cycle through the different stages of rep and set ranges. I don’t get bored nor does my body, as it helps by avoiding adaption, seems to work the best for me.
    The program you mention in your post (and your current program) called Visual Impact has 3 different phases that follows varying sets x reps and I would highly recommend to anyone to get hold of that program and try it out.

  • Darrin,
    A 5×5 program is a great approach. That’s 5 sets of 5 reps for those not in the know.

    Raymond,
    I’m right on par with you. I like changing my workout and my body avoids adapting. I also agree that Visual Impact is the best program that utilizes both strength reps and muscles mass reps.

    Dave

  • I’m in Phase 3 of Visual Impact right now and I can attest that the amount of reps and rest in between sets do make a difference. I have never lifted in the 3-5 rep range until recently and I’ve noticed my muscles are harder than they have ever been.

  • Alykhan,
    I’m experiencing the same thing now. I’ve lifted in the 6 rep range but now I’m down to 3 reps. I also always used to lift to fatigue to get a nice pump. I’m finding my muscles respond better to low reps not to failure.
    Dave

  • “However, with the increased size comes a tendency for muscles to look a bit softer and bulkier.”

    Is there is distinctive visual difference between a muscle fiber based on one training method over another(other than cross sectional size)? I’m talking just muscle tissue, not adipose or skin. It seems to me the softness would be from people following the advice of individuals that say in order to gain muscle mass you need to over-consume calories and gain fat at the same time.

    I think one’s diet has a bigger impact on whether their muscles “look” hard and defined or smooth and puffy.

  • Aaron,
    I’m no expert in this area, but from my understanding, training to failure increases sarcoplasm, a fluid in the muscle cells (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy), but does not increase strength. This happens when you use the bodybuilding approach to lifting (high rep training to failure). Doing strength reps adds actual strength and muscle fiber growth (myofibrillar hypertrophy). The reason that muscle mass reps lead to softer muscles is because they are full of fluids (and bigger) but not as tight.

    I think you can see the visible difference when you compare bodybuilders to someone like a gymnast that needs to be very strong. I’ve started to notice a slight difference since I stopped training to failure. I absolutely agree though that diet can have an impact because of fat, but most competitive bodybuilders maintain very low body fat and still have that puffy muscle look.

    Dave

  • Maurice:

    Hi Dave
    This is very interesting and I am keen to try out.I have always thought higher reps give more definition.Can you explain why weightlifters (who do low reps) have that bulky look?

  • Maurice,
    I think the high reps for more definition is a very big fitness myth. As I attempted to explain in my response to Aaron, high reps are generally done to failure which results in softer muscle due to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Most bodybuilders train in this range.
    If you’re referring to powerlifters/strongmen that perform low reps, I’d argue the problem is they have a specific approach to training to lift as heavy as possible. Low reps is definitely the way to go for this. However, they are not training for a lean look (I doubt many perform HIIT or care about six pack abs). In fact, it probably helps to carry around some extra weight for increased leverage in their lifts. I’ll bet if they leaned out, they would have some tight, defined muscles.
    Dave

  • Maurice:

    Thanks Dave that makes sense. Will let you know how I go.

  • Bryant M.:

    thnx dave it all make sense.

  • Tiangco:

    you got it backwards man. Higher reps activates the red twitch fibers and contribute to endurance, strength definition. Low reps with high weight activates the white twitch fibers and contribute to mass and explosive power.

  • Tiangco,
    I’d argue that high reps and training to fatigue like a bodybuilder results in increased sarcoplasm which gives you bigger muscles. Lower rep training using heavy weights while avoiding failure like a powerlifter/strongman simply helps build tighter muscles. I’d agree that higher reps can provide more endurance and low reps more power. We might have a different definition of mass though.
    Dave

  • Dave,
    Tiangco is absolutey correct. Type 1 muscle fibers, also known as slow twitch are darker in color due to the rich blood supply(increased O2 capacity= greater endurance capability)and are the muscle fibers called into play when the resistance is low enough and the work volume is relatively high, beyond 3 or 4RM. Type IIa and IIb are the fast twitch fibers and are white in appearance. They are the fast contrtacting fibers recruited to contract rapidly and help flex or extend the joints under extreme loads. They do not have the aerobic capacity or endurance of Type I fibers. As far as physiology goes the contraction process is the same for both types, I or II. So appearance wise in relation to muscle fiber, a muscle fiber is a muscle fiber. The percentage of fast and slow twitch varies from person to person and the make up is different within the various muscles of the body. There’s more than one way to develop mass, but a larger fiber is a large fiber, under a microscope or under the skin, fatty or thin. This is science, I’m not making this up.
    Like I said before, the puffy smoothness is usaually due to the amount od adipose covering the muscle as well as within, like marbling in a steak. Compare pre-contest pics of any competitive bodybuilder, natural or drug enhanced to pictures of them when not in contest condition and you’ll see.
    As far as the strength gains from high resistance, low volume training this is due to improved neuromuscular activity- the CNS and PNS are better at getting the neceassry fibers to contract in sequence resulting in more efficiently contracting muscles, or increased strength.

  • Aaron,
    Thanks for the great insights. I think we’re all on the same page here. I’d just say one distinction I make is between sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibrillar hypertrophy. By focusing on high rep training to failure, you increase the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid. By doing low rep, heavy weight training, you increase strength and the size of the muscle. So I recommend high rep training to failure for people who want to quickly increase the volume of their muscles with the sarcoplasmic fluid. Personally, I like the look and feel of strength training.
    Dave

  • jack:

    When I was in prison in the fifties and sixties, there were guys who did pushups, etc and guys who did dips and chin ups.
    But for strength, you hit the weights. No contest. Dead lifts and squats for strength.

  • Jack,
    Bodyweight exercises can take you pretty far but weights can help take you to another level of strength and muscle mass.
    Dave

  • gonmarsa:

    Dave, is it good to have a protein supplement after exercising for strength? Does it help for the lean look?
    Do you train abs the same way? Never to failure? Is it good to work abs everyday?

  • Gonmarsa,
    On strength training days I’ll generally have a protein shake or glass of fat free chocolate milk about 1-2 hours after exercising. As long as you’re getting enough protein overall, you should be fine. For a lean look, avoid too much protein supplementation though as shakes can add a lot of calories fairly quickly. Here’s a post I did on that:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/health-and-nutrition/post-workout-nutrition-what-to-eat-after-workout

    I actually prefer training abs to failure since it seems to lead to a little deeper definition for me. You could work abs every day for 2-3 weeks at a time but I stick with 3 times per week. My favorite ab exercise is the plank but here are some other exercises to check out:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/six-pack-abs/most-effective-ab-exercises-best-ab-workout-for-men-women

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/six-pack-abs/how-to-get-washboard-abs-plank-exercises-no-more-crunches

    Hope that helps!
    Dave

  • gonmarsa:

    Thanks Dave you’ve being very helpful…
    These posts are great, I was taking my protein right after workout…
    I’ll let you know how everything works,
    Regards,

  • Gonmarsa,
    No problem at all. Protein immediately after a workout, especially strength training is good. I just like getting the added HGH benefit that comes from intense exercise. HGH is elevated 1-2 hours after such a workout and helps burn fat and preserve muscle. That’s why I don’t rush to grab a protein shake any more…in the old days I drank one as soon as I finished training.
    Dave

  • Brandon:

    Dave, my arms are a weak point for me, is it ok to do them twice a week? Such as once on tuesday for muscle mass, then another on for example saturday for strength?

  • Brandon,
    You can do arms 2-3 times per week depending on your overall goal. I honestly wouldn’t try to train for mass and strength at the same time since they’re conflicting approaches. For mass, you’d train with high reps and failure. For strength, you’d want to train more often with low reps, long rest periods, and avoiding failure at all costs. I’d try 1-2 months of training for mass and then 1-2 months of training for strength and go from there.
    Dave

  • Bryant M:

    Hi Dave,

    can u give me a 3-4 times workout plan. im 5’9″ 160lbs and my goal is to bulk up and at the same time maintain my tummy. im taking 1 serving of protein shakes (25 protein, 1200 calories) + my currently workout wont help me in bulking up. please help me appreciate your reply. many thnx!

  • Bryant,
    I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Visual Impact Muscle Building but absent that, I’ve done some posts I would recommend reading first.

    I generally like to do pushing exercises one day and pulling exercises another day (Pushing Sat/Tues; Pulling Sun/Wed). Here are a few exercises I do:
    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/pushing-exercises-pulling-exercises

    Right now I’m training for muscle mass so do low weight, high reps training:
    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/low-weight-high-reps-training-to-failure

    Once I get to a level of mass I’m happy with, I’ll focus on increasing the tone and density by doing high weight, low reps training:
    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/high-weight-low-reps-superset-workout-routine

    Your diet will obviously be important. It’s hard to count calories, but if you’re eating around 15x your target weight, that should be a good starting point. So if you’d like to weigh 175lbs, then eat around 2,600 calories per day. If you find yourself gaining more than 1-2lbs per week, slow it down since you’re more likely to gain excess fat if you try to add mass too quickly. You can also decrease the likelihood of fat gain by continuing to do some cardio.

    Hope that provides a good starting point. Let me know if you need any other details.
    Dave

  • bembembigelo:

    Hey Dave,
    I’m a 19 yrs & 9 months old, 5 foot 5 inches tall strict vegeterian.I possess an awesome chest,but I desperately want my arms to get big and muscular like those of gymnasts of roman rings(pronounced big bi’s and tri’s) …. wat wud u suggest …..plz help me.. i need it…tell me also the correct diet for it…..that will be really helpful though I am very diet considerate…
    waiting for ur reply
    bembembigelo

  • Bembembigelo,
    In my opinion, to look like a gymnast, it’s probably best to train like a gymnast. You just have to remember that a lot of these people are elite athletes who have been training their entire lives. That being said, read through this article and let me know if you have any questions:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/gymnastics-workout-routine-exf-rings-training-gymnast-body

    Dave

  • bembembigelo:

    Hey Dave,
    thanx bro!!
    it was really helpful,the link….
    actually i also want to increase my height couple of inches.
    What wud u suggest regarding this?
    look at Taylor Lautner…he has got an awesome physique…can a vegeterian like me acheive that?

  • Bembembigelo,
    Glad the link was helpful. Increasing height is pretty tough. Obviously you’re only so tall but you can try improve your posture and straighten your spine. Core exercises link planks can help you stand taller and back bridges can help give you a more flexible spine. Other things to do would be to perform a lot of stretching, eat well, exercise intensely to increase HGH levels, and get a good night’s rest which also increases HGH levels.

    Taylor Lautner’s body would be challenging to achieve for anyone. He started really lean and his body was primed to add a lot of muscle mass. If you can eat at a modest caloric deficit and get enough protein as a vegetarian, and combine that with a good weight training program, you can certainly increase your muscle mass. Still, getting a celebrity body isn’t always a realistic goal. See this post:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/ideal-body/hollywood-workout-celebrity-workouts-and-diets-effective

    I’m happy to go into more details about anything else you’re interested in.

    Dave

  • bembembigelo:

    Hey Dave,
    your link posts are relly helpful always!!
    thanx for the HGH stuff !!….thats really motivating.
    I do agree that achieving a celebrity body isn’t practical…cuz it is shown for silver screen purpose(temporarily)….they themselves can’t maintain the skin wrap effect for a prolonged period(off screen).____do give ur comment regarding this____

    Actually I had indulged myself into intense (myofibrillar hypertrophy) strength training…that helped me to achieve a really dense chiseled body, but a small one .. though strong, really strong. I was doing stuff like 50 to 60 handstand pushups and one handed pushups comfortably.
    Then i realised that i need to get big(more calories needed)
    ….and now if I keep the sarcoplasmic hypertrophy in mind(already debated by you and aaron)….I get confused.
    I want strength but size of the muscle does matter. :-)

    What would you suggest for me so that i can increase the muscle mass especially for arms provided it should be dense and not the sarcoplasmic fluid blobs?

  • Bembembigelo,
    Sounds like you have a realistic attitude about celebrity bodies. You’re correct about training for a specific role in the short term.

    It sounds like you got insanely strong…50-60 handstand pushups is crazy. For gaining muscle mass, you could take a couple different approaches. First, you could set aside strength gains and just focus exclusively on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (low weight, high reps) for 6-8 weeks. In conjunction with a muscle building diet, you could quickly add some mass. Then switch back to myofibrilar hypertrophy training and ensure that your muscles maintain your density.

    The second approach is to keep up your current strength training approach and just change your diet. Do you perform any weight training? While bodyweight training is fantastic for functional strength, weight training tends to add size a little better. In this case, you’d want to do high weight, low rep training to continue to increase your strength and density.

    Here are a couple other resources to consider:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/intermittent-fasting/martin-berkhan-leangains-guide-the-best-muscle-building-diet-plan

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/visual-impact-muscle-building-results-phase-1

    Let me know what you think. Either way, you’ll be able to keep up your strength over the long term. The question is whether you’d like to make a short term sacrifice to try to gain some more mass.

    Dave

  • LDS:

    Doesn’t the body adapt better when it’s pushed to the limit? I don’t understand why you suggest NOT going to failure is better when working with strength. In my opinion, the only way to improve the body in all aspects (Strength, Size, Endurance) is to push it to it’s physical limits. Surely pushing the muscle to it’s physical edge will cause a greater adaptation to strength stimuli and a more desperate need for more motor unit recruitment (Strength!)?

  • LDS,
    Based on my readings and experience, I actually find the reverse is true. If I train my muscles to failure, they learn to fail over time. If I avoid failure, they get used to lifting a certain weight and find it easier to lift that weight going forward. It’s somewhat related to the grease the groove technique that I discuss here:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/grease-the-groove-how-to-increase-pushups-increase-pull-ups

    That being said, you are correct in that you have to keep pushing your body to be stronger. If you lift the same amount of weight forever, obviously you won’t get stronger. The key is to keep increasing but stop 1-2 reps shy of failure. Once that gets to easy, continue to advance.

    Just my thoughts.
    Dave

  • bembembigelo:

    Hey Dave,
    You are a real eye opener!!
    I am ready to make a short term sacrifice for gaining some more mass(thats not a real sacrifice though….cuz i know what one needs to get strong)…getting dense is not a big issue for me….thats easy…..the tough job is to be patient and get bulked up!! :-)

    yo dave…nice phrase there!!..
    GREASE THE GROOVE!!!!!

    Bembembigelo

  • Bembembigelo,
    Good luck to you in your training. The key is diet in my opinion. Yes, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy will help you get bigger muscles, but you have to eat big to get big as well. Just don’t overdo it with the calories. A modest caloric surplus will ensure that you add fat without adding much muscle.

    I didn’t invent the phrase “grease the groove.” I learned that from Pavel at Dragon Door. If you weren’t such an expert on strength training already, I’d definitely recommend some of his books to you.

    Let me know how everything goes or if you need any other tips along the way.
    Dave

  • bembembigelo:

    Dave,
    I’ll let you know how everything goes for sure!

    I also want to join you .. if you are on facebook…that’ll be of much convenience!!

    Bembembigelo

  • Bemberbigelo,

    Thanks, I’m actually on Facebook:
    http://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageFitnessTips

    Dave

  • Mikko:

    Hi Dave, great article, thanks for this! Never been into bodybuilding as for me strength training is much more rewarding (beating my records) and I don’t want to gain muscle that burns oxygen and weight is harder for ligaments (knees etc.) even when walking.

    I thought that nutrition still plays the key role in how lean you look. If we take a bodybuilder that reduces his calorie consumption for a given time and switches from lifting weights to an endurance sport, he/she would look lean right? I mean the water that is in the muscle due to their training methods disappears from there quickly when the methods are changed.

    Read from an interview of the heavyweight boxer, Robert Helenius, that he trains bench press with 100kg and does 10 reps. It must be for explosive strength but doesn’t that many reps also increase the amount of water in his body (which he does not want as it makes him fatigued faster).

    Would it not be smarter for Helenius to train with bigger weights (reducing the reps)? and adding some explosive strength training to that (65-70% of 1 rep max, 5×5)?

    If I remember right Brad Pitt trained with many reps (even 15 per set) for Fight Club and still managed to get that lean with the right nutrition. Did he and his trainer go wrong there?

    When I have forced pauses (business trips, injuries) from my training for some weeks, it’s at that period when I have looked the most lean (even though I have not trained with weights at all), and I suspect it was because I just wasn’t as hungry as before but the muscles still burned additional energy even at rest.

    All the best,

    Mikko

  • Mikko,
    You bring up some good points. I’ll try to touch on all of them. Nutrition definitely plays a role in how lean you look. There’s just a slight but noticeable difference in muscles that have high levels of sarcoplasm vs. muscles that are really strong and toned. Switching from sarcoplasmic hypertrophy to myofibrillar hypertrophy would just change the appearance of muscles as you mentioned.

    Even thought Helenius does 10 reps, the bigger factor behind sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is whether he is training to failure. If he’s avoiding failure, then he would be training more for strength than mass.

    Celebrity workouts like Brad Pitt’s fit into their own category. Obviously everything worked out well with his routine, but the rules change when you can dedicate yourself like a celebrity can. Even the worst workout routine can produce great results for a celebrity because of the effort they can put into it.

    Muscles growing when you’re resting. You may look leaner because you’re not retaining as much water or just eating less in general. If you stop training for too long, you’re likely to lose muscle mass but you could easily take a week off, if not two, with minimal impact.

    Hope I covered everything. Let me know if you have any follow up questions!

    Dave

  • Mikko:

    Greetings,

    Thank you very much!

    Regarding the strength training sets, is 3 sets x 4-6 reps enough? When I am able to do 3 x 6 I could just move to bigger weights instead of adding sets, or would be safer to just add sets (5×5) than weight? Is this kind of training eventually too hard on your nervous system?

    Back in 2004 I was still trying to bench press 100kg but had hit a plateau at 95kg. Started training twice the chest per week, 3×3 90kg, and 5×5 70kg (speed), don’t know if doing the speed (5×5, 65-70% of the maximum 1 rep) played any role but the plateau was “broken” and soon after I lifted that 100kg. Looking at my training diary I have usually improved the most when keeping the reps between 4-8 with 3-4 sets.

    Thanks again! Great to have this kind of website where the admin has such dedication!

    Mikko

  • Mikka,
    The more practice, the better if you’re trying to get really strong or focus on a particular exercise. As long as you’re not training to failure, you’re actually teaching your nervous system to get more efficient. If you’re interested, here are a couple other articles I did that might help:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/how-to-increase-bench-press

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/grease-the-groove-how-to-increase-pushups-increase-pull-ups

    As for breaking through a plateau, it’s likely that just changing things up helped your muscles. The additional practice probably came in handy as well. Remember that you should change your workout routine every 6-12 weeks and take some time off to let your muscles rest as well.

    Good luck with the training!
    Dave

  • Mikko:

    Thanks again!

    Always doubted that training a muscle group only once a week is the only way to go (because I don’t think my training is optimal). If my muscles have hurt for 3 days after the exercise I have usually given them 3 days to rest without pain. Biceps seem to be an exception, the pain is gone very quickly (maybe because they are so small muscle group). Also learnt from your articles to avoid training until failure.

    More motivated now to continue with my style of training (bigger weights, less reps), but modifying it (slightly more workouts, changing routine, avoid working out until failure).

    Will visit your site in the future.

    All the best from cold NYC!

    Mikko

  • Mikko,
    Training a muscle group once per week is more of a mass building approach. If you avoid training your muscles to failure, 2-3 days rest is all you’ll need. Go for the bigger weights with 3-5 reps. If you have time for 5 sets, go for it. Otherwise stick with 3 sets.

    Boston is just as cold as NYC!
    Dave

  • bembembigelo:

    Hey Dave,
    I hope you are doing great.
    My plan IS going nice…requires loads of patience. :-)
    Actually I found interest in mikko’s “BREAKING THE PLATEAU” stuff.You already know that I’m currently concerned about increasing musscle mass but as i have a decent experience on strength training…..I really wanted to share a bit.

    Whenever you do a strength related workout…weight training for instance, you got to make sure that you are exhaling when you pump the weight….meaning…”when you are doing bench press you exhale when weight goes up.
    You should also keep in mind while strict strength training that you are pumping the weights quick (obviously keeping the form right :-) ) and inhaling slowly & deeply when the weight comes down slowly.
    The golden key as I experienced, for increasing reps (regardless of weight) is……. “do give ur best to pump up the weights as quick as u can ////remember to exhale accordingly//// and take a deep slow breath when weight comes down accordingly(slowly)”.
    quick quick quick….as quick as u can while pumping up & exhaling and slow slow slow as slow as u can while inhaling and bringing the weight down…..do not wait after the weight comes down ‘coz u gotta b fast to pump it up again….its something like sprint starts…working up ur neuromuscular coordination and explosive strength in every rep.
    Its great when you do it right….actually ITS BRILLIANT.
    I have experienced the effects while I had indulged myself in strength training . Believe me,it can break any plateau if you are facing one. :-)

    Dave I’m really desperate to see your opinion on this brother, cuz my experience is way behind yours…:-)

    Bembembigelo

  • Bembembigelo,
    Glad to hear things are going well. Is your comment on my experience a nice way of saying I’m old? :-)

    Good tips on breaking a plateau. In a nutshell, it sounds like your doing a controlled down motion with an explosive up motion. That’s a good approach.

    Other plateau busters could be performing negative reps or doing drop sets. Varying a routine obviously helps as well which is how I generally avoid plateaus.

    Dave

  • bembembigelo:

    Dave,
    You got a nice sense of humour!! :-)
    Obviously you are not old……not at all, so keep that thing out of your mind.
    You are experienced means you are experienced :-) …..no doubt about it.

    Yup, one more thing to mention…..
    I have tried to use my left arm as much as I can(for shaping it up as my right one). The difference is slight but annoying for me. My left arm is just a bit “less developed”…….since one year, i am doing my daily chores except writing :-) with my left hand. (sometimes when I’m off I try that too)
    It has helped…but there is scope for more improvement …..suggest something brother. I know its a common thing but lets see what you suggest for your younger brother.
    Lots of love for ur family…especially for ur son..:-)

    Bembembigelo

  • Bembembigelo,
    Pretty cool that you’re trying to do more to strengthen your left hand. The only other tip I can offer is to perform one-arm exercises. Kettlebells are great for that purpose. Try to work toward one-arm pushups or pull ups as well. Hopefully that will even things out a bit. However, most people have a dominant arm and that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
    Dave

  • DAN:

    Hi

    Was just wondering if training one body part a day for 5 days in the 12-15 rep range would have the same effect as the visual impact program? im use to hitting the same bodypart 2- 3 times a week and was just thinking hitting it once a week and giving it more rest would be a good change and produce better results?

    Thanks

  • Dan,
    Bodybuilders generally take the approach of training one body part per day and really fatiguing it and then giving it a week to recover. It would probably produce the same effect as phase 1 of Visual Impact in that you’d see good muscle mass gains. It might be worth a try. Eventually, I’d recommend going back to working multiple muscle groups a couple days per week to work on increasing strength and definition.
    Dave

  • DAN:

    Thanks for the quick reply
    From past experiance i have had better and quicker gains form hitting a muscle 2 times a week over the bodybuilding method of hitting it once and then giving it a week to recover but i have been training with high freaquency for about 12 months and was thinking the change would be good for continued progress.

    Ye i have the visual impact ebook and am going to do One body part a day for 5 days for about 1-2 months for muscle growth wile still using rustys techniques for phase one i.e. culmative fatuige and then follow his routine directly for phase 2, 3 and the bonus phase… Really looking forwar for the end result :) Thanks again

    best regards

    Dan

  • Dan,
    Sounds like a good plan. Switching things up might be a nice change of pace and result in some good muscle gains. Hope you get some great results!
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,
    Regarding the program I’m doing now, this stage has the lifter doing very low reps – 4 to be exact – for 3-4 sets with 120 seconds of rest between each set. Based on your recommendation of trying to define my back more, does it matter if I necessarily complete 3 or 4 sets? Sometimes I don’t always have the time to do four sets for each exercise. Will my progress suffer if I do three instead of four sets?

    Also, I’m kind of concerned about adding too much mass to my upper body. There’s a dumbbell incline bench press written into this stage and while I’m kind of proud of the fact that I’m “benching” 50 total lbs., I’m thinking that my back might widen which I want to avoid. I’m torn because I’m trying to build some muscle back there but don’t want to look too masculine. Should I lower the weight between sets? I’m so confused.
    ~Toni

  • Toni,
    From all my reading and research, I feel like 2-3 sets is enough for getting in shape. Now, if you want to maximize strength, doing more sets with plenty of rest in between is a great way to go (practice makes perfect!). If you were trying to gain a lot of muscle mass, you could also perform quite a few sets to ensure that your muscles were fatigued. However, for your general fitness level and appearance, doing 3 sets to save time should be fine.

    To avoiding adding too much mass, really ensure that you don’t fatigue your muscles. That way you end up increasing definition rather than mass. If you’re doing 4 reps, try to use a weight that you could lift 5-6 times. The 2 minutes of rest in between sets should be adequate to avoid fatigue. You’ll obviously still want to increase gradually from week to week, just be cautious about tiring out your muscles. Hope that makes sense.

    Dave

  • marie:

    You have it backwards. Working in a rep range of 12-15 won’t put on mass. You have to lift HEAVY and work in a rep range of 6-10 or doing 5 x 5.

  • Marie,
    I’d respectfully disagree. Cumulative fatigue creating by utilizing 12-15 reps with lighter weights will result in sarcoplasmic hypertrophy effecting adding more mass to your body. Low rep heavy weight training while avoiding failure in the 3-5 rep range results in myofibrillar hypertrophy meaning you’ll have stronger denser muscles and more actual muscle fibers, but not as much mass.
    Dave

  • Mikko:

    Marie,

    Agree with Dave even when reading other sources.

    “Muscle bulk comes from a high volume of work. The repetition range that most women would prefer to do (8–20 reps) promotes hypertrophy (muscle growth)”

    “Heavy weights will promote strength not size. This has been proven time and time again. When lifting weights over 85 percent, the primary stress imposed upon the body is placed on the nervous system, not on the muscles. Therefore, strength will improve by a neurological effect while not increasing the size of the muscles.”

    http://www.elitefts.com/documents/female_athletes.htm

    BR, Mikko

  • Rob H:

    Actually sarcoplasmic hypertrophy has little to do with reaching muscular failure, it’s all about a high volume of work preferably with reps in the 12-15 range and a “cumulative” fatigue type of workout. In a true cumulative fatigue type workout you are really only approaching failure on the last set of say a 5×12 (5 sets of 12 reps) workout. The first set will seem easy but the key is only resting 20 to 45 seconds between sets. Start with a 45 second rest period between sets and as you adapt over the weeks take 5 seconds off of the rest time between sets whenever your able to complete a full 5×12 with a certain weight at a fixed rest time between sets… until you can do your 5×12 with only 20 seconds rest between sets…the increase the weight SLIGHTLY and start all over. Reaching muscular failure on the first set of a 5×12 workout would have you reducing the weight even further to keep your reps up for the remaining 4 sets…. not a true cumulative fatigue workout.
    Research “Vince Gironda”. He was an old school bodybuilder that basically brought cumulative fatigue training to the forefront of bodybuilding and he trained many actors in Hollywood needing to put on some muscle fast and achieve that “Hollywood physique”.

  • dan:

    Just started phase 2 and was wondering should i follow the principles i.e.45-60 seconds rest between sets ? i thought 5×5 was a strength training programe you should take 2-3 min rest for full recovery ?

    best regards

    Dan

  • Dan,
    I like to take 90 seconds rest with the 5×5 program. Provides enough time to almost completely recover so that training to failure is minimal. Phase 2 is about both mass and strength gains, so it’s a hybrid approach.
    Dave

  • dylan:

    this is a load of crap, strength rep range wont make you look any harder or leaner than muscle mass rep range, its all about diet, they just chose a fat for the mass picture and a random ripped guy for the strength. if you do the mass reps and eat clean u will look just as hard as anyone else, if not harder because youre bigger. one persons muscle are no harder then another. u cant make a muscle harder by the way u train. all comes down bf%

  • bembembigelo:

    Hey Dave,
    I hope you remember me….:-)
    brother I gotta tell ya….I am getting the results real quick….and I am ‘njoying it….thanx for the advice you had given to me man!…..i’ll definately tell you about the things in progress….thanx once again!!

  • Bembembigelo,
    Of course I remember you. Glad to hear things are going well. Keep up the good work!
    Dave

  • Derek:

    hey,
    I just finished a 4 week mass program and now starting a strength program. But doing 5-7 sets per exercise and 2-3 min rest times. I am only getting 4 exercises done in the time I would do 6-8. Anything I could do to improve it?

  • Derek,
    That’s unfortunately what comes with strength training. You perform less exercises but get stronger and more efficient at the exercises you choose to do.
    Dave

  • Derek:

    Alright, another question..
    should I be increasing the weight as the sets go on. Or just keep a weight throughout the sets?

  • Derek,
    If you’re performing 5 sets, you can make the first 2 lighter. You want to pretend their heavier though so you get positive neurological feedback. This will help prime your muscles for the last 3 heavy sets. I’d recommend using the same weight for all of those and not training to failure.
    Dave

  • Mich Petterson:

    Hi Dave,

    I was reading your post, The questions you put really make sense,now I wonder if this tips goes as well for women like me?, I’m 25.

  • Mich,
    I think these apply to both men and women which is why I recommend women perform low rep, heavy weight strength training while avoiding failure. It’s not a bad thing for women to get stronger…the typical high rep, low weight workouts done to failure actually end up causing more muscle mass gains which is what most women would like to avoid.
    Dave

  • Gwen Williams:

    Hi Dave!

    How much of average time or rounds for women around 30-35(like me) you can positively recommend for each week?

  • Gwen,
    When you say time, are you referring to how much time to spend each day/week in the gym? Generally, I recommend performing 30-45 minutes of strength training 4 days per week. You can perform a couple days of cardio separately or after strength training for 30-45 minutes as well. Does that answer the question?
    Dave

  • william:

    hello dave..

    do you have a tips for avoid muscle failure when training?

  • William,
    Avoiding failure while still pushing yourself is something that comes with experience. You want the last rep to be one that you can complete but it should still feel challenging. If you feel like you can’t complete a rep, don’t start it.
    Dave

  • bembembigelo:

    this is for everyone!!!
    this guy Dave…..he’s just awesome!!
    hey dave!!
    I now possess some guns….and they r fabulous when pumped up!!…..believe me…..:D
    it was only possible beacause of you.
    you were the one who was ther eto suggest me…wats right and wats wrong…..reply…:-)
    I am looking forward to it….thanx again brother!!!

    Bembembigelo

  • Bembembigelo,
    Good to hear from you again. I’m just passing along what I learned…glad it worked out well for you! Let me know if you need any help going forward. In the meantime, keep up the good work!
    Dave

  • thanh:

    hey Dave, I have been working out my muscle groups twice a week except legs doing strength training the first time then high reps the second time, am I overtraining? im doing chest, tris on mon and thurs…legs on weds..back shoulder bis, on tues and thurs…then abs a couple times mixed in

  • Thanh,
    Sounds like a perfectly reasonable workout routine. You’re doing a push-pull split (pushing exercises Mon/Thurs, pulling exercise Tues/Thurs). One question, seems like it might be a lot of exercises on Thursday. If you’re feeling any of the effects noted in this article, then you might be overtraining:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-fitness-tips/signs-symptoms-of-overtraining

    In general, I don’t usually like to mix low reps with high reps since, as noted in the article, they’re somewhat conflicting goals. If you’re having success though, keep it up!

    Dave

  • Steve:

    Here is what I like to do. I will start with a lighter weight and do the exercise for many reps then pyramid up to heavy weight with less reps. I will use my most recent bench press and leg press workouts for example. For reference I weigh about 190 lbs and am a 59 y/o man.

    Bench (I have no spotter so this is on a Smith machine)
    First set 110lb x 20-25 reps
    2nd 180 x 8
    3rd 200 x 3
    4th 220 x 2
    5th 240 x 1
    6th 250 x 1

    Leg Press (Hammer Sled)
    1st 478 x 12
    2nd 568 x 12
    3rd 658 x 8
    4th 748 x 4
    5th 758 x 2

    What do you think of this sort of pyramiding? Shouldn’t it build both size and density? Sarcoplasmic and sarcomeric hypertropy?

  • Steve,
    The routine that you outlined could create a nice mix. I find that training to failure with 8-12 reps helps for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy while avoiding failure with 3-5 reps helps for myofibrillar hypertrophy. So the first question is whether you train to failure or not. Beyond that, you’re incorporating some principles of both. The problem, at least in my opinion, is that you’re not necessarily lifting the highest amount in the early sets. In other words, you could probably improve strength (and muscle density) by starting with 250lbs bench press for 2-3 reps rather than performing that much weight on your 6th and final set when your muscle are tired. Does that make sense?
    Dave

  • Steve:

    Thanks for the reply. I generally do not train to failure, at least not on purpose! I will try this reverse pyramiding and see how it works. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the primary goal. I would like to be a little bigger and a lot stronger!

  • Steve,
    Good luck with the strength training. Let me know how it goes!
    Dave

  • KS:

    What would bodyweight exercise be counted as? Myofibrillar or Sarcoplasmic? Or does number of reps still plays a part here?

    I think one-arm chin up 3 reps would be myofribillar and 15 pulls ups would be sarcoplasmic, right? Would bodyweight training add mass as well?

    Thanks.

  • KS,
    Number of reps, and more importantly, whether you train to failure or not ultimately dictates myofibrillar vs. sarcoplasmic. You’re correct about the pull-ups, as long as 15 pull-ups fatigues your muscles. Cumulative fatigue is another important feature of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy as you want your muscles to fail on multiple sets. Bodyweight training in general can be used to add mass although I’ve found that weight training is more effective.
    Dave

  • Mack:

    Hi Dave,

    Your article has totally changed the way I train. I was doing the opposite to your article. My goals are that I want bigger arms but want to increase strength and tone the rest of my body. I only want to attend the gym 3 times a week so I wanted to know what muscle groups to work and on what day. I want my arms to get bigger so I will work on them to failure to increase size but my dilemma is can I work different muscles with different goals (mass for arms and strength for everything else) on the same day?

    Please help me with a good routine.

    Thanks.

  • Mack,
    You can certainly train different muscles with different rep ranges and resting times. For example, maybe you want a tight, dense chest so you perform bench press and incline press with heavy weights for 3-5 reps with 2-3 minutes rest between sets. However, you might want to focus on getting bigger, bulkier biceps right now so you’d do 12-15 reps with 45-60 seconds between sets. If you’re focused more on mass for arms, then I’d split your workout into pushing & pulling days. On pushing days, you’d perform exercises like bench press, incline press, shoulder press, dips, pushups, etc. On pulling days, you’d do rows, pullups, bicep curls, etc. You could include leg exercises like squats and deadlifts on either day although pulling would probably make more sense. You could also have a separate leg day. Is that a good start?
    Dave

  • Mack:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your response. What i was wondering is that if i for example train my biceps (to failure) and chest (high weights, low reps) on the same day:-

    would the training increase sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (in my biceps) and increase myofibrillar hypertrophy (in my chest) at the same time?

    is it possible for these different processs above to happen at the same time on different parts of your body?

    If these processes cannot happen at the same time on different parts of your body then is it better to train arms (biceps and triceps) on the same day and then train the rest of your body (i want a tighter toned body but bigger arms only) on different days?

    my current work out is:-

    monday – chest and triceps – bench press, incline press, decline press, push ups, skull crushers, dips, close grip barbell, cable triceps pushdown

    wednesday – back and biceps – deadlifts, seated rows, lat pulldown, bicep curls, hammer curls, barbell curls

    saturday – Shoulders and legs – dumbbell shoulder press, machine shoulder press, forward arm raises, shrugs, leg press, leg extension, leg curls.

    I do 5 sets of 3 reps (heavy weights) for each excercise on each muscle apart from biceps and triceps. on biceps and triceps i do 5 sets of 12 reps (medium weight) for each exercise.

    i also do some cardio before i start each workout (30 mins running) and do abs at the end of the workout (15 mins crunches).

    i think my current routine is already set out as pulling and pushing days. my worry is the scientific stuff above and whether there is some sort confliction as my goals for certain parts (arms) of my body is different from the rest.

    i would really appreciate your comments on the scientific stuff above and also any comments about my routine as to how it can be better.

    Thanks.

  • Mack,
    Great routine. You can focus on making certain arm muscles stronger (chest, back) and others bulkier (biceps, triceps). On the heavy weight reps, avoid failure. On the lighter weight, higher reps, take your muscles to failure. You’ll get sarcoplasmic hypertrophy for biceps and triceps and myofibrillar hypertrophy for chest and back. The split is good. My only recommendation is to perform cardio after strength training. You can do a 5 minute warm up but 30 minutes can drain your body and make your strength training somewhat less effective. Just my thought though. If it’s working for you, no need to change it.
    Dave

  • Mack:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your response. Can you please clarify that I can work conflicting goals for different muscles (strength vs size) on the same day and still get my body to produce sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibrillar hypertrophy at the same time on different muscles.

    P.s I will start doing my cardio at the end of my workout now.

    Thanks.

  • Mack,
    My understanding is that you can work conflicting goals for different muscles on the same day. I’d do the exercises focused on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy after the myofibrillar hypertrophy. The routine you outlined above would work.
    Dave

  • Keith:

    Would sarcoplasmic hypertrophy deter my strength and cns?

  • Levi:

    Dave,
    I’m interested in the theory of sarcoplasmic vs myofibrillar hypertrophy. However, after looking at some other sources the general opinion seems to be that one cannot increase without the other. They work together, and there is no way to specifically train for one. I also haven’t found any studies to prove this is true. There doesn’t seem to be real evidence either way. What are your thoughts?

    http://www.higher-faster-sports.com/nonfunctionalmyth.html

  • Keith,
    Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy definitely isn’t great for gaining strength. You can get stronger but in terms of raw power, low reps with heavy weights while avoiding failure is the way to go.

    Levi,
    It’s hard to find any definitive studies…on anything! Many are embedded with biases and frankly no two people are the same so what works for one person/group might not work for another. Just look around you and decide how you want to train. Would you rather focus on higher reps or lower reps with heavier weights? Switch back and forth every couple months and you can get the best of both worlds. Thanks for passing along the article by the way, makes a lot of good points.

    Dave

  • Levi:

    Thx for the reply. I guess you’re right. If people are getting results with this, it’s worth a shot.

  • Daniel Brady:

    I work out in the 12-15 rep range, increasing my weight lifted each week, but I still look like a twig (My Pic). But a more muscular twig than when I started.

    Although a few people have commented that I look fat, but I tell them to poke my stomach and they’ll feel that it’s abs, not fat…

    I think higher rep ranges don’t make you pudgy like the guy in the picture, but eating does. I have a hard time meeting the 2900 calorie requirement to be at a 500 calorie surplus, but I’m trying.

  • Nasir Shareef:

    Hey Dave, I grew up roughly around 60-65 kg.. really skinny! since february 2012 I have started working out and I’ve put on about 15-18kg although I’ve put on some belly fact as well while eating a lot.
    But my question here is what’s the good rep range to get bigger? because I’m around 78kg now and I want to go up to 90kg if possible but full defined as well.. the trainer at the gym told me to get bigger you have to do 4 sets with reps of 12, 10, 8 and 6 but as you go down do heavier weights.. but to be fair I have’nt seen much of an increase just a bit more belly fat.. what should I do? please help me here bro

  • Nasir,
    15-18kg is a lot of weight to put on in such a short time. Your body can only add so much muscle without adding fat. My advice would be to slow down and focus on adding 1kg per month so that it’s all muscle. Probably not the advice you wanted to hear. As for workout routines, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy would be the best way to add muscle quickly so focus on high rep training to failure. Once you add an adequate amount of mass, you can switch to low reps while avoiding failure to focus on increasing strength and density.
    Dave

  • MiCHAEL:

    hi im 15, 6ft 2, 230 pounds. i just lost a lot of weight and have alot of skin. i want to fill it in around my arms.
    but i also want to get very strong. would it be good to alternate every month?

  • Monica:

    Is this true for women as well? I still have a lot of weight to lose but i want my muscles stronger but not necessarily bigger. I do want a bigger butt though. Can i just pick the certain area’s of my body and train the way you explain here? I’m considering getting P90x and am just starting to use more weights for my workouts.

  • Michael,
    Alternating every month or two would work. I’d probably start with muscle mass reps to give you a little “shrink wrap” effect and then focus on strength reps. If you want to combine both at once, consider a 5×5 program (5 sets of 5 reps).
    Dave

  • Monica,
    This works for women as well. Too many woman are afraid to lift heavy and get strong but that’s key to stronger bones and a more defined physique. You can spot train muscles to some extent…strength reps for some body parts, muscle mass reps for others. Just remember you can’t spot reduce fat though. P90x is a very intense program. Make sure you can put in the time commitment. I’d do that if you want to focus on losing a lot of fat since it isn’t an ideal program to increase strength.
    Dave

  • Monica:

    Thanx Dave. I signed up for the online 8 week best body bootcamp. To kick my exercise up and give me a more set schedule. It will be about an hour 5-6 days per week. Right now i only do 30-45 min 3-4 days a week so this will definitely kick it up a notch. For over a month now I’ve been lifting for me what is heavy. My heaviest dumbells are 25 lbs so at most right now i can get 50 lbs. What do you think about a sandbag? I’ve thought about getting an ultimate sandbag but they are really expensive.

  • Monica,
    I’ve never trained with a sandbag but my initial thought is that dumbbells would be a little more flexible in the variety of exercises you could perform. Rather than spending money on the sandbag, why not just get some adjustable dumbbells? However, if you’re doing best body bootcamp, I’m guessing you won’t need heavy dumbbells for a while since it will probably torch your muscles. Hope it goes well!
    Dave

  • Carl:

    my current sets and reps for bench are 4 sets of 4 saying at 365, and do one extra set of 405 for one rep. I was thinking switching that to 10 sets of 3 with 365, think its a good idea or no?

  • Carl,
    If you’re goal is to bench press more, then this might be a good strategy. I assume you’re resting 2-3 minutes between sets. Avoid failure and you’ll really “grease the groove.”
    Dave

  • brandon:

    Hi, I read the forst few comments but skipped the rest. My answer is probably in there somewhere..
    But, if I want that lean look and to be strong rather than bulky, I would do a 5×5 workout? Also, what weights do I do? As heavy as I can or a few pounds lighter?
    Does that count for all muscles? Or just main muscle groups?
    Thanks for your time!

  • Brandon,
    5×5 workout is a great strength building workout that will help build some mass as well. You can reduce the reps and increase the sets if you want to focus more on strength. You’ll want to go as heavy as you can without letting your muscles fail. You can use this strategy for any muscles or mix and match. For example, you can do high rep training for your biceps to focus on building mass and low rep training for you chest to building strength and density.
    Dave

  • Edward Ho:

    Hi Dave,
    I have been reading your work. All this while, I learned and believed that Heavier weights with low reps actually builds muscle size, while ligher weights and high reps is meant for tonning of existing muscles. But your theory says that exact opposite. Can you advise me on my 6 pack ab work out. I have been on an extreme lean diet for the past 6 months trying to flatten my stomach and bring out the abs. But no matter how well I eat and work out, I am just not able to rid the last thin layer of fat. I can see the abs only when I hold my breath and tighten the ab muscles. Can you suggest some work out or techniques. Should I follow heavy weight crunches with low reps.

  • Edward,
    It sounds like you’re doing really well…it’s hard to have fully visible abs all the time without flexing. You’re unfortunately stuck with stubborn belly fat like most guys. It just takes time to fully lose it. Here’s an article I did that goes into more detail:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/ideal-body/how-to-lose-stubborn-body-fat

    Separately, if you’re looking to add volume to your abs, rather than just tighten them, I would actually recommend high rep training. Check out this article and download the free Abs Blueprint report I mention for more details:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/six-pack-abs/pack-abs-workout-routine-diet-plan-exercises

    Hope that helps.
    Dave

  • Hi Dave, as stated by you before, building mass and then densifying it is a very efficient method, but will the hybrid route ever achieve the same density as opposed to doing purely strength training? Even if doing purely strength training is not as efficient, I want to be able to make my muscles as dense as humanly possible. What are your thoughts?

  • AnalGod,
    If you’re going for density, I’d focus purely on strength training like you say. Stick with 1-5 reps with 2-3 minutes between sets. I’d still modify your workout from time to time to avoid plateaus. For example, do 3 reps for 2 months, take a week off, and then do 5 reps for 2 months. Or change the number of sets or slightly modify the exercises you’re doing or change the order of exercises.
    Dave

  • Motank:

    Hi Dave.
    Great approach, read almost all posts! What about the manner of the movement?
    I do slow and concentrate on high reps, especially on negatives, focusing on muscle feeling and more explosive on low reps, focusing on weight movement.

  • Motank,
    I generally keep my cadence to 2 seconds down, 1 second up. With heavy weights, it’s hard to keep time under tension much longer without fatiguing muscles.
    Dave

  • Hi Dave,
    Is it possible to gain endurance without being hit by those sarcoplasmic fluids? According to the source here http://www.builtlean.com/2012/07/19/high-reps-vs-low-reps/ I get the impression that you can’t. Also, would doing only strength reps give at least some endurance when doing lighter than usual weights?

  • I’d say you can increase overall endurance without as much sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Bodyweight exercises like pushups are a good example. You can do pretty high reps and gain muscular endurance but you don’t necessarily need to train to failure.

  • Beginneratlifting:

    Hi Dave, I’m 1.67 m 54kg 16 year old and wish to start working out. I don’t really consider myself skinny or fat as my arms are really thin and all the fats in the belly. I just hope to get bulkier but weights I can manage at gym is really light. So what do you suggest, should I build strength first in order to do more kinds of exercise or just go ahead into light weights high reps?

  • It depends…if you’d like to focus on building more muscle mass and increasing the size of your muscles, high reps with light weights will work just fine. If you’re more interested in building denser muscles and getting stronger, then try to do lower reps and get stronger.

    Not knowing anything else, I’d probably start with the light weights for high reps. You’ll still gain some strength and also improve endurance. Plus, assuming you keep rest time short, you can theoretically burn a few more calories which will help you lose some fat.

    The great thing is that you can always switch routines when you get bored or feel like your muscles are getting too big or puffy. The other great thing is that you’re still young and it’s a great time to start training since your body is primed to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously.

    Let me know if you need any more info. Good luck!

  • Beginneratlifting:

    Hi Dave, after much research I have decided to follow the Starting Strength routine after my examinations. As mentioned I wish to bulk up first but I dont know exactly how much should I consume everyday if I were to follow the program. And for the weights how light should I start. I’m really weak and afraid that I may start too heavy then I might stall early.

  • If you’re afraid of lifting too heavy, then just start light. It’s easier to take it slow and increase then start too heavy and decrease. As for calories, eat until you’re full and see how much weight you’re gaining. If you feel like you’re gaining too fast or adding fat, then cut back. If you feel like you’re not gaining enough, then eat a little more. Initially, I wouldn’t supplement with protein shakes but you can add them if you feel like you’re not gaining. Personally, I’d stick with real food.

  • bembembigelo:

    Hi there Dave!!!
    Its been long since we texted last.
    Its going nice—-I mean ‘THE QUEST FOR BULKY LEAN MUSCULATURE WITH SYMMETRY”..
    I dont know what would you feel about this but I am,nowadays,researching more and more on “LARRY THE LEGEND SCOTT”.
    I knew about him but it was 2 yrs back when i felt a lot more attached to his workout philosophy “the old school ‘Vince Gironda’ type”.
    I AM sort of liking it.
    As a true disciple of yours I still try to keep you informed about my progress.Once again I HAVE TO THANK YOU for the tips you have given me…
    I know you would reply quickly to my text…and I,this time, am expecting a response regarding LARRY, he had an amazing arm development….more to discuss but AFTER YOU REPLY…..///////
    GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!

  • He certainly developed some amazing arms and gives hope to some of us shorter guys who aim to gain muscle mass. Vince obviously did a great job training him. Getting arms like that could take years though!

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