Many people believe that ten reps in a set is the so-called ideal number to achieve hypertrophy or muscle mass. This is partially true since each number of reps leads to hypertrophy, but this number of reps is far from ideal. There are many hypertrophy training routines, but you probably wonder which number of reps is ideal or does the ideal number of reps even exist.
Should you do more reps in a set with smaller weights, or should you do fewer reps with bigger weights? We will answer that, but we will leave the conclusion to you.
More Reps In A Set
During the workout in which you do more reps in a set, you have probably noticed that your muscles get pumped and create a feeling like they are growing. That feeling is called Muscle Pump.
This feeling is misleading since it creates an illusion of pumped muscles, but that is nothing but an increased blood flow to the muscles you are activating during your training.
Of course, the Muscle Pump has its good sides, too, and we will get back to it, but if our goal is gaining muscle mass, then Muscle Pump is not primary.
Let us explain a bit better what we have said so far. With a larger number of reps, we activate slow muscle fiber or muscle fiber type I and type IIA muscle fiber in the group of fast muscle fiber.
With the larger number of reps, we cause hypertrophy of muscle fiber, but their growth potential is not that great, or better said, their growth potential is not as good as the growth potential of some other muscle fibers, but we will talk about those later.
I am sure you are wondering why do sets with more reps then? The answer is that with a larger number of reps, we cause the so-called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy meaning the growth of fiber type I and IIA. As a result, we gain an increase in durability of muscles, an increase of protein synthesis in the muscle, and a decrease in the protein’s degradation from the muscles during the training.
What Weights And How Many Reps?
We concluded that the larger number of reps has its benefits, but now we question what weights to use to do a larger number of reps.
It is only logical that you can not do a set of thirty reps with the weight that is 80% of the maximum in any exercise. There is also a question what is a larger number of reps, how many sets with how many reps you should do, and how long should each break be between the sets? This is very important since you do not want to over-train yourself.
The larger number of reps will lead to an increase in the number of capillaries in the muscle, which is a base for faster muscle mass growth. Also, studies show that a larger number of reps duplicates mitochondria in the cells.
The lowest number of reps should be fifteen reps in a set, and the highest number should not be higher than fifty. Here is the example (the first number are the sets, the second are the reps) :
– 1×50 with the weight you can lift 50 times
– 2×30 with the weight you can lift 34 times
– 3×20 with the weight you can lift 24 times
– 4×15 with the weight you can lift 18 times
You do not want to over-train yourself, so make sure you rest between 120-180 seconds between the sets.
Smaller Number Of Reps
The training with a smaller number of reps logically asks for heavier weights in the sets since training with smaller weights would be a complete waste of time. Even though the reps are the key parameter in the workout, you have to make sure all the rest parameters are adequate.
As we already mentioned earlier, our goal is hypertrophy and especially the hypertrophy of those muscle fibers that have the largest growth potential.
We talked about two types of muscle fiber, type I and type IIA, but those muscle fibers do not have a high growth potential like muscle fibers type IIB from the group of fast muscle fiber.
Fibres type IIA has a larger growth potential than fibers type I. There are also type IIC muscle fibers, but they are really insignificant in this case since their share in the muscles is minor.
We concluded that the fibers type IIB are exactly those that we need to help us reach our goal, which is the growth of muscle mass.
But that is not that easy to do. It is tough to activate these fibers, and you need specific parameters. That raises the question: What are the number of reps, and what are the rest of the parameters that influence these fibers’ activation?
The answer is a smaller number of reps, more sets, and heavier weights. These are all the parameters you should stick with to activate the muscle fiber type IIB (the first number sets, the second number are reps):
– 12×2 with the weight you can lift 5 times
– 10×3 with the weight you can lift 6 times
– 6×5 with the weight you can lift 8 times
When it comes to rest between sets, it should last between sixty and ninety seconds.
If it is difficult for you to determine the weights you can lift a certain number of reps, we prepared a little table to help you out.
100% = 1RM
95% = 2RM
90% = 4RM
85% = 6RM
80% = 8RM
75% = 10RM
65% = 15RM
60% = 18-20RM
55% = 24RM
40% = 34RM
30% = 50RM
We gave you just a few parameters and advice that can help you plan your training program. One more essential thing, constantly change the exercises in your workout since your body adapts to changes, so it would be best to change the parameters and exercises each month.