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Thread: Repetition Ranges

  1. #1
    Wrecker of Homes d'Anconia's Avatar
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    Repetition Ranges

    This is the most n00b question and I'm sure everyone 'should' know the answer to it yet I don't quite know the answer and I'd venture to say most others do not. Anyway:

    When going for my PT certification the book dictated that in general the higher the weight used during a set, the more stimulated your muscles will get and thus the more they will grow. But, of course, under this idea a set of lower reps/higher weight is better than higher reps/lower weight. So why, then is the repetition range for muscular hypertrophy between endurance and strength?

    According to what I read, a set of, for example, 275x1 would be better for hypertrophy than 220x10. But we all know the supposed reptition range for hypertrophy is higher than for pure strength and is somewhere around 7-14 or so.

    So obviously there is another factor, and that factor I assume is repetitions. So why and how do more repetitions (specifically in the optimal hypertrophy range) cause muscular hypertrophy? I understand they're being worked more (more volume and more energy output) but how does that translate to the muscles wanting to enlarge?

    I'd really like to see someone as knowledgeable as PowerManDL answer this but I haven't seen him around in a while...
    ...........||High School||.....||July '05||.......||January '09||
    Bench.........225x1...............275x1.................?
    Squat...........?.......................?....................365x5
    Deadlift........?.....................315x5...............435x5
    Weight........180...................192...................185
    BF%.............?......................12.....................12
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    I read this in an Arthur Jones article a while back...

    It is physically impossible to use 100% of your available muscle fibers in exercise. Even when you go to failure, there is a surprisingly high percentage of fibers that never get recruited.

    The problem with doing a single repetition max is that, for most people, you can't recruit as many fibers as you would be able to perform during the end a higher repetition scheme.

    Found the article, here is an excerpt:

    "The following figures and percentages are not intended to represent an exact situation....

    If, for example, a particular muscle contains a total of 100 fibers, a person might be able to contract only 30 of those fibers at any particular moment. Thus, even when he is working as hard as possible, he would using only 30 percent of the available fibers... while 70 percent of the fibers were resting.
    If a person could use 100 percent of a muscle simultaneously, and if he could withstand the resulting forces, then he would be utterly helpless after one very brief effort... because all of the fibers would be exhausted simultaneously, leaving absolutely nothing in reserve for a second effort.
    When a person reaches a point of momentary muscular failure, he may think that his strength has been totally exhausted; but in fact, a very high percentage of strength is still available. It simply is not enough to produce movement against the imposed resistance.
    For example, if a person performs one repetition of a maximum bench press with 300 pounds, then it will be impossible to perform a second repetition immediately. But not because his momentary level of strength has suddenly been reduced to zero. In fact, his strength will be almost as high as it was at the start; but not quite high enough to lift the weight a second time.
    Performing one maximum repetition reduces a person's beginning strength level by approximately 4 percent... leaving him with about 96 percent of his starting strength left to perform a truly maximum lift, and anything less will not do it. So the person is forced to stop, even though 96 percent of his strength is still available."
    -A. Jones, taken from Nervous System in Sports

    What I take away from this is that doing lower repetition work, as in a max single, actually leaves you with a lot of leftover strength... you need more repetitions to exhaust a higher amount of fibers, i.e. more hypertrophy.

    hope that helps,
    Bill

  3. #3
    Eat and eat and eat and... ThatSkinnyGuy's Avatar
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    Dont people who lift weights consistently recruit more muscle fibers for any given action than non-lifters? I think I read that somewhere.
    It turns out the answer to every question is still deadlift and eat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bmanderson
    I read this in an Arthur Jones article a while back...

    It is physically impossible to use 100% of your available muscle fibers in exercise. Even when you go to failure, there is a surprisingly high percentage of fibers that never get recruited.

    The problem with doing a single repetition max is that, for most people, you can't recruit as many fibers as you would be able to perform during the end a higher repetition scheme.

    Found the article, here is an excerpt:

    "The following figures and percentages are not intended to represent an exact situation....

    If, for example, a particular muscle contains a total of 100 fibers, a person might be able to contract only 30 of those fibers at any particular moment. Thus, even when he is working as hard as possible, he would using only 30 percent of the available fibers... while 70 percent of the fibers were resting.
    If a person could use 100 percent of a muscle simultaneously, and if he could withstand the resulting forces, then he would be utterly helpless after one very brief effort... because all of the fibers would be exhausted simultaneously, leaving absolutely nothing in reserve for a second effort.
    When a person reaches a point of momentary muscular failure, he may think that his strength has been totally exhausted; but in fact, a very high percentage of strength is still available. It simply is not enough to produce movement against the imposed resistance.
    For example, if a person performs one repetition of a maximum bench press with 300 pounds, then it will be impossible to perform a second repetition immediately. But not because his momentary level of strength has suddenly been reduced to zero. In fact, his strength will be almost as high as it was at the start; but not quite high enough to lift the weight a second time.
    Performing one maximum repetition reduces a person's beginning strength level by approximately 4 percent... leaving him with about 96 percent of his starting strength left to perform a truly maximum lift, and anything less will not do it. So the person is forced to stop, even though 96 percent of his strength is still available."
    -A. Jones, taken from Nervous System in Sports

    What I take away from this is that doing lower repetition work, as in a max single, actually leaves you with a lot of leftover strength... you need more repetitions to exhaust a higher amount of fibers, i.e. more hypertrophy.

    hope that helps,
    Bill

    Makes sense, but i would like to ask a question. So why does hypertrophy stop at 12 reps or so and turn into muscle endurance after that?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by gator
    Makes sense, but i would like to ask a question. So why does hypertrophy stop at 12 reps or so and turn into muscle endurance after that?
    its not like a straight swap from one stage to the other.

    if you come out of a coma. even walking a mile will lead to hypertrophy.

    there is more to it than rep range as well.
    my exprience - joined gym 10 years ago, 6 1/2 years hard weight training exprience.

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    Ok, almost every question in the world has many varriables. But in the world of weightlifting the 8-12 range is hypertrophy and 12+ is muscle endurance. I know it's not an immediat switch or even the same ranges for everyone. but in a general sence why does this switch happen.

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    Gator,

    Think of physical exertion as a continuum. At one end is pure anaerobic exertion and at the other end is pure aerobic exertion. For example, one single max repetition would be at the anaerobic extreme and a marathon would be at the aerobic extreme. Around 12 reps (or 15, 20, whatever reasonable rep range... obviously 1,000 reps is not reasonable), pure anaerobic exertion starts to tap into the aerobic system....

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    Quote Originally Posted by bmanderson
    Gator,

    Think of physical exertion as a continuum. At one end is pure anaerobic exertion and at the other end is pure aerobic exertion. For example, one single max repetition would be at the anaerobic extreme and a marathon would be at the aerobic extreme. Around 12 reps (or 15, 20, whatever reasonable rep range... obviously 1,000 reps is not reasonable), pure anaerobic exertion starts to tap into the aerobic system....
    Well yea, but i'm wondering why the switch around 12 not 25 or something like that, like what happens in your body that you stop with hypertrophy and then start going into muscle encurace.

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    it's not a switch, it's a continuum... it has everything to do with the demands for oxygen. Usually anything higher than 12 reps signifies that you are using a weight too light to make the necessary changes a bodybuilder is looking for, i.e. hypertrophy....

  10. #10
    Go Heels! MixmasterNash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gator
    Well yea, but i'm wondering why the switch around 12 not 25 or something like that, like what happens in your body that you stop with hypertrophy and then start going into muscle encurace.
    Energy systems: Phosphogen pathways work for about 10 seconds, or ~8-12 reps.

    The journal / I live here.

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  11. #11
    Wannabebig Member bdckr's Avatar
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    cross-sectional muscle size = myofibrillar + sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

    http://www.dolfzine.com/page216.htm
    http://www.strengthcats.com/JDallmusclesnotequal.htm
    http://www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/articles/scni11a2.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypertrophic

    Low reps = more myofibrillar hypertrophy (some size)
    mid range = more sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (more size)
    high reps = less of both

    Then it's a matter of defining low/mid/high. But as was already said, it's a continuum, so it doesn't stop being one or another.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Sensei's Avatar
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    Yes, it's about time under tension and the load imposed on the muscles. There is no magic number of repetitions where hypertrophy stops or starts - just general guidelines.

    You can do some reading and find out about myofibrillar vs. sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and muscle fiber types (I, IIA, IIB) - probably bdckr's links (didn't check them). They should answer any questions you still have.
    A child does not learn to squat from the top down. In other words, he does not suddenly make a conscious decision one day to squat. Actually, he is squatting one day and make the conscious decision to stand. Squatting precedes standing in the developmental sequence. This is the way a child's brain learns to use the body as the child develops movement patterns. Therefore, a child is probably crawling, rocks back into a squatting position with the back completely relaxed and the hips completely flexed, and stands when he has enough hip strength. This approach makes a lot of sense and can be applied to relearning the deep squat movement if it is lost. -Gray Cook
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  13. #13
    Wrecker of Homes d'Anconia's Avatar
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    So Bmanderson what that quote is saying is that for any given repetition the body recruits a certain # of muscle fibers BUT they are probably chosen at (or something like) random? So, for instance, during the second rep some of the fibers recruited in the first rep will be recruited again but also many ('most' if each rep is using less than 50% of the fibers in the muscle) of the fibers recruited for the 2nd rep will be ones NOT recruited in the first repetition? And by doing more repetitions (but veering away from the endurance range) a lifter is able to ensure that more of the fibers will have been recruited during a set?

    If that's how it works, then that makes sense.
    ...........||High School||.....||July '05||.......||January '09||
    Bench.........225x1...............275x1.................?
    Squat...........?.......................?....................365x5
    Deadlift........?.....................315x5...............435x5
    Weight........180...................192...................185
    BF%.............?......................12.....................12
    Time to Get Ripped
    Pictures of Me

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    Total volume is more indicative of hypertrophy potential. 3x10 vs. 10x3 is a good example. Same volume (30 reps total), but 10x3 can use much higher loads. I think it's obvious which protocol is better, and that there is no magic bullet rep range that somehow grants someone hypertrophy.

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    This is alll very interesting!

    A few weeks back a buddy of mine told me that with my goals of adding size i should be doing more sets at less reps. Out of that, this is what I have been doing with my excersizes:
    Sets:
    1. 10 reps medium weight
    2. 5 reps slightly heavier weight
    3. 5 reps even more weight
    4. 5 reps even more weight

    At the last set, I try and make it extremely hard for me to make 5 reps. Before this excersize setup, I was doing the standard 10X3 setup. I've gained size on both so far, so I am going to continue with my current setup until it yields no results.

  16. #16
    T.J.W. nhlfan's Avatar
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    ^im doing something like that for my bench press.

    8 rep set
    6 rep set
    4 rep set
    4 rep set

    with increasing weight except for the last set.
    Last edited by nhlfan; 02-27-2006 at 10:58 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatrb38
    So Bmanderson what that quote is saying is that for any given repetition the body recruits a certain # of muscle fibers BUT they are probably chosen at (or something like) random? So, for instance, during the second rep some of the fibers recruited in the first rep will be recruited again but also many ('most' if each rep is using less than 50% of the fibers in the muscle) of the fibers recruited for the 2nd rep will be ones NOT recruited in the first repetition? And by doing more repetitions (but veering away from the endurance range) a lifter is able to ensure that more of the fibers will have been recruited during a set?

    If that's how it works, then that makes sense.
    fatrb38 this is how i understand it to work from the reading studying ive done over time when i was supposed to be doing other other related college work lol. If i can find the article ill post it up
    my journal
    http://www.wannabebigforums.com/showthread.php?t=68545

    weight 202 - (bf around 14%)
    PR's
    Bench - 286
    deadlift - new pr on the 23/12/06 190 kilo (430 pound)
    squat - 264 ATF

    Goals

    200 pound at 10% bf by next summer

  18. #18
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    Fatrb38,

    The same article I mentioned addresses this:

    "But, a person might say, if I use only 30 percent of a muscle, even in a maximum lift, then I should be able to perform several repetitions with a maximum weight; the first repetition would exhaust 30 percent of the muscle, the second repetition would exhaust a different 30 percent of the muscle, the third repetition would exhaust a final 30 percent of the muscle, and I would still have 10 percent of the muscle remaining unused.
    This would be true... if the same fibers worked throughout the entire repetition; but they do not. The contraction of an individual muscle fiber is very brief; and in most situations, a fiber cannot continue to produce force throughout an entire movement. So individual fibers contract as hard as possible, but very briefly... and if force is still needed, then another fiber takes over and continues the work. If a person will observe a muscle during hard work, he can actually see the twitching that occurs during strong and continued muscle contraction.
    So, if it is true that a muscle uses only 30 percent of its fibers during a maximum effort, then it is obvious that something less than 30 percent of the fibers are available immediately for a second effort.....
    A fresh, rested muscle is capable of contracting 100 percent of its fibers simultaneously... but the nervous system is not......"
    -A. Jones, Nervous System In Sports

  19. #19
    Wrecker of Homes d'Anconia's Avatar
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    Sweet. This is enlightening.
    ...........||High School||.....||July '05||.......||January '09||
    Bench.........225x1...............275x1.................?
    Squat...........?.......................?....................365x5
    Deadlift........?.....................315x5...............435x5
    Weight........180...................192...................185
    BF%.............?......................12.....................12
    Time to Get Ripped
    Pictures of Me

  20. #20
    Senior Member teenathlete3030's Avatar
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    Our school has a program (maybe Bigger, Faster, Stronger) that says for week 1 you should do 3X3. Week 2 is 3X5. Week 3 is 5-3-1. Week 4 is 10-8-6. The cylce then repeats itself. It's supposed to keep you from plateauing by varying your workout. All the weights are printed out on a sheet from the computer. All you have to do is lift what the sheet says and record if you beat the number of reps on your last set. You're supposed to strive to break so many set & rep records every week.
    6'0" 180
    Vertical 29" Running= 37" 40= 4.70
    Big 3: Squat= 320
    ........Bench= 275
    ........Deadlift= 350ish?
    OL: .....Clean= 270 150%
    ...........Snatch= 200 111%

  21. #21
    Wrecker of Homes d'Anconia's Avatar
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    ^ I doubt many high schoolers (assuming you're in high school) would have to worry about plateauing (sp?). What that sheet should really have on it is just a simple workout like WBB1 and in bold letters "Eat big, sleep big, and lift big".
    ...........||High School||.....||July '05||.......||January '09||
    Bench.........225x1...............275x1.................?
    Squat...........?.......................?....................365x5
    Deadlift........?.....................315x5...............435x5
    Weight........180...................192...................185
    BF%.............?......................12.....................12
    Time to Get Ripped
    Pictures of Me

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