How Many Reps To Build Muscle – The Best Range For Muscle Growth
How many reps to build muscle has been a common discussion between avid lifters who want to increase their muscle size and density. Some people train with under 5 repetitions per set some train over 15 per set. There is not a simple answer to this question but let me break it down for you a bit so you can gain a better understanding on this topic.
But first let’s look a bit to the different kinds of muscle gains you can achieve by training with weights!
Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy & Myofibrillar Hypertrophy
So in essence there are two different ways to introduce muscle growth, which are sarcoplasmic– and myofibrillar hypertrophy. And what we’re after is the myofibrillar one. Let’s look a bit more indepth in both of them…
Sarcoplasmic refers to increase of the non-contractile fluid in the muscles. The problem in this type of hypertrophy is that it’s quite shortlived since you ain’t really building up your dry lean muscle tissue, you’re basically just making the current muscle to expand bigger. And so the gain in this type of hypertrophy won’t really give you any strength and your muscles will get to their previous form really quick after you stop exercising.
This type of hypertrophy happens in the upper spectrum of rep ranges, about 10-15 repetitions per given set. And when you go even higher you’ll start to include more and more your cardiovascular system because of the lactic acid build-up. This is effective for endurance but not so good for gaining muscle mass.
Myofibrillar refers to increase of the true dry lean muscle tissue. And this happens as your body adds more myosin and actin proteins to the muscle fiber. The increase of this type of hyertrophy will give you more strength and permanent results because you’re building new muscle tissue rather than just increasing fluids in your pre-existent muscles.
This type of hypertrophy happens roughly between 4-10 repetitions per given set. It’s a perfect mix of strength and right kind of hypertrophy.
Which One Is Better?
When designing an effective workout program your main goal should be always in increasing the Myofibrillar hypertrophy rather than sarcoplasmic, since that type of increase of muscle mass results in permanent changes of your body composition because you’re building actual muscle tissue opposed to just increasing the amount of fluid in your muscles.
What Rep Range Is The Best For Muscle Growth?
When the goal is to build muscle it’s common belief that bodybuilding type training is superior to strength training. In so called bodybuilding type programs the reps are usually between 10-15 reps per given exercise set and in strength training it’s more common to stick with lower end of the spectrum such as 1-3 repetitions per set.
The truth is that if you’re training in the lower, end let’s say under 3 repetitions per set and higher end over 10 repetitions per set you will build muscle doing both of these ranges.
Under 3 Repetitions…
Although when training with the lower spectrum (less than 3 reps) you’ll increase the neural adaptations which will result in a more efficient strength and power generation more than increase in actual muscle size. This is a great range if you’re trying to figure out your true strength potential.
Over 10 Repetitions…
And in the other hand training with more than 10 reps per set you’ll move more over to the Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and endurance side of things, sifting away from myofibrillar hypertrophy. This is great range for increasing your endurance but not the best for actual increase of muscle size.
The Sweet Spot!
I personally believe that the best range for muscle growth lies in between 5-8 repetitions per set. And this is due to maximization of producing myofibrillar hypertrophy rather than sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
Another thing is that by working out in this range you will perform your sets with the correct amount of intensity because when you’re putting all your effort to your given set, 5-8 repetitions will be the sweet spot to really keep yourself tight and focused on every single repetition throughout the set rather than grinding out long 1-2 minute lasting sets where your focus easily can get drifted away as you’re completed the first 5-8 reps.
Just Hold On A Minute…
I’m not saying that the 5-8 reps per set is the best range for EVERYONE & EVERY SITUATION and that you cannot build any muscle with other ranges, since you absolutely can. But 5-8 reps is just the most common range that will be a good guideline to implement in most of the cases. It’s by no means an absolute magical figure that everyone must use or you won’t gain any muscle at all!
So all in all 5-8 repetitions should be your major number what you try to hit with each set with compound exercises. There is an exception to this rule. When performing exercises that place a lot of strain on your joints such as side laterals or pec flyes aim for higher reps and a bit lighter loads, a good guideline would be somewhere between 10-12 reps per set.
Here is a bullet point list to recap all the important information introduced here:
- Focus on Myofibrillar Hypertrophy to gain strength and permanent increase in muscle mass
- 5-8 Repetitions per set is the ideal range for most people in most cases
- 5-8 Repetitions should be used with compound exercises
- Use higher reps and lighter weights for exercises that put a lot of stress on your joints
- 3 repetitions and less are good for peaking strength
- 10 repetitions and more are good for endurance
- There is nothing MAGICAL in 5-8 range
- You will gain muscle with all of the rep ranges
That is all there is to it folks! Did you find this article helpful? I’d love to hear if you have some comments or suggestions in mind! Leave me a comment down below and I’ll get back at you.
Check out my other article on how to preserve muscle while burning fat at HERE!
Remember to train hard and train SMART!