No matter how much information comes out about resistance training, you can bet there will always be debate over the best strategies for reaching a particular goal. Bodybuilders will have widely varying approaches to maximizing muscle hypertrophy. Powerlifters will have different strategies for getting strong. Naturally, this variety tends to produce some confusion for those who are looking to maximize their own efforts in the gym. One area where this shows up often is in deciding how many repetitions you should perform per set of a given movement. Truth be told, the answer to this question is not a simple one. It truly depends on many factors related to the end goal you have in mind with your training. Are you training for strength? Hypertrophy? Endurance? Maybe even a combination of each of those? All those end goals will require a different repetition range in your training. But even if you choose a single end goal, does that mean you should never venture outside of the repetition range that best promotes it? All these factors make for a highly nuanced solution to the task of picking a repetition range. This, of course, explains why so many opinions and strategies exist on this topic. But in order for you to make the best decision for yourself, you have to look at the facts. Thankfully, scientists have provided a large body of evidence to help guide us in deciding which repetition ranges work best for our specific goals.


Mixing Rep Ranges

The first thing that should be pointed out is that mixing rep ranges and intensities is a vital part of maximizing your effort in the gym. Just because a certain rep range is supposed to be the “best” for bringing about a certain adaptation, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend time outside of that rep range. In fact, you might actually benefit more by stepping outside of the norm from time to time. Studies have shown that combining different rep ranges leads to significantly greater increases in maximal strength and muscle cross-sectional area compared to staying strictly in one rep range [2].

They say the best training program is the one you aren’t doing now. In other words, a novel stimulus will always do a better job at producing an adaptation compared to a familiar stimulus. If you spend all of your time in one rep range, your body will become increasingly numb to the stimulus being provided. So venturing outside of your “normal” repetition range helps to provide that novel stimulus. This break from the norm also re-sensitizes the system to the “normal” rep range leading to better adaptations over time.

Additionally, repetition ranges produce adaptations on a continuum. Going from five reps to six doesn’t mean you’ve magically crossed a threshold into a different training response. All rep ranges produce similar effects to one another. The difference lies in the magnitudes of each effect that a rep range will promote. You may lose out on a bit of hypertrophy or strength in the short term by changing your rep range, but the long term benefit of doing so seems to pay off in the end.

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