An age old question which has stumped thousands of gym-goers, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts since the dawn of weight training.
What Rep Range Should Bodybuilders Train?
I’m not going to delve into the science behind what % of which types of muscle fibers are activated and fire during each form of exercise and compare and contrast them.
I’m simply going to breakdown what I believe based on my research and experience in the past 8 years of weight training.
There is a common school of thought that a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle.
Clearly this is false, as bodybuilders are not as strong as powerlifters, but even many amateur bodybuilders have more impressive muscular development than the most successful and strong professional powerlifters.
But then there is another school of thought that bodybuilders only train light with high reps, as that maximizes hypertrophy, and strength is irrelevant.
These are both incorrect schools of thought in my opinion, and the answer lies within a hybrid of both these theories.
I firmly believe you need train with high volume with lighter weights and drive tons of blood into the muscle to stretch the fascia (which causes hypertrophy)…
As well as progressively overload the muscle with heavier weights as your body adapts to a certain workload.
So, how do you incorporate this into your workout routine?
I believe all exercises should be completed with at least 12 reps per set with perfect form.
If needed, you can add a few “cheat reps” at the end of your set to squeeze out that extra bit of muscular failure.
However, while maintaining perfect form and completing this minimum of 12 reps, I believe you should still use a weight that is heavy relative to your current strength levels.
If you are throwing up 225 pounds on the bench for 20 reps easily, it doesn’t matter if you are getting a half decent pump if you aren’t actually fatiguing the muscle and getting close to failure.
I don’t think low rep ranges really have a place in bodybuilding whatsoever as it doesn’t provide enough time under tension to really breakdown the muscle adequately and stimulate hypertrophy.
However, I definitely believe that heavy weight is something that needs to be mixed into your regimen in some capacity.
You simply can’t replace the raw density and muscle quality that heavy deadlifts, squats, or bench presses can develop.
The foundation of the majority of great physiques was built on hundreds and hundreds of hours of blood, sweat, and tears grinding it out in the squat rack with heavy weights.
If I were only to choose one independent rep scheme, I would chose high reps because stretching the fascia via higher rep schemes are more beneficial for size gains.
I think that each program should still mix in heavy weights with slightly less reps to maximize your results.
How To Incorporate Strength Training With Bodybuilding Training
This incorporates progressive overload, as well as getting a crazy pump in every workout. Getting the best of both worlds.
Creating dense slabs of new muscle, and still maximizing the growth potential of each muscle group by ensuring they are getting stretched to the max potential each and every workout.
Example Heavy Weight Mixed With Light Weight Workout Routine:
- Do 4 sets per exercise
- The first 3 sets being heavy (relative to your personal strength level)
- Complete 12 reps with good form per set
- The 4th set is an all-out volume set, doing 20-30 nonstop reps of a lighter weight
- This will completely saturate the muscle with huge amounts of blood to get a crazy pump before moving onto the next exercise
By the end of the workout you should not only have completely obliterated your muscles with heavy weights.
You will have also stimulated huge amounts of growth with those high volume sets that should leave you with a pretty substantial pump once you leave the gym.
Obviously as you start to become more advanced you will start to train more instinctively, and some days you will do high volume on everything, whereas some days you may favor heavier weights with lower volume.
For a beginner, the example I laid out above is a great outline for any newcomer to follow to get the best of both worlds in their workouts.
I hope this article helped shed some light on how you should approach your workouts.
If you have any questions feel free to post your questions in the Red Supplements forum and I’ll answer them there for you.