Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
June 5, 2023

Repetition Range and Training Approach
By Mo Mendez

Repetition Range and Training Approach

One of the most hotly debated topics is the repetition range necessary to build muscular body size. In one corner is the group that argues for lower repetitions and heavier weights. Opponents counter with the opposite - lighter weights and higher repetitions. Which is right? Actually, both are correct. Both styles, the powerlifting style (lower reps, heavier weights, intense action) and the pump style (higher repetitions, lighter weights, deliberate action) have been used by various individuals to achieve a more massively muscular body.

Lee Haney, eight-time Mr. Olympia, believed that powerlifting movements were essential for building a bigger and more massively muscular body. He defined the repetition range for the mass-building workout falling between five and seven repetitions. Although Lee used higher repetition ranges for rhythmic work, he went with the lower repetition range and heavier weight when he wanted to pack on massive muscle size. Another Olympia winner, Franco Columbu, also favored a lower repetition range with heavier weights. On the other hand, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a multi-Mr. Olympia winner, favored the pump style workout most of the time, with a higher repetition range (8 to 12 repetitions). It should be noted, however, that Arnold built a lot of his initial mass with heavier weights. He did spend some initial training time powerlifting and working with lower repetition ranges.

If you do any research at all, you will find that most of the top bodybuilders, the guys who have the size, used the power bodybuilding approach to build their initial mass. For instance, Dave Fisher believes that there is a definite relationship between how strong he is and how big his muscles are. "The stronger I get, the bigger I get so if I want to make a muscle bigger I have to make it stronger too. For this reason I have devoted much of my career to heavy powerlifting style training on basic exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses."

Repetition Range and Training Approach

Researchers continue to study this area to determine the best range for building the various aspects of physique training (strength, size, speed, endurance). One recent article noted that "strength researchers have found reps in the 1 to 5 range maximally increase strength with minimal gains in muscle mass, and reps in the 6 to 15 range maximally increase strength through muscle mass gains."

To build solid muscle mass both styles of training need to be employed. There is no law that says you have to use one or the other exclusively. In fact it is best to experiment with both to see which one your body responds to. You need both styles to build a body that is both massively muscular and massively strong. The two assist each other. Used together they create a synergistic effect, (making the combined effort better than the individual parts). Further, variation also plays a part in the best training programs. It is not wise to stick with the same program all of the time. Trainer Dr. Ken Leistner points out that "like everything else, the body adapts… The best advice I can give to any hardgainer, any trainee for that matter, is do what you enjoy, do what seems to bring results . . . it all works under the right circumstances and it makes no sense to nay say any of it."

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