The Most Efficient Rep Range To Build Muscle

I don’t follow the herd… when I’m performing a certain exercise or style of workout I ask myself “Why am I doing this? Does this actually work?”

Unfortunately instead of seeking out the most efficient, Spartan method to build muscle naturally most men simply do as they’re told – performing 10 – 12 reps of each and every exercise in their workout regime. After reading and being brainwashed by men’s health and fitness magazines I too fell victim to this misconception, I ended up hitting a plateau on my strength shortly thereafter.

There is a far more efficient way to build both muscle size and strength.

I’m not here to sell you the “one weird tip to gain muscle mass fast.”This is no secret, men knew about this training technique centuries ago…

If you must use dumbbells for daily training, use heavy ones with fewer repetitions rather than light bells with numerous repetitions – Arthur Saxon, 1906

I’m sure you’ve heard it before—compound exercises such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press build the foundation of any notable physique. Yet many individuals still waste their time performing 20 – 30 reps per set on bicep curls.

Imagine for a moment that your body is a building. In order for your mighty fortress to withstand the test of time you’ve got to build the foundation right, otherwise in time it will crumble.

Hit the heavy weights now, focus can be placed on isolation once you’ve built up that foundation.

A study published by Ohio University had 32 men split into three different groups, where each group was to utilize a different repetition range in their training for a period of 8 weeks.

Group 1: 3 – 5 reps

Group 2: 9 – 11 reps

Group 3: 20 – 28 reps

With no surprise group one (3-5 reps) gained substantially more size and strength than the conventional 9-11 rep group and the higher 20-28 rep group. Studies suggest that focusing on heavy compound exercises in the low repetition range have also been proven to raise your testosterone levels.

If you’re like me, a normal guy with average genetics, looking to build both size and strength naturally you cannot go past the 4-7 rep range for your major compound lifts. Your muscles don’t grow by pushing out countless reps until you feel a pump, muscle growth is a direct reaction to the large amount of tension being placed on the muscle. The best way to provide your muscles with the tension they require is to progressively increase the weight you’re lifting (aka. Lift heavy!)

Movements or exercises that do not give the muscle the required resistance, but are the kind that involve a great number of repetitions, never break down any tissue, to speak of. These movements involve a forcing process that cause the blood to swell up the muscle, and simply pump them up– George F. Jowett, 1926

I personally have always had strong shoulders and triceps, however getting my chest to grow in proportion proved to be a bit of an issue until I started experimenting with low rep training.

Here’s a sample of my current chest workout that has assisted me to overcome this plateau:

Incline Barbell Press – 4x 4-6 reps

Flat Dumbbell Press – 4x 4-6 reps

Weighted Chest Dips – 3x 8 reps

One of the biggest mistakes most gym-goers make in regards to rep ranges is lifting heavy weight for few reps when they’re in a “bulking” phase (gaining size) and lifting lighter weight for a higher number of reps when they’re in a cutting phase (burning fat, maintaining muscle).

Building muscle and shredding fat comes down to caloric manipulation. Lifting light weight for high reps is a sure-fire way to lose muscle while cutting, if you want to get the best bang for buck out of your workouts I cannot stress the importance of heavy compound lifts.

Read More: All Girls Like Muscular Guys

125 thoughts on “The Most Efficient Rep Range To Build Muscle”

  1. Put this principle into practice with full body workouts instead of just one muscle group. Just start your workout off with either Bench/squat/dead-lifts/ and go heavy for 3-5 reps for 3-5 sets. Then move onto other compound lifts and finally isolation/body-weight exercises for the rest of your body in the 8-15 range. Do this Monday Wednesday and Friday and start each workout with one of the aforementioned main lifts. On heavy squat or dead-lift day you can throw in Overhead Press directly after if you are interested in getting stronger at that movement. 3-5 reps for 3-5 sets on the Overhead press as well. Just make sure you are using some kind of progression scheme so that you are tracking your progress and getting stronger. Don’t be the guy lifting the same amount of weight for the same amount of reps a year from now. Spinning your wheels is the enemy of gains.

  2. Hey SJ that was a nice concise article but I wanted to make a few points so guys don’t get confused. First off, most of the research shows a much wider rep range for hypertrophy 6-12 (at least) and it depends on the types of muscle fibers you have in relative proportions and a lot of other variables. Pick any famous bodybuilder over the past 70 years and they have their favorite rep ranges for each body part and what works for them. One size does not fit all.
    The pump has been shown to be useful because it puts pressure on the cell walls which signals for more protein synthesis – the pump isn’t the best way to hypertrophy but it’s certainly useful. The amount of tension on your muscles is only one variable that can effect hypertrophy – off the top of my head:
    – time under tension
    – force production (how fast you move the weight)
    – training volume
    – rest times between sets
    – the pump
    – increased tension (from higher weights like you said)
    and there’s a lot more that I’m forgetting at the moment.
    I’m a big fan of compound movements but personally I always got better hypertrophy (but not strength) from being in the 10-12 rep range. Granted I’m not huge but this is just merely maintaing with less than 2 hours of gym time per week with no drugs.
    PS: the study that you cited only used untrained men. that’s a huge confounder for the efficacy of which rep range would produce the best results for most trainees – especially if they’ve been training for a year or longer. Would love to hear your thoughts on all of that stuff. Despite my criticisms, I’m really glad there’s another guy out there promoting heavy compound lifts! Keep up the good work, sir.

    1. Rest times are pretty much a non-existent factor in hypertrophy (as long as you don’t go full retard) because of the follow-on effects. Short rest periods decrease the intra-set recovery and will affect the intensity and reps of your following sets. Long rest periods will decrease the metabolic stress and accumulated fatigue on the muscles. The first study looks at subjects already somewhat experienced in training, finding no difference in muscle size between 2 and 5 minute rest periods. The second study just confirming no real difference.

      1. Ok let’s break this down:
        Ohio Study – 8 weeks of training. Not enough time to determine long-term effects of training. 32 subjects – piss poor sample size to determine effects across the board. Again – they are all untrained. Doesn’t give us information about people who have been training steadily for a year or longer.
        Study on progressive overload “The effectiveness of 0.5-lb increments in progressive resistance exercise.” is only about which increments to use when using progressive resistance – I’ll assume you weren’t trying to make a point with that one because it has nothing to do with the discussion. For the record – 9 subjects is not enough to draw conclusions.
        First study you link to in your comments – 13 men. Ugh not a large enough sample size. “Recreationally trained” = could be high level lifters or could be doing curls with 15lbs for the last 3 years. We don’t know. Also when they talk about the cross sectional area increase of 4% they don’t specify which group they’re talking about. If it was combined between all of the groups then we need to talk about effect size here and not just statistical significance. Read up on the difference – being “significant” just means there was a change from the intervention – it doesn’t mean a damn thing about whether that effect was worth using the intervention.
        Second study in comments… Their conclusion “he relationship between the rest interval-mediated effect on immune system response, muscle damage, metabolic stress, or energy production capacity and muscle hypertrophy is still ambiguous and largely theoretical. In conclusion, the literature does not support the hypothesis that training for muscle hypertrophy requires shorter rest intervals than training for strength development or that predetermined rest intervals are preferable to auto-regulated rest periods in this regard.” just means they don’t know. For the record, I’m not saying shorter rest time = more hypertrophy. I’m saying it’s one variable that needs to be addressed and can be used. Also this one looks like a review – I don’t know how many studies they used and how they analyzed them. Might be good quality, might be crap – we have no way of knowing with the info given.
        Here’s a study review that covers 35 studies – The conclusion: “In summary, the rest interval between sets is an important variable that should receive more attention in resistance exercise prescription. When prescribed appropriately with other important prescriptive variables (i.e. volume and intensity), the amount of rest between sets can influence the efficiency, safety and ultimate effectiveness of a strength training programme.”
        Boom went the dynamite.
        Also – no pics, no proof. What are the results of your training methods? I’m sure other guys would like to know the effects of the training your recommend.

        1. “Here’s a study review that covers 35 studies…” – well no shit, of course it can influence efficiency, safety and effectiveness. Doing heavy sets using 1 minute rest intervals is a good way to end up in a position to injure yourself. Doing a set of 10 and resting 10 minutes isn’t the most conducive protocol for hypertrophy….or anything for that matter.
          “being “significant” just means there was a change from the intervention – it doesn’t mean a damn thing about whether that effect was worth using the intervention.” – Ughhh, ok. I think it’s pretty clear in this case (emphasis on this case) that if there is a positive change from the intervention, it’s worth considering. The time-investment might be an extra 20 minutes, per session, per week (if you’re training 3 days a week). If you’re looking for greater results, that’s hardly a deal breaker for most.
          My results? They’re alright, nothing stellar, I’m still too fat to see the real change. Not close to your impressive level of physique development (seriously impressive by the way).
          ~1 year training time (not constant due to uncontrollable factors), 185cm 93kg (205b) of fat starting weight, now 83kg (183lb). Only have shitty relaxed pics ~6 months old but whatever. I won’t bore you with any more details.

          (all lifts 100% raw, belt-less, only chalk)
          Squat: 172.5kg / 380lb below parallel
          Deadlift: 205kg / 451lb
          Bench: 120kg / 265lb 3-count pause
          Strict OHP: 82.5kg / 182lb 2-count collarbone-paused
          Chinup: +62.5kg / 140lb 2-sec deadhang, collarbone-lockout
          What’s your training like? I’d be interested to hear about it with your minimal weekly training time.

        2. Sir, extremely impressive numbers at 19 years old and with a year of training… or at 29 years old with 10 years of training. Clearly, what you’re doing is working for you. I’d say don’t forget about the CNS when we’re talking heavy protocols. I really enjoy the stuff from westside barbell club and a lot of the Soviet stuff on training frequency, rest times, pendulum waves, macro, meso, and microcycles etc.
          I’m sure you’ve noticed any time you work above 90% of your 1RM you’ll get more bang for your buck with 5 minutes of rest as compared as to 2 minutes – but maybe that’s just personal preference – which I think as you start to top of your natural potential a lot of this stuff comes down to your personal preferences. I know that sounds like a cop out but you’ll notice that a lot of the guys that are at the very top in terms of performance have fairly unique training protocols that plays to their own strengths.
          For me, an added hour of training just doesn’t work – I agree with you though, for a lot of guys that might not matter at all. I’d be happy to post some stuff on my training – starting to get some demand from readers so I’ll be sure to start working on something about my “minimalist” protocols. Thanks for the discussion man – you know your stuff and it’s clear you’re passionate.

        3. Yeah I’m definitely aware of the impact of CNS efficiency on strength in specific movements. I stalled out after 5 months because I was pushing too hard, picked up some small injuries (knee from state volleyball competition, but max squat attempts didn’t help). I spent a lot of time researching everything lifting-related which eventually led me to Sheiko, and Soviet sport science + weightlifting manuals from there. My training basically consists of a large amount of sub-maximal work now; building strength, not testing.
          Rest times > 90% 1RM: I don’t work anything close to that nowadays, but I do agree. I think consistent training in that range isn’t very productive for most, volume must drop a significant amount to compensate. The only ones who can train at that level somewhat consistently are ‘enhanced’ and/or equipped powerlifters; even then they tend to get injured regularly and perform poorly in competition (the epidemic of amazing gym lifts and disappointing performances, mainly by Western lifters funnily enough). Unique training protocols: absolutely, there is definitely less variation amongst training protocols of natural strength athletes however.
          It all depends on what your goals are and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to get there. Right now, I’m not willing to train more than 5 hours a week, so 3 days 1-1.5 hour sessions it is. That will no doubt change in the future, probably less time available.
          Likewise thanks for the discussion, always keen to hear from another point of view. I’ll be keeping an eye on your writing, looking forward to that piece on your findings/experiences in training!

        4. I had the same experience with accumulating injuries working close to my 1RM. Hate to admit it but the Soviets were/are way ahead of us in the strength game. I think Louie Simmons has done a good job of stealing their torch and running with it. More to come on my end.

  3. The available volume-equated evidence shows that there is no significant difference in muscle growth between low reps (3) and high reps (10). Schoenfeld did a study (linked at end of my post) where one group did 7 sets of their 3RM (3 minutes rest) and the other did 3 sets of their 10rm (90s rest). The difference in muscle growth was not statistically significant but strength gains were substantially higher in the low rep group.
    Low reps takes much more time to deliver the same volume, so if you don’t care about strength that much, use high reps (it will be faster for similar result). Pick a rep range, put in your time, get stronger in that rep range, eat, grow.

  4. Dont agree entirely – this article suffers a bit from the same problem most mainstream advice suffers from: the provision of too-simplistic-one-size-fits-all-advice.
    It does differ from person to person to a certain (if limited) extent.
    But certainly overall, heavier > lighter weights, whatever the goal. If you’re not absolutely busting your gut to get those last two reps up each set, you’re wasting your time.

  5. Every one is different, I don’t think it is possible to write a “secret revealing” article at all. That said, this article is probably the best advice a lot of guys can get, especially if they don’t have years of supervised experience under their belt.
    Personally, as a naturally slender hard-gainer at 6’1″ and 185 lbs, I have found two things to work wonders for me, and at 26 it’s something that has taken me years to figure out only in the past year:
    – Compound movements GO HEAVY for about 4-5 reps.
    – Nothing is going to compare like SQUATS. I do them about twice a week currently, just making sure to spend a long time on warm up if I am sore. This is the single most life-changing thing I have done (in the gym at least) to see measurable results.
    – Isolation movements (especially arms), focus on the PUMP with high reps 10-20, and high focus on the mind-muscle connection. I am in the zone, and mentally commanding my muscle to contract as hard as it can for the entire range of motion.
    – eat a lot. drink a few gallons of milk a week.
    all this = the secret to strength and size gains

  6. One of the oldest questions in men’s fitness, but some guy who is “looking” to build size and strength references one study and BAM we’ve got our answer. Well finally!

  7. Great article thank you. Isn’t it also important to “mix it up” as well, so that your system doesn’t get used to one approach, but has to adapt? I have no idea.

    1. The real “mix it up” comes from progressive overload. Continually adding weight or reps or both to your sets. Sure switch to incline bench press instead of flat bench or use dumbbells for varieties sake. But stick with compound movements for your main lifts.

  8. High reps (anything over 10) at lower weight build leaner muscle while lower reps at higher weight put on bulk. I don’t really know the audience i’m speaking too but i would suggest doing body weight calisthenics before anything. You’d be surprised how toned you get doing 100 pushups, sit ups, and squats every day in the morning. I’m not a fitness expert by any means but i fight kickboxing/mma as a hobby and the calisthenics have made me much stronger, quicker, than weights did . I also dont feel bulky and am still flexible. But to each his own

    1. Would also like to add that i dont really believe in the “muscle confusion” of the new cross fit trend. If you want to get strong as fuck work on the major muscle groups every day.

    2. Seconded on the bodyweight calisthenics part.
      After over a year of consistent pushups, pullups, squats, bridges, hanging leg raises plus the occasional kettlebell workout thrown in, i’m a lot stronger & more agile than i used to be when i used to be more weightlifting centric.
      I’m not gonna knock weight programs. They’re very beneficial on their own.
      But if, like me, you’re gonna be rock climbing, swimming, kayak paddling & doing martial arts, the bodyweight stuff definitely helps a lot more.

    3. That is perfect system until you hit your late 30s/early 40s. Then you will start dealing with some testosterone depletion (some of us more than others). At which point, you will have to start lifting heavier (as well as avoiding/decreasing certain foods- soy, rice, sugar, bread) to make up for this. Since I no longer have work out partners to spot me, I go as reasonably heavy as I can on free weights and bench (with high reps) on odd days, and then go supermax heavy on nautilus & smith machines on other days. I used to hate machines cuz I felt it was cheating and you are not taxing the “twitchy” muscles. But now I use machines to simply build “explosive” power safely (since the machine itself is spoting you!). You will mostly find me in the free weights area, though.

      1. You seem to know where you’re at. I’m about your age, I think, with about the same attitudes too. One thing I did is swap out benching for the standing military press. It seems to have been a good move. My shoulders are far less tweaky and weird and it doesn’t seem like I’m missing anything by retiring as a bench presser. Your post mentions a ‘lack of spotters’ and that’s one of my favorite things about no longer benching. The danger/stress is gone. I absolutely blew out my shoulder once while benching and after that it now seems sooo possible that it could happen again. I just don’t bench anymore and it’s not the huge gap that I know it would seem like it is. If you’re tweaky and in any way discouraged with your benching career, you might want to consider it. Hit the standing military press hard. Learn it from Rippetoe youtube vids. It’s more a comprehensive lift than I ever thought it was.

        1. I agree. Due to lack of “spotters” I don’t use the bench to “go heavy” but I will put on light to moderate weights and max out with reps. Why? The “twitchy”, stabilizer muscles are so important. I believe they need to be worked at least once a week. Yo, I’m not doing anything dangerous anymore, but I want to continue to tax myself safely. Its a balance I want to improve upon.

      2. Scott,
        I went back to the weights after a 34 year layoff, though I started at 14. I’ve been going for 14 months steady and the results have been great.
        For the last several months I have been experiencing general pain in the back of my legs (above the knee) in addition to pain in the tendon areas of my arms.
        Any advice (diet, rest, etc.?) Thanks

        1. Have you tried taking a joint supplement? A lot of people swear by fish oil, krill oil, or products like Move Free and claim that it alleviated some or all of their joint pain. Try Googling your issue and see what comes up. Find out specifically what tendon you’re having problems with. For instance, I have pain in my hip flexors, but it’s related to something called the psoas muscle, which runs from the front of the hip to the bottom of the spine. I have to do trigger point work on my psoas to alleviate pain in my hip flexor. Sometimes an issue in one spot is triggered by a problem in another.

    4. Broscience.
      A muscle hypertrophies or it doesn’t. There is no ‘leaner muscle’. That’s just silly. Bodyweight training favours the lighter people, so you will naturally gravitate towards getting lighter (read: leaner) to help with the exercises. High rep bodyweight workouts borderline on high-intensity cardio which burns a lot of energy -> getting leaner.

      1. You can insult your muscle with fat, IE powerlifters/professional strongmen/sumo wrestlers by working out, eating a big meal then sleeping, this causes the bulkly yet not really defined muscle. I would say leaner muscle or muscle not insulted with fat is caused by what you said high rep body weight and cardio. If there is no such thing as lean muscle the why can you buy lean steaks?

        1. ‘Lean steaks’ is just less fat, just like your ‘lean muscle’ is simply less fat. You sound like you have mistaken cardio/fat burning workouts for gaining ‘lean muscle’. Also, you have mistaken getting in condition via extreme high rep bodyweight sessions with getting stronger. Your cardio has gotten better and your muscle coordination has become more efficient for all that bodyweight stuff you’re doing. But you haven’t added as much strength as you’re crediting yourself with, I would bet. If you think a 1000 air squats will add more strength than 3 sets of 5 at 350lbs then you are so misguided. Some guy who can press 220 overhead probably can’t do a handstand pushup. So the bodyweight fanatic will dance around and talk crap at that point but it’s not a strength issue at all, simply a balance/coordination issue. ‘Body weight’ exercise is simply weight training anyway. It’s all pitting your muscle strength against weighted resistance. You can position your own body to provide that resistance but it’s still the same thing. A barbell is far more effective because you can add weight to it, instead of just adding more reps (bodyweight training) which propels you into cardio ranges of working out and provides other benefits. Bodyweight fanatics often tend to think that using bodyweight instead of iron is some more pure, benedicted thing but it’s not. They often take it to some spiritual realm because they simply like it. As though pushups are some form of pure exercise while using the EXACT SAME MUSCLES while bench pressing is some kind of faux resistance. Pullups! Now that is a great exercise. That is sheer weight dragging your system down that you have to combat. Probably the single best exercise ever, following squats. So I know that bodyweight exercises can be great, but planks, airsquats? That’s cardio. It’s fine for what it is but the vague magic effect that bodyweighters often hint at can get annoying.

        2. That’s so misguided, I’m not sure if you’re actually serious. You gain fat or you don’t, your muscle hypertrophies or it doesn’t. There are differing levels, as seen in different people/athletes, that’s it. That whole idea of eating + sleeping to make insulated fat is not even in the realm of reality.
          Lean steaks? Flesh with less fat. Simple. Some areas tend to accumulate less fat than others. Most peoples forearms are ‘leaner’ than their stomachs/lower backs.

        3. Steak is muscle? Leaner steak equals less fat insulating the muscle? So if you are leaner you have less fat insulating your muscle? And if you dont think insulating your muscle with fat is bogus go to japan and chat up some sumo wrestlers about that. I’m not here to argue with you about this forreal. My techniques work for me and i’m passing them on

        4. I can bench 250lbs, backsquat 300ish lbs, dead lift 425lbs, and over head press about 195. I can also do a handstand pushup. If anything lifes like those require more core stabilization than a hand stand push up and majority of people i know that can overhead press heavy can also do handstand push ups. I didn’t knock weights i just said for what I do calisthenics are better. You can call whatever you want “cardio” I’m sharing what works for me. I’m not a body builder and to be honest for all that “strength” most of them claim to get from weights it’s funny to watch them barely last 3 minutes in a sparring/grappling session . Also steak is muscle with fat in it. Lean steak equals less fat, Lean muscle equals less fat?

        5. If they don’t train for grappling, of course they will burn out when grappling once in awhile. Also, you plac3e quotes on ‘strength’ apparently intended to diminish it which is stupid because you show your own ‘strength’ by showing your weight room numbers. You are sounding like the typical bodyweight guy who ends up regarding weight training as some kind of artificial thing even though you say “I didn’t knock weights” How could you anyway? It’s resistance training There is nothing to knock. You are trying to be cool about it but you are the typical bodyweight training asshole. I knew it.

        6. Also, do you just go out and deadlift every once in awhile or something?
          “The majority of people I know that can overheard press heavy can also do handstand pushups.”
          Ha, ha. Such an empty internet argument line. How many guys then? A couple hundred or so, right?
          You’re an idiot.

        7. You’re entitled to stick to your misinformed opinion, but as soon as you try to recommend misinformation to other people – that’s where I draw the line.
          I’ve done the calisthenics thing, I completed the 2013 Bar-Barians requirements: 5 muscle ups -> 45 dips -> 30 pullups -> 55 pushups -> 5 muscle ups in less than 6 minutes. All straight sets, no rest. I got a front lever, an advanced tuck planche, full back lever, etc. I know what you’re talking about and it’s simply not true. I now train predominately with weights, I’m just as agile, more explosive and I am leaner than I’ve ever been. The leanness doesn’t come from training, it comes from diet.
          If you eat more than maintenance calories you will gain fat. Eat a lot more than maintenance calories and you will gain fat very fast. Training provides the stimulus to increase muscular strength and size, diet determines how the stimulus is used (to simplify it dramatically). The stimulus is the same between weights and any other form of resistance if you train them in the same way (I know you’re going to take this out of context).

  9. I’m gonna give this a shot. I have a Fitness Center at my job and I’m making progress (bulk/growth) with my chest, back, and shoulders but, my damn arms won’t grow. Super infuriating and I haven’t been able to figure out why.

      1. Hmmm… that’s a good call I think. I have a weight vest even which I might try on my pull up bar at home. Thanks for the idea!

        1. Yeah try it. I did curls for years, like anyone. It gives a kind of watery bulk in the arms. Just kind of a softer pump in the bicep. Pullups give you a much more coordinated strength throughout your arm. If you’re looking to swell up your arms, pullups probably still aren’t as effective as bicep curls. But curls are lame. THe pumpy, reppy style of lifting of outdated, boring, tedious. Swollen biceps on otherwise normal arms from curls is kind of a stupid look from the eighties.

  10. i got a question not related to the article per se, but related to working out in general:
    ive been working out 2 years now and conventional wisdom has been to work out each muscle about once a week (or every 5-8 days), depending on the severity of the soreness. but now im reading articles saying that’s stupid, that what you should be doing is working out each muscle twice, sometimes three times a week. they say to workout a muscle even if it’s still sore from the previous time. push through it and see better gains. i can’t understand this. isn’t recovery by definition waiting until the muscle has healed and theres no more soreness? thanks in advance for any input.

    1. My first question to you would be, ‘what’s your fitness goal?’
      Whatever you do needs to revolve around that question. I’m not a bodybuilder so my workouts would not revolve around a lot of isolation based exercises, for example. Someone else on the site would be better equipped
      to help you if your goal leans towards a bodybuilding program.
      I prefer functional fitness as that helps me in my type of work. So being fairly athletic is of more use to me than looking a certain way. If one works out functionally, the aesthetics tend to be a by product of the effectiveness & discipline involved anyway.
      Majority of my workouts involve bodyweight calisthenics. Helps as i’m sometimes in different locations often. It’s similar to carrying my gym around with me. When i do have the opportunity, i also use freeweights & rope.
      I never work a muscle until failure. There’s always that one extra rep i could squeeze out & that’s it. So yeah, i’d never push through until i was sore.
      The basis of my approach is absorbed from Natural Movement (Erwin Le Corre), Convict Conditioning (Paul Wade), Naked Warrior (Pavel Tsatsouline) & others.
      Again, that approach works for MY goals.
      To conclude, i’m in agreement with the author’s point about compound lifts. That does build a great foundation for strength.

      1. “My first question to you would be, ‘what’s your fitness goal?’”
        Shocking how few people actually identify their objective before formulating a workout plan isn’t it?

        1. This. I’ve driven myself insane too many times trying to create the most perfect, intense, six day a week training schedule. This only to learn time and time again that no training plan is perfect for all disciplines. There are however well rounded ones.

        2. No logical person would attempt to solve another problem with randomized behavior yet I see people do that all the time with strength training/working out. Maybe it’s indicative of how idiotic people really are because the internet has THOUSANDS of free workout plans that are effective for anyone’s training goal. And yet still, so many people have a non-existent workout plan.

        3. my fitness goal is all strength and aesthetics. having been lifting consistently for 2 years now, i’ve made major gains (from 65 kg up to 80 kg, then cutting back down to what i am currently, 75 kg). my new goal is to get back to 80 kg, but without the excess fat from overloading on carbs.
          i still don’t see how it’s viable to do any muscle twice in the same week. chest, for instance. i go HAM on chest. spend a good chunk of time compounding, and then when i isolate i do all supersets to keep the intensity high. i’m sore for the next 5 days. how is it possible to do chest again before those 5 days are up? that’s my question.

        4. It’s extremely simple. Instead of doing 10 exercises for chest you do 1 or 2. Cut out the fluff if you want to hit your muscles 2 or 3 times a week. You don’t need to do 5 variations of bench press and then isolate with 5 variations of a chest fly.

        5. “Hey man what are you working today”?
          “Idk maybe some box jumps and bicep curls. Whatever I feel.”

        6. I’m pretty similar to you and always have been slower to recover than most performing the same workouts. I don’t think it necessarily sets us behind on the improvement curve though, just make sure the workouts you do perform are well structured and deliberate. Ensure your recovery methods are spot on; stretching, nutrition, rest, etc. Steroids are a sure-fire way to improve recovery if you are interested in that method.

        7. The randomness of crossfit is stupidity and paints the difference between “exercising” and “training.” Having random WODS every day where you could be squatting or deadlifting 3 days in a row with no rest is insanity. No gains.

    2. When your first starting you’ll get something called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and it would basically make it hard to even sit after a good squat session for about a week. This basically happens when you first lift and could continue for a few months but as you get use to the movements then it’ll disappear. Just like anything else in life you’ll need to do something over and over again to get better at it. With lifting you should be hitting whatever muscle 2-3 times a week if you want it to grow. Just don’t be stupid about it doing way to many sets or doing it without a day of rest inbetween.

      1. after 2 years of consistent lifting, im still getting sore in each muscle for at least minimum 3 days. soreness doesn’t completely leave till day 5 or sometimes even later. thats why i’m waiting about 1 week to train the same muscle again. any thoughts?

        1. I would say train more frequently. A lot of people experience soreness after “leg day” because “leg day” is once a week. Build up to squatting 3+ times per week, and your legs should never be sore. Lift through the soreness for the first couple weeks. This is assuming you get adequate sleep and take in enough calories.

    3. If you get very sore i recommend cutting diary out of your diet, the latic acid build up is mainly what causes the soreness

      1. The lack of muscle usage is what causes soreness. I drink anywhere from 1/2 gallon to an entire gallon of whole milk a day, and I squat 5 times a week, and I’m never sore. I never go over 5 reps. I have no idea what works best for bodybuilders, but there are a lot of Olympic lifters with massive legs that never hit anything over 3 reps on their back or front squat. A famous Youtuber named George Leeman does sets of 20+ (often going to failure), and he’s deadlifted 900+ pounds. He seems like the exception as I don’t see too many really strong individuals training in that rep range, but there’s more than one way to get the job done.

        1. Nick, I’m experiencing soreness in my arms that does not retreat much after 14 months of lifting.
          How old are you?

        2. I’m 28. I’m not sure what you mean by soreness in your arms, or what your routine looks like as far as training them. Where are you experiencing soreness (ie bicep, tricep, forearm, delts)? What exercises do you do? How many days per week? What kind of set/rep scheme? Like I said… I’m not a bodybuilder, so the concept of “training arms” is foreign to me, but I would think the same principles apply. It’s also possible that you have some other kind of issue going on. My thighs and glutes are never sore, but I also have to spend a lot of time doing trigger point and mobility work to iron out the kinks before I can lift.

        3. I’m 57
          My lifting regime looks like this: bench, bicep curls, pull ups, squats, dead lift, lat exercise on a machine, tricep. Three times a week. Mostly 3 sets of 10 though I’m starting to go heavy with fewer reps. Soreness in the biceps near the elbow. Plus some soreness in the forearms.
          I also run and do floor exercises and stretching.

        4. I’d cut out the bicep curls. You’re already hitting the biceps pretty hard with the pull-ups and lat pulldowns.
          Check this out:
          Some of the things suggested in that article are ice/heat, a product like Icy Hot, and cross-frictional massage. I’d give all of them a shot. Cross-frictional massage is basically just rubbing the shit out of the area from side to side. Use your knuckles. It should hurt while you do this.

    4. Assuming you’re natural – If you’ve been working out for 2 years now your gains are over. You either lift to continue to stay in shape (which of course there’s nothing wrong with) or you go on hormones to continue gains.

      1. Everyone is different. I’ve been training for over four years and my best gains have come from years two-four, however I didn’t start managing my diet/sleep/form until year two.
        It’s an overgeneralization to say that your gains stop at two years. Everyone has different genetic limitations, and may not have gone all the way in terms of dieting, sleep, form, breathing, trying different exercises/rep ranges, lifting schedules, muscle-groups.
        Hormones are definitely not the sole method to continue gaining if you’ve only been training for two years; hormones are a last resort after many years of being on top of your shit.
        It’s a lot easier to blame a “lack of roids/genetics” rather than to be persistent and continue attempting different lifting philosophies until you those that work best for you.
        If you are looking for ideas, start with Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. You can probably find free copies online. Don’t claim your only resort is roids until you’ve perfected your lifting habits.

        1. Everything you said is baloney, sorry. “It’s a lot easier to blame lack of roids/genetics” is you trying to frame an arguement that paints a anabolic steroid user as a “loser”, “cheater”, “liar”, etc. Anabolic steroids have been involved in bodybuilding at least since the 50’s, maybe even earlier. Any idea you have of a “great physique” is built by hormones, period. Arnold was on gear in his teens so I’m not sure why your pointing me to that book. Arnold loved Dianabol, btw.

        2. I’m pointing out that you clearly have no idea what natural potential is possible for some people. “Two years, and that’s it guys”.
          And oh yes, my appologies, I forgot that if you’ve ever taken steroids it means you know nothing about gaining and therefore cannot provide any useful knowledge for non-hormone injecting fellows. I won’t be wasting any more of my time responding to such intellectually indolent arguments. Spend your time doing something other than posting negative, speculative comments that have little basis in reality. This is a place where men come to provide knowledge and better our lives, not make excuses and hate on others. Leave that to the women.

  11. Very true article. I have a trainer and most of our sessions are based upon heavy weights and low carb diet (zero bread). I’ve lost over 40lbs and my six pack abs are beginning to show after 2 years of just concentrating on bicep curls.

  12. Herd, I don’t follow the herd. Jesus.
    Love ROK, but you should make sure these things are typo free, especially the first sentence in.

    1. Also, the link at the end (“10 Reasons You Can’t Build Muscle”) is essentially broken. Have you herd?

    2. I saw that as well, but then I ran it through in my head. I don’t follow the heard. The heard. It’s probably a typo. But maybe not following the ‘heard’ is what got people to ROK in the first place?

  13. It’s funny how the author of the article uses this picture at the top of the page, while everyone with a mimium of knowledge and common sense can tell it’s impossible to look like this guy unless you take dangerous steroids, eat of 5 people, take eat tons of protein supplements and dedicate your entire life to bodybuilding.
    But I guess men will always be in denial about this fact. “I can become huge too!”, it’s like the beta chumps who go to clubs every week and this “this time I will bring back a hottie back home!” And every week they come back with their dick in their hands. But hey, I understand, you want to believe!

    1. Better that they are deluded and encouraged to improve. Than when they are cognizant of that fact and are discouraged from doing jack shit.

      1. The problem is when they are encouraged to improve, invest years into it, but don’t. Then they tend to abandon the attempt, forever.
        Since they believe they have ‘proved’ they can’t improve, they do jack shit that would actually work.
        It’s far easier to show someone that hasn’t tried that he can succeed than one who has tried and failed.

        1. Actually you’re probably only half right. I’m pretty sure 50% of men could come within striking range of this physique but they’re too busy arguing about time under tension on the Internet. 😛

        2. It’s not all genetics. He’s got a tiny chest by modern standards for instance (in part due to preferences at the time) At Jack Goldstein – you’re right… most guys can achieve that physique without living at the gym. Here’s proof:
          Becuase that’s from less than 2 hours gym time a week I still have plenty of time to argue about time under tension on the Internet 😉

        3. That’s Eugen Sandow, a German known as the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding.” He wrote several books on body building.

        4. Back then it wasn’t about just getting “big,” it was about achieving the “Greek ideal,” perfect proportions as portrayed in ancient sculptures. It was more about male beauty than anything else.

        5. Hey RedPill Army, I actually did a post on the Greek Ideal a little while ago.
          They were going for different proportions than guys in the 40’s-60s, which differend from the guys in the 70s and early 80s… which obviously looked different from the mass monsters era later on. Neck, biceps and calves should all be approximately the same size. Pec size wasn’t as important as the volume of the rib cage etc etc. Good to know there’s guys out there interested in the history of physical culture and bodybuilding.
          Europe used to have a booming health and fitness culture – especially he Germans/Prussians. Health clubs centered around outdoor living, natural springs and aqua therapy and calisthenics sprang up all over Europe in the 1800s and Sandow was a product of that. He helped start/further the crazy in America. Would love to hear your thought on my post if you get a minute to check it out.

        6. Also he trained as a strong man – a lot. The guy was constantly exercising even by today’s standards. His physique is a direct result of an extreme amount of work, not genetics. Come on, you don’t see guys that big in the gym?

        7. It’s funny the looks you get though. In the gym, the guys are training high rep. When they see our style, it catches their attention, and they are definately interested in what is going on.

        8. Bull and shit. Now your excuse is that he was lucky? Get your coat and go! We don’t need born chumps commenting on this site.

        9. Those weren’t Europeans they were Idiots from the country known as Idiotica. I believe their political system is known as an Idiocracy.

        10. Have you read Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors? Must read for those interested in the history of Physical Culture.

        11. Honestly, I’ve only read excerpts from other blogs posting about the content in that book. I should probably add it to me “to-read” list.

    2. The way you put it… sounds like you are justifying being fat and lazy. Comment about the picture is on point though.

      1. Because the opposite of not working out like a freak taking harmful substances is being fat right?
        I’m 190 cm and I weigh 73 kg. I found that it’s the perfect weight for me. And I try as much as possible to eat healthy, reasonably and to go on long outdoors walks. I also ride my bike when possible.
        A healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean lifting weights in front of a mirror.

        1. No, not at all. Could even be skinny. 40 mins a day or at least 40 min 3 day a week is not working out like a freak. A lifting routine will take you less time than a long walk. You know steroids and lifting are not synonymous right? Lifting / strength training should be a part of every mans fitness endeavors as it keeps your T levels up.

        2. I’m 196cm and 235lbs and do Olympic weightlifting. Never lifted in front of a mirror in my life. There’s more to lifting weights than the bodybuilding bro culture. You sound like a little bitch.

    3. Don’t make excuses for your lack of discipline. Tom Venuto has achieved that body without steroids as have others.

      1. Discipline? I don’t care about having ridiculously big muscles. I have a strong and healthy routine every day, it just doesn’t include lifting weights in front of a mirror, that’s all.

        1. I’ll be the first to tell you that you don’t need “big muscles” and I do not lift weights. That said, your comments do seem to betray a significant discomfort or even envy with muscular men. By your dimensions you sound a bit too light for your height. I would suggest that you accept that some people respect and admire muscular men while others (such as myself) respect strength and fighting ability.
          Everyone has their own style.

    4. An important question to ask yourself is why you want “big muscles”. You don’t need them, not for health, strength or girls. Most women will be more than satisfied with an athletic physique that is well proportioned. You can achieve this with a good diet and training that includes your choice of resistance training, combat training, and cardio.

      1. Keep telling yourself that. Until I see a blood test of the guy, I’ll stick to my guns.

      2. No fucking way. That’s Ronnie Fucking Coleman – you know, the guy that won Mr Olympia 8 times in a row. There’s no comparison. He’s known as one of the biggest guys to have ever stepped on stage. A lot of the Major League baseball players that admitted to using roids aren’t nearly as big as Jim Cordova in the pic posted at the top of the post. J
        Just because you’re not huge doesn’t mean you’re not using gear and yes, there is a natural limit to the amount of muscle even genetic freaks can put on without pharma help. And it doesn’t look like the guy in the first pic. If you believe Cordova is natural then you probably think Lance Armstrong just had great genetics.

  14. Here’s the guide to building muscle
    Testosterone propionate
    Masteron propionate
    Trenbolone Acetate
    gh15 APPROVED

  15. Could not agree more. I personally use Stronglifts 5X5 routine and I’m in better shape at 37 than I was at 25 and much stronger. Heavy compound exercises + Low Reps = “This Is Spartaaaaaaa” (spit and everything)

  16. Question: Would it be beneficial to do a trimestral alternation of heavy-weight/low-reps intensity training and light-weight/high-reps resistance training? I’ve been doing an intensity workout for about 8 months and I’m starting to feel like I hit a plateau, my progress is much less prominent than it was during the first three months of exercise, to the point where I’m seriously wondering if I’m doing any progress at all…

  17. I get American women suck
    I get that some woman fucked a bunch of dudes in Gamergate
    I get that Asian women make great girlfriends and wives
    I get that feminists have double standards
    What I want to read on ROK is articles like THIS-directly related to health and well-being. It is extremely confusing knowing the best way to build muscle and burn fat, and it’s great to read something like this.
    Keep up the great work!

  18. Question: Would it be beneficial to do a trimestral alternation of heavy-weight/low-reps intensity training and low-weight/high-reps resistance training? I’ve been doing an intensity workout for about 8 months and I’m starting to feel like I hit a plateau. My progress is much less prominent than it was during the first three months of exercise, to the point where I’m seriously wondering If I’m doing any progress at all…

    1. It could, but the low weight/high reps training would be called active recovery, not strength training. In other words, it’s a form of rest. Depending on which study you look at, it might not even be any better, in terms of muscle development, than simply taking two to four weeks off and do more walking.
      “My progress is much less prominent than it was during the first three months of exercise . . .”
      That is to be expected. At about two years it will slow to a crawl. You approach your natural limit asymptotically.
      Remember, if you can add a single ounce to the bar, that is progress.
      They sell such “nano” weights at the home store. They call them “washers.”

      1. Thanks mate. I’m aware that my body is supposed to grow at a slower pace as time goes by, but my muscle growth It’s basically turtle-paced since the fourth month, there’s really no discernible difference since then. And it’s not like 8 months is a lot of time, There should be a significant change, which I don’t perceive…

  19. Yes, lifting the heavy weights in smaller sets will make you notably stronger faster, but you are glancing over another significant part of it. Reps in the 8-12 range are optimized for building endurance into the muscle as well as size and strength. Beyond that, they would be focusing on muscle endurance over size, like basketball players for example.
    The best advice I can give anyone is similar to yours. Establish the maximum you can lift and start with 3 reps/3 sets at 80% for one week, then move to 3/5 70%, 3/7 60%, 3/8 50%. At this point, re-establish your new maximum and start again. Never overlook the value of endurance, and strength alone can not create endurance.

  20. All the high rep guys are out in force it seems.
    I’ve lifted with powerlifters, olympic lifters and bodybuilders.
    Among the non-chemically assisted crowd, the only thing I noticed in common is the strongest/biggest ones all use sets of 5 reps or less at some point in their training.
    High reps have their place but in my view every program should be based around moving heavy weight first and moving a lot of weight for a long time second.
    Even my girlfriend, who came over to lifting after ballet, responded the best to a program with a “heavy” day complemented by a “light” day afterwards.

  21. Lift as heavy as you want, but once you break form too bad, you’re at serious injury risk. I’m a heavy low rep lifter, and medium rep range lifter as well. If my joints can’t handle it, just like anyone else, I back off on the weight and increase the reps.
    To me it’s about testing the weakest links continuously but avoiding injury. Then there’s the whole sarcoplasmic versus myofibular debate…. regardless, if you’re sore deep into your skeletal muscles, you’re gonna make gains if you eat right and enough.

  22. Solid advice. usually 4-8, once to 8, time to load on more weight, back to 4 and so on as you progress.

    1. Who knows? They push a lot of garbage, just like all the rest. Gotta fill those pages and get those subscriptions!

    2. They want to complicate weightlifting as much as possible to maintain relevance and sell mags. Personal trainers run the same shtick. Make it seem like some complex activity so that their services are always front and center (and paid for). 98% of the health rags are a joke of embellishing a very simple activity.
      -Power Cleans (optional)
      3 sets of 5, eat right, get stronger. Keep doing it.

      1. Sets/reps may vary depending on goals, but that is the gist of it. The list of exercises that I perform: back squat, front squat, snatch, clean and jerk, pull-ups, overhead press, push press, bench press, snatch grip deadlift, barbell rows. For the most part, it’s the first four and that’s it. The others I sprinkle in periodically for a little variety. Olympic lifting is my thing, so obviously my training is geared toward that, but the core of any decent program is squat, pull, press. You can throw a few sets of ab wheel in there if your core lacks strength. You should never even look at a bosu ball, let alone squat on one. Half the trainers at my gym have some kind of bullshit exercise done on a bosu ball. Unstable surface training is useless for a healthy individual. How you look (leanness) is 95% dependent on diet. This notion that you can build lean muscle and fatty muscle is fucking retarded.

        1. That’s a cool approach. You might find room for Romanian deadlifts too. I love front squats too but I feel like they stress my knees out. Not when I’m doing them but a day later, my knees are a touch sensitive going up the stairs. I finally made the connection, confirmed it. I love the mechanics of the front squat and what it does for the trunk, abs. neck. It hits all kind of weird planes of muscle. It’s so satisfying to get the form ironed out and sit back but I think it hammers the knees too much (for me). THe hammies are much more slack and the tug on the kneecap from the quads is too severe. I’m post 40 and stick with lowbar back squats. Bosu balls, ab wheels, not for me. Deads and squats work out your abs so much anyway. It’s good to see the general knowledge of working out shift to the correct way, but one day squat racks will be too crowded.

  23. Great advice, take it. I had it driven into my mind a 8-12 rep range, why? Who knows, but you don’t need to do that. You don’t really need to spend a lot of time in the gym to build muscle mass.
    You do need to learn proper lifting tecnique so you don’t hurt yourself. This is only possible with lighter weights, so do yourself a favor and figure out what is proper and practice it a little so you don’t hurt yourself.
    A little high rep warm-up and stretching needs to be done before the heavy lifts.
    Push yourself, as hard as you can with as heavy as you can.

  24. Basically, myostatin is the gene new science has proclaimed responsible for muscle growth potential.
    The lower your myostatin, the bigger your growth potential.

  25. If you’ve done 3-5 for a year straight, starting from an already fit foundation, you WILL gain mass from a 3 month 10×10 German Volume Training cycle. I have personally observed this in more than 25 out of 25 cases…… Just regular guys eating all manners of kinda healthy, having normal jobs etc…..
    If you’re just starting out, you’re also better off with more reps, more sets, less rest. You’ll grow no matter what you do, and the lower loads help solidifying technique with less risk of catastrophic injury.
    For more experienced lifters, the ideal rep range varies for each muscle group. (3 rep calf raises is pretty much 2 months to permanent plateau for most people, while 30 rep deadlifts is either grip training or a ruined back..).
    But it also varies dramatically with people’s mental makeup. Going by your numbers, you’re unusually “tough”, serious and focused in the gym. A guy like you would gain more than most on any program, since you’ll push harder and more focused than most.
    For the average guy with a job seeking advice; somewhat higher reps allows more sloppiness with how hard he performs each set. Doing triples without very serious focus, very easily result in bouncing the weight using stretch reflexes, momentum, ballistic effects and “creative” form. Which can be good at times if done in moderation, but isn’t the path to long term, injury free, bodybuilding gains. While in 8 rep sets, even if the last rep may be a bit sloppy (or missed altogether), you’re still getting some effect.
    Aside from all that, while A reps may be theoretically better than B reps, BY FAR the most important thing is to keep doing the same number of reps for a long, long time, while ADDING BLOODY WEIGHT! Instead of changing up reps/sets every time you read about a new program. As long as you keep adding weight to the bar, you are definitionally getting stronger. Which pretty much always means getting bigger, whether the bar you added weight to is pressed 3 times or 12 times.

  26. I’m not young, and I have had quite enough injuries, already. I’ll lift whatever the hell I like for as many repetitions as I like. In fact, I hardly lift at all. Mostly just do pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, bicep curls and maybe some pull-downs.
    The important thing is to look good fully clothed.

  27. Thanks for sharing.I know you want to look your best, want to be lean, muscular and sexy, especially during the Summer months.I’ve already managed to pack on 22lbs of pure muscle since starting this program,see my review of it:>bestfitnessandmusclebuilding(dot)com/14fl< Best wishes.

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