In my early days of bodybuilding, I eagerly picked up my first muscle magazine, hungry for knowledge on how to train and grow. One piece of advice that stood out was from a renowned IFBB pro who claimed that when aiming for size, lifting heavy for low reps was the key, while for leaning out, one should opt for light weights and high reps. It seemed like the golden rule, especially coming from a massive and lean bodybuilder. However, as I delved deeper into the world of bodybuilding, I discovered that this mantra of low reps for mass and high reps for definition was fundamentally flawed.
Low reps, usually in the 1-5 range, were often associated with stimulating fast-twitch muscle fibers, while moderate reps (6-12 range) were thought to strike a balance between low and high reps. The truth, however, is that low reps engage all muscle fibers, from slow to fast, and are vital for stimulating myofibrillar hypertrophy, which contributes to strength gains and long-term growth. Moderate reps, on the other hand, offer a mix of benefits, combining the effects of low and high reps by allowing relatively heavy loads while increasing time under tension. This leads to both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, making it an ideal choice for muscle growth. While high reps (15 or more per set) were sometimes dismissed, they have a unique role in depleting glycogen stores and increasing cellular hydration, promoting protein synthesis and overall muscle growth.
Incorporating a variety of rep ranges is essential for bodybuilders, whether bulking or cutting. The outdated idea that low reps are only for size and high reps solely for fat loss is debunked. It’s important to recognize that rep ranges are not isolated; improvements in one area can have a positive impact on others. This holistic approach ensures that you’re making the most of your training regimen, optimizing muscle growth, and letting diet and cardio focus on fat loss.