Rep Ranges: Build Mass
You are heading to the gym and want to get BIG. You are sick of being small, you can’t fill out your shirt sleeves and your puny legs are the size of the next dude's upper arms. You know it’s time to get mass packed onto those pathetic bones and GET BIG! But what does that mean? How can that happen? What rep range should you be working in?
Understanding Rep Ranges
Rep ranges don’t need to be overly complicated. In fact, they can be categorized under the varying energy systems that we covered in this blog and video (highlight and link). By understanding the rep ranges relative to energy systems, we can comprehend what type of hypertrophy we are working towards.
1. Anaerobic Alactic Energy System = rep ranges of 1-5 = myofibrillar hypertrophy
2. Anaerobic Glycolysis System = 8-30 reps = sarcoplasmic hypertrophy
3. Aerobic Oxidative System = Cardio = only do this for recovery at low steady state
By comprehending the energy system, we can then formulate rep schemes based around our overall goals. If we are working in the Alactic system, we know that we should be doing 7-10 sets of 2-4 reps. If we want more sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, we know we should be smashing 4-6 sets with 8-20 reps to get extracellular water inside the muscle cell. The simple comprehension of this science makes it very easy to layout a goal and plan to put on MASS.
Intensity/Myofibrillar Hypertrophy Rep Ranges
Typically, the best way to use highly intense rep ranges is through a method of potentiation. For years, we have studied what potentiation can do for size and strength at Garage Strength.
By building over 3-4 sets to a heavy double or heavy triple or heavy quad set, the individual is able to stimulate the nervous system tremendously and heighten awareness. This potentiation enables the body to perform higher rep sets at a higher weight than typically possible.
The key is to teeter on the line of massive potentiation without entering the realm of fatigue. Remember, this is all geared to enhancing the experience of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy while stimulating a pre-adaptation under myofibrillar hypertrophy.
When working toward gaining MASS, my favorite rep schemes to potentiate the body for sarcoplasmic gains are as follows:
These sets of potentiation will enable strength gains to occur and will recruit more high threshold motor units to be stimulated. When those HTMU’s are stimulated, they are used aggressively during the Mass Rep Scheme, leading to impressive gains in size and muscular volume.
Straight Up Tension by Getting the FREAKING PUMP
The question is posed, is it better to just get a massive pump the entire session or actually work toward with potentiation?
It really depends on the big picture goals. We know we need some sort of rep scheme variation and we also know that we need variation in movements to ignite adaptation. This question is better answered from a macro perspective, meaning a block by block periodization perspective.
Studying bodybuilding programs and understanding the tolerance they have for discomfort will show us how incredible it is to dive straight into a PUMP session. There needs to be a 10-15 minute warm-up to prepare the body for the training session that will ensue. Once the warm-up period is complete, the lifter better be mentally prepared to attack some serious discomfort!
Below is a simple table including my favorite mass building rep schemes for various body parts. These schemes are extremely difficult and require a large amount of pain tolerance. This tolerance then leads to an almost out of body experience for the lifter from a mental and spiritual perspective. If sleep and nutrition are on point, these schemes will lead to incredible development in muscle mass!
The above schemes will be tapping directly into Anaerobic Glycolysis. This means the body needs to have an optimal amount of glycogen storage to ensure the body can create ATP to generate powerful muscular contractions. The glycogen source will also lead to 3g of water per each gram of glycogen, leading to faster sarcoplasmic expansion.
Click here to check out our blog on Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy!
Understanding what energy system is being used with each specific rep scheme enables coaches to work toward very specific goals regarding training sessions. If we need more strength gains to stimulate growth, we are able to directly tap into the Alactic system to trigger some big potentiation of high threshold motor units which will then be further stimulated with drop sets utilizing the Anaerobic Glycolysis system. If strength is not lacking but size is the issue, we know from a scientific perspective that we need to SMASH Time Under Tension to lead to massive results in size!
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of elite athletes building comprehensive programs for strength and sports performance. Several times a year he leads a seminar for coaches, trainers, and athletes.
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