Building muscle mass involves more than just lifting weights. The number of repetitions or reps that you perform during an exercise can have a significant impact on how much muscle mass you can build. But with so much conflicting advice out there, it can be challenging to know how many reps to do to build muscle mass. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the science behind muscle growth and explore how it relates to the number of reps you should be doing to build maximal muscle mass.
The science behind muscle growth and reps
Before we delve into the ideal number of reps required to build mass, it’s essential that we understand how muscle growth works. To achieve muscle hypertrophy, the muscle fibers must undergo microscopic damage, also known as muscle fibers’ breakdown. This requires a high level of mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage, which can only be achieved through resistance training.
During resistance training, the muscle fibers undergo tension that causes small tears in the muscle fibers. The body then repairs these fibers during rest, causing them to grow thicker and more massive. The amount of mechanical tension that the muscle fibers undergo is determined mainly by the amount of weight and the number of repetitions that you perform during each exercise.
Low vs. High Repetitions
Research has shown that low repetition/High-weight training produces more significant increases in strength and power, while high repetition/Low-weight training produces more significant increases in endurance and size. For hypertrophy or the development of muscle size, the ideal rep range appears to be between six to twelve repetitions per set.
At this range, you are lifting a heavy enough weight to create sufficient mechanical tension in the muscle fibers, but not so heavy that you cannot perform enough repetitions to induce metabolic stress. However, this does not mean that performing any number of repetitions outside this rep range is not beneficial. Overloading the muscle or challenging them with incremental weight increases is how you make progress in strength training.
The ideal rep range for beginners
If you are new to resistance training, it is recommended that you start with higher repetitions such as 12-15. This rep range is also ideal if you are coming back after a long period of rest or have an injury.
Starting with high repetitions allows your muscles to go through the movement pattern required, and it can also help reduce the risk of injury
The impact of the number of sets on muscle growth
The importance of training volume
Training volume refers to the number of sets, reps, and weights you perform during a workout session. It is a crucial factor in determining how much muscle growth you can expect to achieve. The higher the training volume, the more muscle mass you can build.
Studies have shown that increasing your training volume by performing more sets per exercise can lead to significant muscle growth and hypertrophy. However, it is essential to note that there are diminishing returns to increasing volume as recovery and fatigue may hinder progress.
The ideal number of sets per exercise
The ideal number of sets per exercise for muscle growth varies depending on a variety of factors such as your training experience, age, level of fitness, and individual muscle group tolerances. Beginners and intermediate trainees should aim for about 3-4 sets per exercise, while advanced athletes may require more sets.
Progressive overload is key
Regardless of the number of reps, sets or weight performed, adding weight or increasing the difficulty of an exercise over time is a crucial factor in building mass. This method of incrementally increasing weight is called progressive overload.
The importance of progressive overload
Progressive overload requires that you challenge your muscles by pushing them with increased resistance over time. With each progressive challenge, your muscles adapt and grow, becoming stronger and more massive.
However, it is essential to note that progressive overload should be approached gradually to prevent injury and consistent progress. Increasing weight by 2.5 – 5 percent per week is a good start.
The role of nutrition in building mass
Exercise and progressive overload are only part of the equation when it comes to achieving muscle growth. Nutrition is another essential factor. A well-balanced diet that meets your body’s protein, carbohydrate, and fat requirements is vital for muscle growth.
The importance of rest and recovery
Sufficient rest and recovery are crucial for muscle growth. During rest, the muscle fibers that have been damaged during exercise repair, making them thicker and more robust. It is essential to take breaks between workouts to ensure that the body has time to repair and recover.
Importance of proper form
The proper form in resistance training is critical for effective and efficient muscle growth. Poor governance can lead to injuries, reducing your ability to train and grow your muscles. Ensure that you seek guidance from a fitness professional to learn proper form and technique.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about how many reps to build mass:
- Q: How many reps should I do to gain muscle?
- A: For the development of muscle size, the ideal rep range appears to be between six to twelve repetitions per set.
- Q: Can you build muscle with high reps?
- A: Yes, you can build muscle with high reps. However, the rep range between six and twelve repetitions is more ideal for hypertrophy and growth of muscle size.
- Q: How many sets should I do per exercise?
- A: The ideal number of sets per exercise varies depending on your training experience, age, level of fitness, and individual muscle group tolerances. Beginners and intermediate trainees should aim for about 3-4 sets per exercise, while advanced athletes may require more sets.
- Q: Can I build muscle without lifting heavy weights?
- A: Yes, muscle growth can occur even without lifting heavy weights. However, it requires that you challenge your muscles by pushing them over time with progressive overload.
- Q: Can I build muscle without proper nutrition?
- A: nutrition is a crucial factor in building muscle mass. A well-balanced diet that meets your body’s protein, carbohydrate, and fat requirements is vital for muscle growth.
The number of reps required to build mass varies depending on several factors such as your training experience, age, level of fitness, and individual muscle tolerances. Therefore, it is essential to listen to your body and seek guidance from a fitness professional. Most importantly, ensure that you are progressively increasing the level of difficulty in training while maintaining proper form, adequate rest and nutrition.
- Brad Schoenfeld (2016). The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(5), 1450–1460.
- Schoenfeld, Brad. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
- Kramer JB, Stone MH, O’Bryant HS, Conley MS, Johnson RL, Nieman DC, Hoke TP, Wilson RL. (1997). Effects of single vs. multiple sets of weight training: Impact of volume, intensity, and variation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 11, 143–147.