Best Rep Range for Bodybuilding
Most bodybuilders intuitively know high volume training gets the fastest results, which can easily be seen when bodybuilding split from powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting in the 1940's. An extensive study on muscle growth has endorsed high volume training proving that it works.
Hypertrophy (muscle growth) happens when proteins are pumped into the muscles and the protein waste coming from the muscles is reduced. Any weight training will cause small tears in the many different muscle fibers in a body-part. It is this micro-trauma that starts the body pushing more protein to these fibers in order to speed up repair.
This muscle repair that happens for 48 hours after a hard training session is also helped by hormones like testosterone going to the muscle to help the repair process. Research shows that fast twitch muscle fibers respond faster than slow twitch muscle fibers i.e. fast twitch will grow faster.
There is a paradox in muscle growth that shows us the strength gains of an athlete starts with neural adaptation as he/she gets used to the movement. But as strength increases less muscle fiber is recruited to lift the weight as the muscles will only use what is necessary to perform the lift and no more.
Research tells us that high volume (3 to 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps) gets the best results for hypertrophy. It has been conclusively demonstrated that the higher workload will cause more micro-trauma, as there is more time under tension recruiting more muscle fibers to perform the lift.
It has also been well-proven that high volume training with multiple sets increases the body’s production of important hormones like testosterone and HGH. High volume training causes micro-trauma to the muscles and stimulates protein synthesis and the release of vitally important hormones.
Science has now proven that neural efficiency and some Myofibril hypertrophy will occur when training in the 1-3 rep range. Neural efficiency is the percentage of the active motor units that are activated called CNS efficiency. Unfortunately this will do very little to increase size but it increases strength dramatically with very little protein turnover happening.
The 3-5 rep range is mainly Myofibril and Sarcomere hypertrophy with very little Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy happening. Science tells us that myofibril and sarcomere hypertrophy will also increase strength in other rep ranges plus an improvement in neural efficiency, but is not the best for size gains.
5-10 rep range will give Myofibril, Sarcomere, as well as Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy offering the best choice for size and some strength gains. Although Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy will not directly increase the strength of a muscle group, it is the best rep range for size.
10-15 rep range offers little Myofibral or Sarcomere hypertrophy as more waste products will be produced. If more than 15 reps are done the capillary density will increase with very little Sarcoplasmic growth. This rep range is more specific to developing muscle endurance, which is not a concern for a bodybuilder.