Recent studies have shown some controversial findings that high-rep training is as effective as the traditional medium rep training for muscle growth. If you missed it, check out my two previous articles:

Training for maximal muscle growth – is heavy low-medium reps really the best way to go?

Muscle growth with high rep training – has time come to challenge our egos?

In this article I will show some examples of how high-rep sets can be implemented in a serious weight lifting program, and look at the results of some studies that have investigated this.

Periodized weight training and training variety – a necessary strategy for continued progress

I will save an in-depth discussion on periodized weight training for a separate article. The take home from studies on periodized weight training is that training periodization, or variation, is key for breaking through training plateaus and for making continued progress in both strength, power and muscle growth 1. Benefits with periodized weight training have been seen in both beginners 1-4 and experienced athletes 1, 2, 5-9, but it is especially critical for advanced weight lifters, bodybuilders and other athletes.

Training periodization can be accomplished in many ways; the training variables that are most commonly manipulated are intensity (weight lifted and number of repetitions), number of sets, rest between sets, and lifting speed. In this article I will cover training intensity and lifting speed, since these training variables are directly related; the slower you lift the lighter the weights you can move, and vice versa.

High-rep finishing sets after heavy, high intensity workouts in a periodized training program – how does it affect gains in muscle mass and strength?

An interesting study investigated muscular adaptations to a combination of high- and low-intensity resistance exercise in a periodized training program 4.
The following 3 different types of workouts were tested:

– Hypertrophy type
9 sets of medium intensity (10 repetition maximum [RM]) short inter-set rest period (30 s) with progressively decreasing load.

– Strength type

5 sets of a high-intensity (90% of 1RM) and low-repetition exercise.
– Combi-type
1 set of low-intensity and high-repetition exercise added immediately after the last (5th) set in the strength-type regimen.

The hypertrophy type phase consisted of nine sets at 80–40% of 1RM. The each workout was divided into three parts with three sets each, and the rest periods between sets and parts were 30 seconds and 3 minutes, respectively. In each part, the intensity was gradually lowered set-by-set (multi-poundage or descending set system).

The diagrams below outline the training periodization, and the workout protocol in each phase.

The subjects were young men (20-23 years) with a couple of months of recreational resistance training experience, but they had not taken part in any regular training program for at least 6 months prior to the study.
Before the start of the 10 week training program, acute changes in blood levels of growth hormone (GH) were measured after one bout single of each workout type, using leg extension. As illustrated in figure 2, there were significant differences in post-exercise increases in GH levels: hypertrophy-type > combi-type > strength-type.

Next, the long-term effects of a periodized training protocols with these different types of workouts was conducted. The subjects were assigned to either a hypertrophy/combi (HC) or hypertrophy/strength (HS) group and performed leg press and extension exercises twice a week for 10 weeks.
During the first 6 weeks, both groups used the hypertrophy-type training to gain muscular size.

During the subsequent 4 weeks, the HC group performed combi-type training, and the HS group performed strength-type training.
Muscular strength, endurance, and cross sectional area (muscle size) were examined.

After the initial 6 weeks, no significant between group differences was seen in the percentage changes in any of these outcomes.
However, after the subsequent 4 weeks, 1RM of leg press and muscular endurance of leg extension showed significantly larger increases in the HC group than in the HS group. In addition, increases in muscle growth (cross sectional area) after this period also tended to be larger in the HC group than in the HS group. It was also found that adding low-intensity high-repetition set didn’t interfere with neuromuscular adaptations 4.

Lifting speed and time under tension – another variable to consider in high-rep sets

High-rep sets differ from low-rep sets in that they allow more control of lifting (repetition) speed, due to the lower weight lifted. And lifting speed deserves way more attention than it has been getting…

Lifting speed is important because it determines time under muscle tension, which is the amount of time muscles must contract to complete a set. According to the most successful strength coach in the world, Charles Poliquin, to develop maximum muscle mass, the muscles should contract 20-70 seconds during a set 10.

Am interesting recent study compared the effects of difference lifting speeds on synthesis of different muscle protein fractions 11. The subjects (recreationally resistance-trained young men) did an exercise bout consisting of 3 sets of unilateral leg extension (one leg lifting slow, the other fast), at 30% 1RM, with 2 min rest between sets:
Slow lifting speed:            6 seconds up and 6 seconds down, no pauses until failure
Fast lifting speed:             1 second up and 1 second down, no pauses
The fast lifting speed condition was matched to the slow condition for contraction volume (meaning that the leg performed an identical number of reps at the same load), but not to failure.
Participants ingested 20 g whey protein immediately after the exercise bout. The number of repetitions performed was 12, 7 and 6 for set 1, 2 and 3. As planned, the muscle time under tension (measured in seconds) was greater for each set in the slow condition compared to the fast:
Slow lifting speed time under tension:       set 1 – 144 s (12×12); set 2 -84 s (12×7) and set 3 – 72 s (12×6)
Fast lifting speed time under tension:        set 1 – 24 s (2×12); set 2 -14 s (2×7) and set 3 – 12 s (2×6)
The interesting finding in this study was that myofibrillar protein synthetic rate was about 30% higher in after the slow lifting speed bout versus the fast lifting speed bout after 24-30 h recovery, and correlated to p70S6K phosphorylation (which is a marker for anabolism and hypertrophy 12). The slow lifting speed bout also significantly increased both sarcoplasmic and mitochondrial protein synthesis rate 6 hours post-exercise, compared to the fast lifting speed bout.

A slightly faster lifting speed than used in this study, 3 s up and 3 s down (this is still slower than the usual 1 s up – 1 s down), with a slightly heavier load (around 40-50% of max strength) would be more anabolic towards the myofibrillar fraction (which is the muscle protein fraction that is responsible for muscle growth) 13. This agrees nicely with Poliquin’s suggestion that muscles should contract 20-70 seconds during a set to develop maximum muscle mass.

Another study compared a slow lifting speed of 3 seconds up and 3 seconds down at an intensity of 40% 1RM to failure, with a fast lifting speed of 1 second up and 1 second down at an intensity of 80% 1RM to failure, in 5 sets of leg extension 14. The subjects were heavy-resistance exercise trained young men. A striking finding in this study was that the slow lifting speed bout resulted in almost a 3 fold higher elevation in free testosterone than the fast lifting speed bout 14.

It has also been shown that low-intensity exercises with different slow lifting speeds on the up (concentric) and down (eccentric) phases of contractions (3 s up – 3 s down, 5 s up – 1 s down, 1 s up – 5 s down) all significantly result in greater GH elevation compared to fast lifting speeds (1 s up – 1 s down), regardless of the time to complete up and down actions 15.

Finally, there are indications that going faster on the lowering (eccentric) part of contractions than the lifting (concentric) part, leads to greater hypertrophy and strength gains than slow lengthening contractions 16.

Practical implications

Oki, let try to make sense out of all this…
All the above mentioned studies, in conjunction with the findings that high-rep training is as effective as the traditional medium rep training for muscle growth:

Training for maximal muscle growth – is heavy low-medium reps really the best way to go?
Muscle growth with high rep training – has time come to challenge our egos?

…underscore the effectiveness of incorporating lighter (lower intensity) higher rep sets, preferably with slow lifting speeds, into your workouts.

In a periodized training program, adding some light high reppers to the end of heavy lifting sets actually increases strength more than just doing the heavy lifting sets alone. However, this might only apply to novice trainers.

However, in recreationally resistance-trained men, light high reppers, especially when performed with a slow lifting speed, have been shown to stimulate muscle growth. It is not necessary to follow that classic linear periodization model where one trains in a specific way for several weeks. Actually, making program alterations on a daily basis is more effective in eliciting strength gains than doing so every 4 weeks 17. The increase in exercise induced elevations of GH seen with lighter high rep sets done with a slow lifting speed is especially interesting for you if your goal is to lose fat, since GH plays a key role in metabolism and boosts fat burning and energy expenditure18-22.

To add variety to your typical workouts, doing lighter high rep sets with a slow lifting speed, especially on the up (concentric) part of the contractions, not only markedly increases exercise induced elevations GH and free testosterone, but also leads to greater hypertrophy and strength gains. This can be explained by a greater muscle time under tension, which increases muscle protein synthesis. For maximum muscle mass development, aim for sets that keep your muscles contracted at least contract 20-70 seconds.
Ok, here’s the final exam question:

– what’s the difference between an exercise novice old fragile lady who does 30 rep sets, and a muscular bodybuilder who does 30 rep sets?

Answer; the old lady does light high rep sets in order to practice correct exercise form, develop basic conditioning, and avoid injuries. The muscular bodybuilder does light high rep sets in order to add variety to his relatively intense training program and thereby get muscle stimulus from a new type exercise stress, which is necessary for continued training progress. Even though both the old lady and the muscular bodybuilder might periodically be working out at the same relative intensity (that is, the same percentage of their respective 1RM), the bodybuilder will of course be mover much heavier weights than the old lady because his maximal strength is so much higher. Hey guys, remember that when your egos start acting up!
When looking at bodybuilders and other athletes, it’s important to keep in mind that the type of training they did in the past to get where they are in the present isn’t necessarily the best for taking their physiques and performance to the next level. Training variety is essential for continued physical (and mental!) development.

Bottom line, lighter high rep sets with slow lifting speeds, when taken to failure, are not a waste of time in the gym, like many bodybuilders and strength athletes think. To the contrary, lighter high rep sets with slow lifting speeds add two new training variables to your workout, which can help you to break through training plateaus and boredom that arise from constantly doing the same thing in the gym. Thereby, high reppers and sets with slower lifting speeds will help ensure continuous training progress and propel you towards your weight lifting goals.
Monica Mollica –

1.            Kraemer WJ, Fleck SJ. Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Nonlinear Periodization Workouts Human Kinetics 2007.
2.            Rhea MR, Alderman BL. A meta-analysis of periodized versus nonperiodized strength and power training programs. Research quarterly for exercise and sport. 2004;75(4):413-422.
3.            Kraemer WJ, Fleck SJ. Designing Resistance Training Programs Human Kinetics 2003.
4.            Goto K, Nagasawa M, Yanagisawa O, et al. Muscular adaptations to combinations of high- and low-intensity resistance exercises. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2004;18(4):730-737.
5.            Kraemer WJ. A Series of Studies – The Physiological Basis for Strength Training in American Football: Fact Over Philosophy. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 1997;11:131-142.
6.            Stone MH, O’Bryant H, Garhammer J. A hypothetical model for strength training. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. 1981;21(4):342-351.
7.            Willoughby DS. A comparison of three selected weight training programs on the upper and lower body strength of trained males. . Ann J Appl Res Coaching Athletics. 1992;March:124–146.
8.            Willoughby DS. The effects of meso-cycle-length weight training programs involving periodization and partially equated volumeson upper and lower body strength. . J Strength Cond Res. 1993;7:2-8.
9.            Monteiro AG, Aoki MS, Evangelista AL, et al. Nonlinear periodization maximizes strength gains in split resistance training routines. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2009;23(4):1321-1326.
10.         Poliquin C. The Poliquin Principles: Successful Methods for Strength and Mass Development 1997.
11.         Burd NA, Andrews RJ, West DW, et al. Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. The Journal of physiology. 2012;590(Pt 2):351-362.
12.         West DW, Burd NA, Staples AW, et al. Human exercise-mediated skeletal muscle hypertrophy is an intrinsic process. The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology. 2010;42(9):1371-1375.
13.         Burnd N. Muscle time under tension – personal communication.  2012.
14.         Goto K, Takahashi K, Yamamoto M, et al. Hormone and recovery responses to resistance exercise with slow movement. The journal of physiological sciences : JPS. 2008;58(1):7-14.
15.         Goto K, Ishii N, Kizuka T, et al. Hormonal and metabolic responses to slow movement resistance exercise with different durations of concentric and eccentric actions. European journal of applied physiology. 2009;106(5):731-739.
16.         Shepstone TN, Tang JE, Dallaire S, et al. Short-term high- vs. low-velocity isokinetic lengthening training results in greater hypertrophy of the elbow flexors in young men. J Appl Physiol. 2005;98(5):1768-1776.
17.         Rhea MR, Ball SD, Phillips WT, et al. A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2002;16(2):250-255.
18.         Bak JF, Moller N, Schmitz O. Effects of growth hormone on fuel utilization and muscle glycogen synthase activity in normal humans. The American journal of physiology. 1991;260(5 Pt 1):E736-742.
19.         Moller J, Jorgensen JO, Moller N, et al. Effects of growth hormone administration on fuel oxidation and thyroid function in normal man. Metabolism: clinical and experimental. 1992;41(7):728-731.
20.         Moller N, Jorgensen JO, Alberti KG, et al. Short-term effects of growth hormone on fuel oxidation and regional substrate metabolism in normal man. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism. 1990;70(4):1179-1186.
21.         Moller N, Jorgensen JO, Schmitz O, et al. Effects of a growth hormone pulse on total and forearm substrate fluxes in humans. The American journal of physiology. 1990;258(1 Pt 1):E86-91.
22.         Moller N, Schmitz O, Porksen N, et al. Dose-response studies on the metabolic effects of a growth hormone pulse in humans. Metabolism: clinical and experimental. 1992;41(2):172-175.

 In a periodized training program, adding some light high reppers to the end of heavy lifting sets actually increases strength more than just doing the heavy lifting sets alone. However, this might only apply to novice trainers. Light high reppers, especially when performed with a slow lifting speed, also stimulates muscle growth. It is not necessary to follow that classic linear periodization model when one trains in a specific way for several weeks. It has actually been shown that making program alterations on a daily basis is more effective in eliciting strength gains than doing so every 4 weeks 17.

  1. Marcelino 11 years ago

    I read the article twice and took notes. You may say what you want, but tempo is a big part in training, in order to obtain hypertrophy. I met Charles Poliquin on numerous occasions and we had great conversations. He even came to my gym while André Bilodeau was giving a seminar. In André’s words Charles was a GOD!. Bodybuilders like Steve Reeves or my uncle Roland Rajotte trained with great concentration. That concentration was the most important factor. By the way google Roland Rajotte and you will see a great physique totally Natural as the pic was taken at the end of the 40’s). My uncle used to tell me, that you have to feel the muscle contract, hold, then stretch slowly. I remember as a teen watching Nubret train and it was the same way that my uncle and my father showed me. Slow concentrated reps.

    • Monica 11 years ago

      I totally agree; that’s why I brought up the study on muscle time under tension = repetition speed = tempo.

    • Will Brink 11 years ago

      “I read the article twice and took notes.” You may need to read it a third time as she covers tempo also as an essential component. Charles wrote the training chapter for my Body Building Revealed Program, and I know him well. He’s a very smart guy, and a great trainer (which is why I had him write the section) but no, he’s not God, and there are other great coaches out there.

      • Fairlane32 11 years ago

        Hey Will,
        Ah, yes, I remember reading those parts in the BBR regarding Poliquin and your wisdom about Tempo. Very informative. I’ve often felt controlled higher reps with lighter load produced a nice effect for me, and these studies Monica is covering just adds more support to it. Good work Monica.. XD

      • Marcelino 11 years ago

        Good day Will, why do you answer me with the following: You may need to read it a third time as she covers tempo also as an essential component? My whole answer regarding the importance of tempo was to back up what Monica wrote in her article.

        • Marcelino 11 years ago

          As for your answer regarding what André Bilodeau said regarding Charles that he was God. I believe it was simply a compliment as they were working together, André did come in 10th at the Olympia that same year. All in all I come to the conclusion that you did not really understand nor grasp what I wrote. Maybe you jumped too quickly on the answer mode and you did so with a bit of conscendance. Monica did seem to understand my point and approved of what I said. Have a good night Wil, no hards feelings here.

        • Will Brink 11 years ago

          Ah, when someone starts a post with “You may say what you want, but…” it usually means they don’t agree with the person, and it was hard to tell from your post if you were indeed agreeing with her or not. My bad 🙂

          • Marcelino 11 years ago

            Thank you Will for the answer. I always appreciate what you have to say. Have a great day!

  2. Lewis 11 years ago

    So, Just to make sure I understand correctly.
    Light weight slow reps 6 sec up and 6 sec. down and no pause.

  3. Steve Crossley 11 years ago

    “Finally, there are indications that going faster on the lowering (eccentric) part of contractions than the lifting (concentric) part, leads to greater hypertrophy and strength gains than slow lengthening contractions 16”.
    I find this statement most interesting as it seems to go against the other findings. Personally, I’ve always trained with moderate tempo and tried to maintain smoothness of contraction in the lengthening phase by minimizing momentum. Instinctively this feels more productive as i guess it involves more time under tension.
    I’ve never seen or heard of anyone training this way, so it would be interesting to know if anyone has a personal opinion or experience with it.

  4. Jim 11 years ago

    I appreciate your write up Monica. You point out one of the most critical issues of the study: are the results reproducible in trained athletes? Have you incorporated their findings into your routine?

    • Monica 11 years ago

      Yes I have, and I am very pleased with the response I’ve been getting. And based on the feedback I have been getting from other experienced lifters, I’m not the only one who is benefiting from incorporating higher rep sets.
      True, a factor that needs to be considered when examining the efficacy of different training programs is the use of untrained individuals as subjects in many studies. During the first several weeks of any training program, the majority of strength/power gains occur due to neural factors. Thus, in short-term studies, a significant difference in strength/power between any weight-training programs may be difficult to achieve because any and all programs may result in similar neural factor gains in untrained people. If superiority in strength/power is shown in short-term studies, it may merely imply that the superior program brings about quicker neural factor gains. This may be especially true if changes in lean body mass are not significantly different between two training programs. Since strength gains occur at a slower rate in highly trained vs. moderately trained subjects, the applicability of the results of studies using untrained subjects (especially strength gains) has some limitations in application to the training of athletes or trained subjects.
      However, since I first reported on this topic in part one of this article series, I have been incorporating higher rep sets myself (I always lift relatively slowly) into my own training routine, and it has indeed helped me break through training plateaus. I have been lifting weights seriously for over 17 years, so I believe every recreational lifter as well as athlete, irrespective of training background, can benefit from expanding their comfort and ego zones.

      • Near60lifter 11 years ago

        Personally, I find a 6/6 type cadence difficult to maintain. Concentration seems to fade as the set progresses. The 6 sec. movement is a long road to take. This may be due to my a SADD(senior attention deficit disorder) or something along that order. I also wonder if too slow a cadence along the path with a low load may reduce some of the occlusion effects that may be helpful for hypertrophy .For myself, I prefer breaking the rep in half and apply a 3/3 cadence to the shortened movement. This allows more frequent turnarounds which helps reduce inertia, more “squeeze into the movement” and seems to produce greater mental and physical stimulation. Four sets, two sets which focus on the bottom 50% of the movement and two sets that focus on the other 50% is a viable option. The sets can be rotated to add further variety.

        • Monica 11 years ago

          As indicated in the article, a 3-3 cadence is better for muscle growth.
          Actually, the slower your lift and the more reps you do, the greater the vascular occlusion and metabolite accumulation.

          • Near60lifter 11 years ago

            My thoughts are of using the 3/3 cadence for the half rep sets. To make my position more clear the first set rep would start from the stretch position and the turnaround would occur approximately at the half position with a return to the stretch with the following reps performed in like manner till failure. The next set’s first rep would start at the half position and go to near lockout and return to the half position and would be completed in that manner. This is 3 sec. on each concentric/eccentric half. This would require greater control of said load and perhaps enhance the “mind to muscle connection”.Using the shorter rep range with more frequent turnarounds per set would perhaps yield greater stimulation from the cross-bridge and lever changes. Take a load that would yield around 14 reps performed using a normal full range of motion as in the curl. Then using roughly the same load perform 7 half reps from the bottom, 7 half reps from the top and 7 full(21’s) and observe the different physiological effects. I thought one of the disadvantages of superslow training was the general lack of mechanical stimulation/transductance per set . I believe D. V. Popov wrote about the possible advantages of shorter range reps without relation.

        • Monica 11 years ago

          What do you mean by lack of mechanical stimulation / transductance?

          • Near60lifter 11 years ago

            I am talking about the neurological input/output from movement. From my past reading, taking a steady slow long path using a slow cadence may not provide optimal stimulus and several studies using superslow training seem to bear this out. Adding more “contraction density” with shortened endpoints provides more frequent contraction events, more neurological stimulus and probably greater possible occlusion. It may be that varying contraction density, contraction inertia points and the use of isometrics in different forms including oscillating may help prevent plateauing and physiological adaptation. The last sentence in my previous post in regards D. V. Popov should read possible advantages of shorter range reps without relaxation.

  5. Marcelino 11 years ago

    Good Day Monica,
    Could you please explain the 2 following terms.
    Metabolite accumulation:
    Vascular occlusion:
    Thanking you in advance

    • Monica 11 years ago

      Vascular occlusion means blood flow restriction, and occurs during weight lifting, especially during slower high rep sets that give rise to a larger time under tension. The continuous force output causes a sustained restriction of blood flow, which results in a marked and persistent reduction of muscle oxygenation level during exercise, and accumulation of metabolic byproducts. Among other things, this has been implicated in the stimulation of exercise induced GH release etc.

      • Marcelino 11 years ago

        Thank you Monica, I had a good idea of what you meant, but you explained it very clearly.

  6. Dave Woodbury 11 years ago

    I have read your research and articles for years. Thanks for educating us. The above article (research study) seems a bit questionable — some of it. It seems that the key here is the INTENSITY (failure) involved and the TUL (time under load). The high rep/low weight sets (slow) become more INTENSE at the end; thus, the better results. The fast reps create too much momentum, fewer muscle fibers become involved and the results are minimal (not enough INTENSITY). The fast reps, no matter how heavy, will be more productive if, and when, the set(s) are taken to FAILURE — which, because of increased INTENSITY, automatically SLOWS down the speed, gets more muscle fibers working because of the decrease in momentum. I also think that the # of sets used is not necessary for good results, as long as the INTENSITY is there. And the rest between sets seems to make such workout needlessly long.
    Why not: warmup, get the proper intensity with appx. 8-15 reps, do some quick drop sets and go home?!?

    • Jim 11 years ago

      Volume and intensity are inversely related. It’s not possible to have a high rep, intense set. Think of intensity as weight. As the weight goes up the reps go down. The most intense set possible is the 1RM.
      Not sure what you mean by the high rep sets become more intense. Intensity is generally increased by increasing weight, which naturally decrease reps.

      • Near60lifter 11 years ago

        Intensity is normally stated in regards using a load approaching 1RM and using 30% of 1RM would not be considered “high intensity”. Applied effort or “applied intensity”, is frequently mentioned as training to momentary failure. High applied intensity as used in this study can be applied to multiple sets.

      • Dave Woodbury 11 years ago

        It is possible to have a high rep, intense (to failure) set… the only problem is that the set would be way too long with lots and lots of “wasted” reps — all of the reps it takes to get to the final hard (intense) reps at the end of such a long set. Remember, muscle does NOT know what weight you are using — it knows only how hard you are working. And you will be working quite intensely at the end (to failure) of a long, light set if you want to spend all that time working to failure — which you should, if you want results. It’s all about INTENSITY — but to keep things in perspective, add more weight and keep the set as INTENSE as possible and reach failure in about 60-90 seconds. This isn’t rocket science — WORK HARD, GET RESULTS………. BUT DO IT “PROPERLY”……….. MOST DO NOT!!!!

        • Monica 11 years ago

          Dave, you are confusing intensity with failure. Intensity refers to how heavy you go (ie, how much of your max strength you are lifting). High intensity sets (heavy lifting) can be done to failure or not to failure.
          It’s true that the control condition (fast lifting speed) was not taken to failure in the study I cited in ref 11:
          Burd NA, Andrews RJ, West DW, et al. Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. The Journal of physiology. 2012;590(Pt 2):351-362.
          The reason being that the researches had the fast match the slow condition for contraction volume, in order to properly investigate the effects of muscle time under tension on the muscle protein synthetic response (i.e. “metabolic” work) vs. mechanical work. If the study ‘unclamped’ the amount of work performed in the fast condition, which would have been a consequence of they had let it to go to failure, it would have resulted not only in different muscle time under tensions, but also differences in mechanical work. To ensure a controlled experiment only one of these variables was manipulated.
          In the other study I cited in ref 14, done on heavy-resistance trained men:
          Goto K, Takahashi K, Yamamoto M, et al. Hormone and recovery responses to resistance exercise with slow movement. The journal of physiological sciences : JPS. 2008;58(1):7-14.
          …both the slow and fast conditions were taken to failure, and the slow turned out to result in a more anabolic response than the fast condition, despite both reaching failure. And this was in heavy-resistance trained men!

    • Will Brink 11 years ago

      Why not do that and the other too? The data (and Monica has now supplied quite a bit of it via 3 articles now) is suggestive there may be benefit to higher rep training for both novice and experienced lifters and some possible benefits are unrelated to direct impact on muscle growth, such as joint issues, etc. Two, Do “8-15 reps, do some quick drop sets and go home” will = stagnation quickly. That’s simple linear progression programming which is not a strategy for long term success.
      Hence, one more possible tool in the tool box and worth considering as part of an overall program (and Monica has given some great ideas on how to incorporate) and
      it’s worth taking a serious look at and possible incorporation in my view.

  7. maly mam 11 years ago

    @monica great article. you nailed it with time under tension.. thanks again for writing this. I’m looking forward to reading more of your upcoming articles.

  8. Dai 11 years ago

    At 51 it is deffinately good news to read that low weight high volume at a slow pace can build muscle increase testosterone and human growth hormone to help in the fight against fat. Also way easier on the joints and as you get older joint health becomes a lot more important. The three article by Monica are good news to us oldies as now we have a lot more in our arsenal than the usual lift heavy eat big predominance of articles on the interweb.
    Well done Monica thank you for your efforts in brining this to us.

  9. mike 11 years ago

    Love all your articles.. I’m a big fan! (you too Will..don’t worry)
    I enjoy the technical details you include as well as the summary. It makes it both interesting and useful!
    I was wondering if you could clarify for me. One thing… Would you recommend adding high-rep sets at the end of each exercise, or at the end of a workout? For example if I’m doing bench presses, should I do a normal workout and add high rep sets when I’m all done, or add high rep sets at the end of each type of exercise I do that day? Or should I add obey where all I do is the high rep sets?

    • Steve Crossley 11 years ago

      Surely this would depend on whether you want to increase the size and strength of any one particular muscle group, all trained muscle groups or only the last muscle group you train in your workout.

    • Monica 11 years ago

      My personal preference is to add it at the start and/or end of each exercise. There’s no right or wrong here, until more research comes out we will have to experiment ourselves with different implementations.

      • mike 11 years ago

        Cool. Thanks! I have been doing higher rep sets at the end of workouts for a while but I will try doing it by exercise and let you know how it goes!

        • Monica 11 years ago

          Sounds good; keep us posted 🙂

          • mike 11 years ago

            So ive added the low-weight high rep sets at the end of each exercise for the past 3 weeks and I’m loving it! I’be noticed significant progress both in size and strength. Thanks for the great tues and the excellent research!

          • Monica 11 years ago

            Mike, thanks for sharing the great news and real life hands-on confirmation of the research findings.

  10. John Troy 11 years ago

    OMG @ the picture of Monica!!! Those are some Sic (in a good way) arms. Great article especially for us 40+ generation. Heavy weight workouts time after time takes a toll on the joints. I’ve added some high rep (30-40) with low weight sets at the end of my workout routines with some benefit but now I’ll try adding some off the 3up/down, 6up/down and 5/1-1/5 routines in there. Thanks for another great read!!!

    • Jim 11 years ago

      Check out Body Building Revealed, particularly the section contributed by Charles Poliquin. Incorporating tempo into a periodized routine has DRAMATICALLY reduced injuries from regular training based on my experience (I’m 42). The rapid change from concentric to the eccentric (and back) movement increases the force applied to the joint pursuant to Newton’s law. Force = mass x acceleration. So, the more rapidly you decelerate the weight and accelerate the weight in the opposite direction, the greater the momentary force applied to the joint.
      Take a look at Poliquin’s discussion of Time under tension for a more thorough explanation of tempo.

    • Monica 11 years ago

      Thanks for the compliment, lol 🙂
      Glad you like the article and that you find it of value. For the lifting speed 3-4 s up/down is probably better than 6 s for myofibrillar protein synthesis, but try both if you want and let us how what response you’re getting.

  11. Mark 9 years ago

    So the positive part of the lift should be longer in duration than the negative? Hmm, this would be a huge change in practice for EVERY ONE!

  12. Don 9 years ago

    I have a few comments or questions. I am 71yrs young. I have had cancer, both knees completely replaced, plus several other surgeries. I am a male, weigh 195lbs, 5’10” tall. I am currently lifting weights where I do one set of 5 for my exercises for the first wk. Then two sets of 5 reps the 2nd wk, and on the 3rd wk do 3 sets of 5. Then start over on the 4th wk with just one set of 5, but with a increase in weight. I do this every day. Plus about 7 min of cardio at the end of my weight lifting. Question: after reading your article about using light weights with higher reps, at a slower speed, would this perhaps be a better way of getting a little more muscle mass? Or should I do one or two body parts on MWF, or do one body part, say chest, on M, then arms on Tues, then another body part on W, etc. Just sayin.
    If you could please perhaps give me a few suggestions to my workout that might be more beneficial to me.
    Hope to hear back from you.
    Take care and please be safe,

  13. Steve 9 years ago

    So the external load isn’t as crucial as most people think? If you change your program daily, how can you keep track of progress? I thought progressive overload was the key to muscle growth. If I reduce my squats from 325lbs for 3 sets of six reps to 135lbs for 12-15 slower reps, I can build more muscle?

  14. Bob 7 years ago

    Hi Monica, It would seem a minimum of 3 second concentric, perhaps more? and a normal 1 second or so eccentric with a total time under tension of 20 – 70 seconds would be most optimal? I’d also figure on losing lockout positions on most exercises would also ensure that 20 – 70 seconds under tension actually means 20-70 seconds of time under tension? Thanks for your answer and for the article.

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