In a previous article I reported the controversial results of a study that compared the muscle (myofibrillar) protein synthetic response of a traditional “bodybuilding” high-load low rep workout (90FAIL) to a higher rep low load workout (30FAIL), both taken to failure 1. If you haven’t read that article, here’s a lowdown:

The workout with higher rep lower load sets (30FAIL) was equally effective in stimulating muscle (myofibrillar) protein synthesis as a workout with low rep high load sets (90FAIL) 1. But more notably, the high-rep low load workout (30FAIL) resulted in a more prolonged muscle protein synthetic response and a greater elevation of muscle protein synthesis rates than the low rep high load workout (90FAIL) 24h after exercise, and also induced a greater stimulation of anabolic signalling pathways 1.

However, this study was an acute study with measurements taken for only 24 hours after one single workout bout. This doesn’t tell us whether higher rep sets would lead to long term increases in muscle mass, which is what we are ultimately interested in. Well, the same research group just published an actual 10 week training study 2 to find the answer to this nerve-itching question….

Training program

The subjects in this study were healthy young men (21 years old, 5ft 7in tall, 162 lb), who were recreationally active with no formal weight-lifting experience or regular weight-lifting activity over the last year.

The training program consisted of unilateral knee extension training performed 3 times per week for 10 weeks. Each leg was randomly assigned to one of three workouts:

1) one set performed to failure at 80% of 1RM (80%-1) – 8-12 reps

2) three sets performed to failure at 80% of 1RM (80%-3) – 8-12 reps

3) three sets performed to failure at 30% of 1RM (30%-3) – 20-30 reps

While the previous single workout study used an intensity of 90% of 1RM 1, in this training study the researchers chose 80% of 1RM, because this is touted as being optimal for muscle grown. Also, training at 90% of 1RM non-stop for 10 weeks would be pretty though and not representative of a typical muscle growth training program.

Each participant trained both legs and was therefore assigned to two of the three possible training conditions. Immediately after each training session subjects consumed a high quality protein (PowerBar Protein Plus, 360 kcal, 3.5g leucine 30g protein, 33g carbohydrate, 11g fat; Nestle Nutrition) in conjunction with 300ml of water to standardize the post-exercise meal and maximize training adaptations.

Before and after the training program, whole muscle volume was measured (using magnetic resonance imaging) and changes in muscle fiber area were determined. Knee extension performance was measured by 1RM, maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVC), rate of isometric force development (RFD) and peak power. Changes in anabolic signaling were also measured.

Results

Muscle growth

After 10 weeks of training, the quadriceps muscle volume (indicating muscle growth) increased significantly in all groups. The increase in the 30%-3 and 80%-3 condition was similar, and about twice as large as the increase seen in the 80%-1 condition.

Type I and type II muscle fiber area increased with all training conditions, with no significant between group differences.

Muscle function

After the training period, all conditions significantly increased 1RM strength. However, the increase in 1RM strength was greater in the 80%-1 and 80%-3 conditions compared to the 30%-3 condition.

MVC (maximal voluntary isometric contraction) force, knee extension maximal power output and RFD (rate of isometric force development) increased in all conditions with no between condition differences. The total work that could be completed at 30% of the subject’s 1RM also increased, with no differences between conditions.

The total work that could be completed at 80% of the subject’s 1RM increased in all groups. The magnitude of the increase was significantly less in the 30%-3 condition compared to the other conditions.

The number of repetitions that could be performed with 80% of current 1RM increased in all groups, with no between condition differences in the magnitude of the increase:

Pre-training

30%-3: 10 reps

80%-1: 10 reps

80%-3: 11 reps

Post-training

30%-3: 12 reps

80%-1: 13 reps

80%-3: 12 reps

Not surprisingly, muscle endurance (indicated by the number of repetitions that could be performed with 30% of 1RM) increased only in the 30%-3 condition.

It was also found that anabolic signaling (p70S6K activation) was activated 1 hour post-workout in the 80%-3 and 80%-1 conditions, but not in the 30%-3. However, the previous single workout study showed that the 30%-3 did activate anabolic signaling 4 hour post-workout (no 4 hour measurement was done in this training study).

Conclusions

So what’s the take home from this groundbreaking study and its predecessor?

First, it refutes the traditional recommendation that heavier loading, in the range of 6-11 reps to failure is the optimal (and only!) way to maximize muscle hypertrophy 3, 4. In a heavily cited study, eight weeks of training in a 20-28 repetition range did not elicit muscle growth despite increases in the number of repetitions that could be completed with 60% of 1RM 4. However, in a subsequent study which employed the same training method, equivalent muscle growth was found in high and low load training groups 5. It is often claimed 3, 4 that high training loads are necessary to induce muscle growth because they cause full muscle fiber recruitment and activation of type II muscle fibers, which have potential to increase in size more than type I muscle fibers 6. However, this statement is only accurate during a single repetition, since the well known size principle of motor unit activation states that motor units are recruited in an orderly fashion from smallest to largest with increasing requirement for force generation 7, 8. Thus, it is true that one single contraction performed at 30% 1RM will recruit less muscle than a single contraction preformed at 80% of 1RM. However, when a sub-maximal contraction is sustained, motor units that were initially recruited will fatigue (produce less force) or cease firing completely, necessitating the recruitment of additional motor units to sustain force generation 9. In this way, as repetitions at lighter loads are repeated to failure, near maximal motor unit recruitment will be achieved 10. Thus, lighter loads lifted to the point of failure would result in a similar amount of muscle fiber activation as compared to heavier loads lifted to failure 7, 11.

Second, although training load did not impact the magnitude of the hypertrophic response (nor maximal voluntary contraction strength, maximal instantaneous power output, and rate of force development), it did have a clear impact on max strength gains. Both the 80%-1 and 80%-3 conditions resulted in a larger increase in 1RM strength compared to the 30%-3. Thus, training with heavy loads (and lower reps) is still necessary to maximize gains in 1RM strength, because strength gains are due not only to muscle growth but also neural adaptations that are only induced by heavy lifting 12. This is important to remember if you are a power or weight lifter, but not directly relevant for bodybuilders or folks who lift weights with the goal to gain muscle.

Finally, it shows that heavy and light relative loads lifted until the point of failure result in a different time course of anabolic signaling, with p70S6K activation occurring later after exercise with light compared to heavy relative loads. It is possible that a training program that elicits increases in anabolic signaling at different time points, might induce a larger muscle growth response than a training program that constantly activate anabolic signaling either early or late post-workout. There are also many other anabolic signaling pathways that are possibly responsive to different weight lifting loads 5. How different training program manipulations affect these molecular level anabolic mechanisms is unknown and certainly warrants further study.

So bottom line; if you are looking to build muscle, don’t get stuck in the 6-10 rep range. Break out of your ego’s comfort zone. Just because you’re lifting lighter doesn’t mean you are “weaker”. So my advice is to spice your traditional 6-10 or 6-12 rep ranges with pump and burn sensation inducing higher rep ranges. In addition to avoiding injuries (which is common with constant heavy lifting), training with strict form in rep ranges in the range 20-30 to failure will nicely shock your muscles and make for a nice workout variety. And as we all know, workout variety and training periodization is essential for performance progress and continued muscle growth 13, 14.

Monica Mollica – www.trainergize.com

Monica Mollica - www.trainergize.com

Monica has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Nutrition from the University of Stockholm, Sweden, and is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer. She works a nutrition/diet consultant and health journalist, and is also a fitness model and web designer.

As a young athlete, Monica realized the importance of nutrition for maximal performance at an early, and went for a major in Nutrition at the University of Stockholm.

During her years at the University she was a regular contributor to the Swedish bodybuilding magazine BODY, and she has written the book (in Swedish) “Functional Foods for Health and Energy Balance”, and authored several book chapters in Swedish publications. During her University studies she also worked as an ISSA certified personal trainer.

After having earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Nutrition, she completed one semester at the PhD-program “Exercise, Nutrition and Preventive Health” at Baylor University Texas, at the department of Health Human Performance and Recreation.

Having lost her father in an heart attack at an age of 49, she is specializing in cardiovascular health, and primordial and primary prevention. She is a strong advocate of early intervention in adolescence and young adulthood, and the importance of lifestyle habits for health promotion at all ages.

Today, Monica is sharing her solid academic and real-life experience by offering nutrition/diet and exercise consultation services and writing about topics related to fitness, health and anti-aging.

She is currently in the process of writing a book “Successful Aging – it’s your choice” and developing the related website www.SuccessfulAging.me


References:

1.            Burd NA, West DW, Staples AW, et al. Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men. PloS one. 2010;5(8):e12033.

2.            Mitchell CJ, Churchward-Venne TA, West DD, et al. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. J Appl Physiol. 2012.

3.            American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2009;41(3):687-708.

4.            Campos GE, Luecke TJ, Wendeln HK, et al. Muscular adaptations in response to three different resistance-training regimens: specificity of repetition maximum training zones. European journal of applied physiology. 2002;88(1-2):50-60.

5.            Leger B, Cartoni R, Praz M, et al. Akt signalling through GSK-3beta, mTOR and Foxo1 is involved in human skeletal muscle hypertrophy and atrophy. The Journal of physiology. 2006;576(Pt 3):923-933.

6.            Thorstensson A, Hulten B, von Dobeln W, et al. Effect of strength training on enzyme activities and fibre characteristics in human skeletal muscle. Acta physiologica Scandinavica. 1976;96(3):392-398.

7.            Henneman E. Relation between size of neurons and their susceptibility to discharge. Science. 1957;126(3287):1345-1347.

8.            Henneman E, Somjen G, Carpenter DO. Functional Significance of Cell Size in Spinal Motoneurons. Journal of neurophysiology. 1965;28:560-580.

9.            Fallentin N, Jorgensen K, Simonsen EB. Motor unit recruitment during prolonged isometric contractions. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology. 1993;67(4):335-341.

10.         Fuglevand AJ, Zackowski KM, Huey KA, et al. Impairment of neuromuscular propagation during human fatiguing contractions at submaximal forces. The Journal of physiology. 1993;460:549-572.

11.         Sale DG. Influence of exercise and training on motor unit activation. Exercise and sport sciences reviews. 1987;15:95-151.

12.         Sale DG. Neural adaptation to resistance training. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 1988;20(5 Suppl):S135-145.

13.         Kraemer WJ, Fleck SJ. Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Nonlinear Periodization Workouts Human Kinetics 2007.

14.         Kraemer WJ, Fleck SJ. Designing Resistance Training Programs Human Kinetics 2003.

65 Comments
  1. Dai 7 years ago

    So it would seem going to failiure is the important point not, the weight or rep range. Also been reading about Vince Gironda and the ten sets of ten certainly sheds new light on these as well.

    • Dennis 7 years ago

      ….time under tension seems to be the point. 8×8 or 10×10 or whatever works best for you………

    • Dennis 7 years ago

      also, Gironda was a visionary in this field. One of the few in this field. Just like Arthur Jones of Nautilus. There were a few old timers that really knew their stuff which is why Gironda is still being talked about and used today.

    • Mag 7 years ago

      Feel the muscle don’t count the reps. ((read it somewhere, but there is good truth in this))
      Sometimes takes me 20 reps , sometimes I’m feeling it at 16 or 12.
      Historical records for counted reps/sets are great , but when you are doing it , feel the burn in the set.
      This is not really new information.

  2. Seb 7 years ago

    The question is to define exactly muscular failure. I’ve found huge differences in results/progress whether I just stop the lift as soon as it’s not possible to keep moving the weight with perfect form, or doing that + maintaining static tension for 3 sec (fighting the weight), or really going beyond (forced negative etc ) which burns me out and kills progress.
    By the way, in the case of periodization, I wonder if failure is always the same or if one should go beyond a certain “failure intensity” when he/she is in the low rep/heavy period of the program.
    Any thought Will?
    Seb
    p.s.: I’ve purchased your deluxe BBR and really enjoy what I learn. Thanks! Will go to the forum as soon as possible (can’t access the forum on iPad)- Cheers

    • Monica 7 years ago

      Failure in this study was defined as the point where no more rep in full range of motion can be completed.

      • Marcelino 7 years ago

        Bonjour Monica, thank you for explaining what training to failure meant. Have a nice day!

    • Will Brink 7 years ago

      As she said, in this study, failure was a weight they could not move at the assigned rep range. These were novice untrained lifters BTW, and that has to be considered in the overall picture, but I agree with Monica’s overall assessment of the results.
      Glad you are enjoying BBR 🙂

      • Seb 7 years ago

        Thanks to both of you. By the way I’m located in France so you can see how good stuff travels 🙂
        I’ll keep going to failure as you describe it, without fighting the weight beyond. And yes Monica, higher reps is hard!

  3. Dennis 7 years ago

    ….been following the xrep boys on this type of training as well. Definitely has merit. At 60, for example, after a substantial thigh workout using this method, I’m finding my whole body (as stated in some info reports) takes on a larger appearance…………….for a couple days, only. Then I go at it again with another bodypart to get a similar response but only in that bodypart. Did I understand her report to say somewhat of the same regarding temporay size increase? This temp. increase is not the pump usually associated with a workout but seems to be something different possibly associated with trauma inflammation.
    Looking forward to your comments/reply
    Thanks, Dennis

  4. Marcelino Rajotte 7 years ago

    Bonjour Monica, I read your last article : Muscle growth with high rep training – has time come to challenge our egos? and found it very interesting. It confirmed that the way I was training was the best for me. I have been weight training for some 40 years and noticed that all those I saw training in the low rep range got hurt one day or another and STOPPED training. When I see them they are all telling me about their different pains and problems. I have trained in many ways and the Nubret way is the way for me.

    • Monica 7 years ago

      Yes, constantly going heavy is a recipe for injuries. I have been a victim of that myself, and it wasn’t until I killed my ego and started to train with higher rep ranges that I really began noticing muscle growth. Training lighter, when done correctly with full range of motion and without swinging, IS hard!

  5. Dennis 7 years ago

    Monica,
    did I understand part of your report to mean that there is a temporay size increase in some cases that subsides after a bit (not relating to the usual pump)due to higher rep training??

  6. Jeff 7 years ago

    …”It is possible that a training program that elicits increases in anabolic signaling at different time points, might induce a larger muscle growth response than a training program that constantly activate anabolic signaling either early or late post-workout.”…
    — Yeah, makes sense to me, and I personally see this as great news because I really have enjoyed the high rep workouts I have done since part I of this article. I love that “pump and burn sensation” and it’s definitely easier on the joints. Thanks for the great article!

    • Dennis 7 years ago

      …….aha….now we’re getting down to the meat of the subject…………..what else or where else can I go to investigate further?, and thanks for your info……………..

    • Monica 7 years ago

      I’m glad you like the article, and that it’s take home message is working for you. 🙂

      • Dennis 7 years ago

        Monica,
        could you respond to my question above about a temporary size increase due to anabolic primer timing switch, not to be confused with the regular pump?
        Thanks

  7. Gino 7 years ago

    Great article, the information provided her can be taken to heart because you cited recent studies with the specific purpose of muscle growth.

    • Monica 7 years ago

      My pleasure! I’m as interested in growing muscle as you guys are. 🙂

  8. Lewis 7 years ago

    Bill,
    I am a little confused.
    Are you saying to still do your 6-12 reps then put in your last set of 20 -30 to failure ?
    or one week do 6-12 and the next week do 20-30 ??
    Would you please break it down for me so I can understand it better ?
    How mamy set and reps /
    Thanks
    Lewis

    • Monica 7 years ago

      The point of the article is to not get stuck in the 6-12 rep range. High rep sets can be implemented in many different ways, whether at the start and/or end of your workout, or during a whole periodization phase lasting for weeks. There is no right or wrong here, try different routines to see what will work best for you.

      • Lewis 7 years ago

        Monica,
        Right now, I am going heavy , 15, 12 and 10 reps, at the end I should do a lighter weight and do 20–30 to failure ? At a weight that I can do at least 20 reps ? Or just do 3 sets of a weight that I can do at least 20 reps
        for a couple of weeks. Just wanted to make sure that I understand.
        Thanks
        Lewis

        • Monica 7 years ago

          Try this: for 1-2 weeks, end every set with a 20-30 repper. The next 1-2 weeks, do 20-30 reps for all sets. Then you can compare the responses and make adjustments based on that. Again, there are no hard-fast rules on how to implement high reps sets into your workouts. What I just said is a suggestion.

          • James Bond 6 years ago

            Try this: for 1-2 weeks, end every set with a 20-30 repper – , i’m a bit confused here , how do you end a set with 20-30 reps ? if i do a set with 8-12 reps do you mean drop the weight and finish that set of with 20-30 reps ?

  9. tony the tiger 7 years ago

    great data.. thanks BZ!

  10. DougM 7 years ago

    Ah! Thought this was just a repeat of the original. Nice follow on. Sheesh, just trying to get past that awesome photo of Monica, but here goes. High reps – good. It’s nice to hear that, and I support it. But I’m not sure it’s so ground-breaking, and I have another issue. I’m reading that it’s “as good” as low/medium rep work is, but not better, which would be more interesting. Further, I have a real problem with the result that “type I and type II muscle fiber area increased with all training conditions, with no significant between group differences”. This statement raises a giant red flag to me that the study was flawed somehow, as it contradicts what should be an obvious outcome, based upon decades of knowledge. I hate to throw a wet towel so to speak, but it is or should be common knowledge that high rep, low intensity type of work will develop the aerobic, type I muscle more, and that anearobic high intensity stuff will stimulate type II moreso, with a gradual spectrum of influence in betwee. If this study showed that riding a bike for an hour did the same thing as a few 400lb squats, then I’d call that groundbreaking. But enough of my wet towel. I’m as much a rower/biker/runner as I am a weight lifter. Just do it all and you won’t miss anything!

    • Monica 7 years ago

      The study is not saying that light loads are better for hypertrophy. You not understand the size principle of motor unit recruitment; it is impossible (or very difficult) to recruit type II fibres with out first recruiting type I fibres, so even heavy training will cause hypertrophy of both fibre types. In longer duration studies, some times but not always, we see greater hypertrophy of type II fibres because they are “trained” less by activities of daily living and have a larger maximum size.

      • DougM 7 years ago

        Thanks for that correction. I didn’t realize that type II couldn’t be recruited without first recruiting type I. Red flag dropped. I also made the jump to nearly equating “a bit lighter” to “very light”. 20 – 30 rep range is still heavy enough to fully recruit type II as well as type I and stimulate growth of both, which is the main point, I take it. It does leave me wondering just how far out one must then go to see diminishing returns. Or how increasing rep rate alignes with the crossover between aerobic and anaerobic respiration. I mean it depends upon what you’re after, but for very light aerobic loads continued ad infinitum, it is known that type II will atrophy, hence the skinny marathon runner (fully optimized type I) effect. But it sounds like we’re still very far away from that, which is very good to know. And we still don’t like those 1 lb pink dumbells, right?! 🙂

        • Monica 7 years ago

          Yes, no pink dumbbells! But purple is ok…wink! lol
          Biking or running for any number of hours will not induce hypertrophy of type I or type II fibres because fatigue in those activities are very different from fatigue after a set to failure that takes 30 reps. The causes of fatigue are a large and complicated research area. Briefly, long duration activities are limited by aerobic metabolism, anaerobic threshold, substrate availability etc. Whereas when multiple reps of resistance exercise are completed until failure, different mechanisms are at work (phospho-creatine depletion, excitation contraction coupling failure etc).
          Bottom line is that during a very long duration activity there is no point when the muscle is full recruited and firing at a very high rate. This is because during very long duration aerobic activities, the fatigue accumulated over the course of the activity will prevent maximal firing rates from being achieved when failure is reached. Failure in long duration aerobic activities is therefore “volitional failure”, and not true muscular failure. In contrast, a set to failure, regardless of if it is 6 or 30 reps, will result in the full muscle being activated at a high firing rate. It also appears that there are different signaling pathways activated within the muscle that are related to the difference energy status in the cell after long and short duration training.

          • DougM 7 years ago

            Just did my first ever 25 reps at a little over half normal weight. Ouuch!! No ego challenge there!

  11. James 7 years ago

    Actually, one of the main things that this study implies is that nearly any training protocol will work for beginners. It needs to be studied on long time bodybuilders to really prove its validity. After years of training, using progressively heavier loads and increased volume, will a load that light still be equally effective? We don’t really know. Most likely, your recommendation to add some high rep work to your training is a sound one, but these researchers have yet to prove that training loads of 30% are always just as effective as 80 or 90%.

    • Monica 7 years ago

      It is right that the results of this study mainly apply to the untrained, however the predecessor of this study used resistance trained individuals and showed similar results, measured by myofibrillar protein synthesis rate.
      Also, I want to point out that the classic milestone study that established the well known repetition maximum training zones and the recommendation of 8-12 rep sets for hypertrophy (muscle growth):
      Campos GE, Luecke TJ, Wendeln HK, et al. Muscular adaptations in response to three different resistance-training regimens: specificity of repetition maximum training zones. European journal of applied physiology. 2002;88(1-2):50-60.
      …was done on untrained young men. And bodybuilders and veterans alike have embraced this study to heart!

  12. Simon 7 years ago

    Excellent piece Monica, I may have missed it but was there any details as to how often the workout was performed?
    Once a week, twice, three times?
    That’s a variable I would have liked to have seen introduced.
    Also , frustratingly, 1RM and increased reps was stipulated but the amount of muscle growth was omitted, even as a percentage, seems like that was the most important bit of data to determine which is best for growth.

    • Monica 7 years ago

      3 times/wk.
      The quadriceps muscle volume (indicating muscle growth) increased significantly in all groups. The increase in the 30%-3 and 80%-3 condition was similar, and about twice as large as the increase seen in the 80%-1 condition.

      • test 7 years ago

        Thanks Monica, was there any data which defined “increased significantly in all groups. ”
        What concerns me about this study is that seems vague, and vague about what is a vital part of the data.
        The actual muscle growth.
        Why didn’t they state the numbers, rather than describe them, they stated all the other data clearly, yet omitted the actual growth in measurement format.
        Not sure if this tells us categorically that high rep training for lean mass was much better than low rep in the sense 30-3 and 80-3 came out very close together.

        • Monica 7 years ago

          The take home of this study is not that high rep training is much better than low rep for muscle growth, but rather that high rep training is at least as effective as low rep training for muscle growth, and thereby is a welcome training variable to use in designing weight lifting programs for hypertrophy. And it also shows that the high-rep range can be expanded greatly without causing detrimental effects on muscle growth, or be a waste of time in the gym, like most of us (myself included before this study and its predecessor) would have thought.
          The study was published in the respected Journal of Applied Physiology, and not vague at all in technical term. Muscle volume was measures with the gold standard advanced MRI technique. Here are the numbers (which I as a scientific reporter chose not to report since they don’t tell to non-techie folks much):
          Prior to training, quadriceps muscle volume was 39,775 ± 1,836, 40,328 ± 1,640 and 38,189 ± 1,483 cm3 in the 30%-3, 80%-1 and 80%-3 groups, respectively (no differences between conditions at baseline).
          After 10 weeks of training, the quadriceps muscle volume increased significantly in all groups (P<0.001) to 42,198 ± 1,836, 41,567 ± 1,669 and 40,808 ± 1,410 cm3 in the 30%-3, 80%-1 and 80%-3 groups, respectively.
          These data expressed as percentage change from baseline show a mean gain in quadriceps volume of about 7% in the 80%-3 and 30%-3 condition and only 3% in the 80%-1 condition (p = 0.18). However, this difference this wasn't statistically significant (which means it could have occurred by chance, and not reflect a true difference).

          • test 7 years ago

            Thanks Monica, that’s what I was after.

  13. G 7 years ago

    Hi this is a valid point, just wondering if anyone has an educated opinion as to how relevant this article/study is to a veteran?

    • Will Brink 7 years ago

      I think Monica gives a pretty good idea of how relevant to experienced lifters. It shows pretty much everything works on newbies, but long term recs on rep ranges are being challenged with this series of studies, and experienced lifters may benefit from the addition of some higher rep training then is normally recommended (Monica has incorporated it and feels it’s been of value to her…) but more research using experience lifters is needed no doubt for conclusive answers there.

    • Monica 7 years ago

      My advice to a veteran is to start adding a larger rep range to your program. You can still train heavy (as I do) but there is no need to train heavy all the time and risk injuries. You could try a lighter mesocycle or add some lighter sets after a heavy set, or a light exercise after a heavy exercise for the same muscle. Again, the main point is that there are many different ways to achieve the same goal. The best strategy, especially for experienced athletes and recreationally active advanced trainers, is training variety.
      I believe this study and its predecessor very elegantly redefined the meaning of high-rep sets. For many bodybuilders (myself included before I came across these studies, so I’m not pointing fingers) high-rep is in the range of 15-20 max. With these recent research finding, high-rep is more appropriately defined as 20-30 reps plus.
      Yes, since the first study (outlined in part 1 of this article series) I have implemented high-rep training in the range of 25-30, with great results. And I have been lifting weights seriously for 17 years!

      • Fairlane 7 years ago

        Glad to finally see the follow up come out! As a veteran lifter myself, I’m sure its safe to say that incorporating a higher rep ranged couple of sets here and there couldn’t hurt. Especially if you’re one of those who happen to be injured or about to be injured, it couldn’t hurt. Even if further research does point to not much more hypertrophy will occur in veteran trainers, because of other unknown pathways that are present, doing a few 20-30 rep sets now and again are probably beneficial for other reasons we don’t see yet. 😉
        Philip

  14. Trevor Webster 7 years ago

    Whatever happened to plain English? Don’t you have a translator? Or is all the jargon intended to imply that all bodybuilders aren’t dumbos?
    As a 4th Dan black belt in Taekwondo I once read an article on Taekwondo, written by a friend. An article I struggled to understand. When I commented on this my friend replied that it was intended that way, so readers would realize that martial artists are not all thugs. The article above reminds me of that. It’s just as much of a struggle to decipher.

    • Dennis 7 years ago

      Gotta admit, it really lit up the airwaves and continues to do so………………..

    • Will Brink 7 years ago

      Trevor, Monica is a scientist commenting on science. Hence, for non scientists, it may take some time to understand and may be confusing for some. She’s also done a great job of explaining the results to non scientists in her follow up comments here for those who asked. I would appreciate a more respectful approach on your end in the future if you don’t understand an article and need some clarifications on it. Thanx 🙂

  15. Cal 7 years ago

    Excellent summary of the study. Thank you.

  16. Anatoly 7 years ago

    Is a protocol for 30FAIL group was with no lockouts movements?
    Because if it was, its not differ from other numerous KAATSU studies made before

    • Monica 7 years ago

      No, this study did not employ vascular occlusion.

  17. Near60lifter 7 years ago

    May I suggest that lower load higher rep movement training can be made more interesting and challenging by using different repetition patterns of movement like 21’s or Matrix Training Principles. Moving loads from different inertia points and adding isometric holds makes for a variety of different workouts. Varying the patterns of contractions/holds may help prevent training adaption/plateauing and present constantly ongoing new stimulus.

    • Monica 7 years ago

      Absolutely!

    • Dennis 7 years ago

      …….now you’re talking.!

  18. Dai 7 years ago

    There is an Article on the Muscle and Strength site about Cleveland Thomas a natural bodybuilder who uses high reps. Apparently this guy has had quite a bit of success as a bodybuilder winning the Cronus last year.
    http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/high-rep-blitz-interview-with-bodybuilder-cleveland-thomas.html
    you can go to there site to read the article for your self.
    For high reps he uses a 30, 25, 20, 15 rep scheme insuring failure in each set.
    So it would seem that this guy would put some validation to Monica’s articles, which is good news for the rest of us, as we now have more stratergies to use in our quest for more muscle.

  19. Near60lifter 7 years ago

    Is it possible, in order to make lower load training more palatable and time efficient, after the first high rep set utilize greatly shortened rests between the following sets? If we accept the “size principle” and also believe that metabolic accumulation at the target muscle in part motivates the mechanism of hypertrophy(some Kaatsu info leans this way), then 15 sec.or perhaps shorter rests depending on the movement would produce lower rep post sets from the initial set, leading to greater accumulated occlusion and quicker type 2A fiber type activation? You may also get the bonus of some “anaerobic” cardiovascular conditioning.

  20. Jose Guerrero 6 years ago

    Is it normal than applying the 30% of 1rm to the failure, allows me to do in some excercises only about 4o or 45 reps sometimes more, even tough I know my 100% 1rm is properly measured.

    • Jose Guerrero 6 years ago

      Correction about last reply up to 40 or 45 reps.

  21. Lloyd 6 years ago

    Very interesting article.I have recently implemented a medium weight high rep workout as a break from my heavy low rep routine and found that it does indeed shock the muscles into new growth ,the added advantage being that it rests the joints.I do believe though that at some point one will plateau out and have to return to heavier lifting to continue increasing mass.

    • Monica 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s the response I’ve gotten also, and everybody else I put on this type of training.
      Again, continuous progress in weight lifting requires training variety, so yes, high-rep training interspersed with heavier training is most likely the best way to avoid plateaus and keep progressing in terms of muscle growth (and probably also strength gains to some degree).

  22. Lewis 6 years ago

    Hi,
    So bottom line , what would be the rotine ?/
    How heavy or light, how many sets and how many reps ????
    Thanks

  23. Lewis 6 years ago

    HI,
    This can get a little confusing.
    The way I understand this, is to do a weight that I can do 20 to 30 reps to failure. How many sets ?
    at the same weight ? rest time ?
    Thanks

    • Monica 6 years ago

      There is no one-size-fits all. The article describes a strategy; its implementation can be done in several different ways, and you have to find by trial-and-error what works best for you.
      I personally have incorporated high-rep sets as part of drop-sets and pyramids (start with high-reppers, progressively increase the weigh for lower rep sets, and top off with high-reppers) for most exercises. And vary the rest times, 1-2 minutes, and cadence (lifting speed, which will affect time under tension).
      Other people might prefer to do periods of week with only high rep training, followed by traditional 8-12 rep training, and do meso-cycles like this.
      Hope this helps.

      • ami 6 years ago

        Thanks for breaking the ice, mo!
        Heja Sverige!
        I have put into practice your 24x reps tactique.It is perfect for a change.
        I like it very much in deed, sister. Makes me love more my workouts.
        You really have hit it deep!
        I am 76, a Finn, and training harder than ever to look my best ever this
        year and on…..to time indefinite.
        Be happy and prosper,
        ami

        • Monica 6 years ago

          Jajamensan! 😉
          And thanks to you for showing us that age is NOT an excuse for being inactive!

  24. joshua cardassis 6 years ago

    i have been reading and finding out much on the topic of high reps and the effects on muscle growth.
    now before i voice my thoughts i want to say that the Tasmanian colossus only lifted very light for high reps by the way he is at pro stage and was featured in iron mag. Also many of the body builders of the past would lift in such ways that would confuse some as to how and why. Now Roger Callard only ever lifted for high reps all those who doubt that it works just Google him. also through training with a lot of people i have noticed what works for them and what stops them some cant eat as much as needed some refuse to touch the heavy weight some refuse to lift the weight for more than 12 reps either way doing anything other than normal shall and will create adaption in a shape or form not necessarily in ways some intend but you will be surprised. i wrote this to show that yes even veteran lifters and adepts can grow from high or low it all comes down to you.

    • Monica 6 years ago

      Yes “doing anything other than normal shall and will create adaption”, ie. constantly varying one’s routine, is key to keep making progress.

  25. Frank 4 years ago

    Monica,
    I tried this with legs, last night – I used 20, 25, 30 rep progressions on three sets of several different exercises @ roughly the 30+% 1RM. I am having some serious pain with my knees – age,arthritis and almost 40 years of squats have taken their toll… I did not attempt to do this kind fo reps on squats, but used 2 different positions (high and wide for hams/glutes, low and close for quads), 3 sets each on the leg press, followed by extensions and curls, then adductors and abductors, both paired in SS format. there were some nearly religious moments at the higher reps, and the pump was intense, but do you think this will really lend itself to hypertrophy, based on your article? Any thoughts? Thanks, Frank

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