The Elite Physique

Best Rep Range for Muscle Gain

Best Rep Range for Muscle Gain

Honestly, what is the best rep range for muscle gain?  There is a method to all the rep range madness.  I’ve been training in gyms since 1988 and I’ve seen a lot of fitness, dieting, and training trends come and go.  Nevertheless, when it’s all said and done, the tried-and-true facts still work the best.  Therefore, in this short article I’m going to break apart the rep range saga so you are better equipped to go forth and build muscle mass.

best rep range for muscle gain

Cherry Picking Your Fitness Goal

While strength, power, muscle gain (hypertrophy), and muscular endurance are all under the same umbrella to some degree, you can cherry pick your goal with weight load and rep range.  Now, this is just a variable.  Strength, muscle gain, and muscle endurance are on a sliding scale and many factors play into the final outcome.

The basic rep rundown is this:

  • 1 – 5 Reps: Neural: Strength, Power, and some Hypertrophy
  • 6 – 8 Reps: Neural & Metabolic: Strength and Hypertrophy
  • 9 – 12 Reps: Metabolic & Neural: Hypertrophy & some Strength
  • 13 – 20+ Reps: Metabolic: Muscular Endurance, some Hypertrophy, and a little Strength

As a lifter you need to be able to read between the lines, with this, and all fitness information.  Yes, these are standards, but standards are greatly affected by the person.  What affects each lift is the load you use and going to complete failure.  Let’s discuss each…

1 – 5 Reps for Strength, Power, and Some Hypertrophy

If you want to build raw, brute strength, you need to be lifting for 1-5 reps per set.  Low reps with extremely heavy poundage builds extreme power and brute strength.  You can gain a little muscle with this tactic, but it’s mostly reserved for the power guys and gals.

Now, keep in mind that just because you lift in the 1-5 rep range does not necessarily mean you are going to amp-up your strength and power.  You have to push or pull a heavy load.  Your weight load should be so heavy that your failure rep is the 5th rep with good form.  If you can do 6 reps with the poundage, you have just slightly slipped over into the strength and hypertrophy phase.  To stay in the power sector, add more weight and lift.

6 – 8 Reps for Strength and Hypertrophy

Training in the 6-8 rep range can help your strength and muscle growth.  Again, just because you do 6-8 reps does not mean you are going to build strength and muscle.  Keep in mind your variables.  You have to employ proper form.  You have to use a weight load that supports 6-8 reps.  If you can’t quite do 6 reps the weight is too heavy, and if you can do more than 8 reps the weight is too light.  Tweak your poundage until you can do 6-8 reps with good form to complete failure.

When you train properly in the 6-8 rep range, you’ll gain primarily strength, followed by muscle growth.  With all rep ranges, your chances of success will be much greater when you eat a balanced diet high in protein and even carbs.

9 – 12 Reps for Hypertrophy and Some Strength

Using the 9-12 rep range is very popular these days.  People seem to equate volume with body transformation.  All rep ranges have their place in a fitness program and all should be used at various times.  The trick is to do it in a structured way.  Twelve is not a magic number.  A rep is a rep.  You muscle doesn’t know the difference.  All your muscle knows is time-under-tension.  It’s up to you to create a rep environment that your muscles can build muscle on.

So, if your goal is to build muscle, the 9-12 rep range is your answer.  Load your weight and start pumping.  If you can’t quite get 9 reps the weight is too heavy and if you can do more than 12 reps the weight is too light.  Tweak your poundage until you find your rep sweet-spot.  This rep range will build muscle, followed by some strength.  Follow the rep protocol for 8-12 weeks and then change your rep range and keep cycling through for best results or to find the tactic that works best for what you are looking for.

13 – 20+ Reps for Muscular Endurance, Some Hypertrophy, and a Little Strength

By now you may see a pattern unfolding.  Heavy weight low reps for power and strength.  Lighter weight more reps for muscle endurance and the most sinful word in the fitness industry, ‘toning’.  Yeah, I said it, only because some people identify with it and relate the meaning to getting lean and fit.

Most people who want to workout but not gain size or extreme muscle can choose this option.  Women tend to lean to the higher reps, as well as those who are overweight.   The 13-20+ rep range is a good tactic to use if you are trying to pull and out-of-shape body together.  It’s also good post-injury, and for those who want to workout but are scared they are going to ‘get too big’ or see the scale go up.  Jumping on the light weight and high reps is a good break too, from extreme heavy training.

As with the above guidelines, if you can’t quite do 13 reps the weight is too heavy.  If you can do more than 25 reps the weight is too light.

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But, What You Really Need to Know is…

The above is just one more bit of information to help you move forward on your muscle gain or overall fitness goal.  When you lift weights, you can actually choose your path, to gain strength, to build muscle, or boost overall muscle endurance.  This allows you to get in control and stay in control.  You have all the power to transform your physique.

Now, grab my free muscle transformation guide below to get more information to make your goal a reality.


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Karen Sessions NSCA-CPT

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My name is Karen Sessions and I am a life-time natural female bodybuilder, multi-certified fitness instructor, author, specialist in performance nutrition, and a success coach. I've been in the fitness industry since 1988! I teach people Just Like You how to transform their bodies, get in shape, build muscle, lose fat and compete in Bodybuilding, Physique, and Figure Competitions. When you have the CORRECT information you can have total confidence and turn your dreams into reality... and I can help transform YOUR body. I have helped THOUSANDS of clients reach their goals and I can help you, too. Be sure to grab my free gift above so you can start moving toward your goal.

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