The Effect of High Rep Training on Strength and Size

In a recent research study(1) a group of researchers set out to explore the impact of lighter weight and higher rep training on muscle mass and function. They designed a study “to compare the adaptive changes in muscle size, contractile strength, and MHC (fiber type) composition evoked by resistance training performed at either low or high contraction intensity (i.e. low or high reps) while equalized for total loading volume”

Specifically, this study compared 10 sets x 36 reps using 15.5% 1RM to 10 sets x 8 reps using 70% 1RM.  The study ran 12 weeks, with 3 workouts each week.

How did the 10×8 program do? It produced a 7.6% increase in muscle size (hypertrophy) and a 35% increase in 1RM (one rep maximum).

Not bad. Not bad at all. And, candidly, not the least bit surprising. Heavy weights and low reps has long been the accepted way to maximize strength and size.

How about the 10×36 reps program? Many would predict that such a “high” rep range would build endurance and, if it didn’t cause an outright decline in strength and size, would surely not increase strength and/or size.  Remember, standard physiological and training wisdom is that more than 20 reps is “endurance” training and endurance training does not increase strength and size. This belief is reflected in the following quote I read on a bodybuilding forum.  “Anything beyond 20 reps is high, and not good for strength gains”.

Anyone who would predict that high reps are good for endurance only would be wrong.

The 10×36 program produced a 19% increase in 1RM and a 2.6% increase in muscle size. Pretty impressive for a program many would call “endurance training”.

There are a couple of things to be learned from this study.  First, this study clearly shows that a program consisting exclusively of heavy weight and low reps produces greater increases in strength and size than a program consisting exclusively of lighter weights and higher reps.  This isn’t any sort of surprise – research over the past 80 years has very consistently shown this same thing.

But there is more to the story than just heavy weights and low reps wins.  The most glaring point to consider is that “high” reps increased strength levels 19% and muscle size 2.6%.  This naturally brings up two questions.  Is this the only study that has shown “high” reps increase strength and size?  And from a physiological standpoint how do higher reps cause strength and size to increase?

There have been multiple studies comparing changes in strength and size from different rep ranges and, despite what conventional wisdom teaches, these studies have consistently shown that higher reps cause increases in both strength and size.  Yes, heavy weights and low reps increase strength and size the most.  But that doesn’t mean higher reps don’t also build strength and size.  Conventional wisdom has incorrectly interpreted the research as “heavy weights and low reps build strength; light weight and high reps build endurance”.  The first lesson from the research is that “light weights and high reps do increase strength, just not as much as lower rep schemes.”

It is important to note that the research has shown that the higher the rep range the smaller the increase in strength and size.  So while reps in range of 25- 35 can build strength an impressive amount, the higher above this that you go the smaller the increases in strength.

There is no getting around the fact that a program of only heavy weights and low reps builds significantly more strength and size than a program of only lighter weight and higher reps. So if you are trying to decide what reps you should exclusively be doing, pick reps less than 20.  But, this study also clearly shows that that conventional strength training thought is inaccurate to some degree. Higher reps do increase strength and size.

This brings us to the second question.  What logical explanation can we come up with to explain these results? By what physiological mechanism could high reps build strength?

The most logical answer is that what conventional physiological and training wisdom call “high” and “endurance” really aren’t particularly “high”, nor are they really “endurance”. It appears that “high” and “endurance” start somewhere far beyond 20 reps.  Exercise doesn’t suddenly transform from “strength” to “endurance” within a matter of a few reps.  Going from 12 reps to 24 reps in the same exercise doesn’t somehow turn the exercise into an “endurance” workout.  Instead, strength and endurance exist on a continuum, with both elements being trained at all reps.  Training at the strength end of the continuum, training between 1-15 reps, increases strength the most and endurance the least.  As you increase the number of reps strength is less affected and endurance is more affected, until at some point you are doing so many reps that changes in strength are no longer measurable.  That point happens somewhere above 150 reps, according to the research.

What the research hasn’t told us is how higher reps built strength and size. What physiological mechanism is at play that causes higher reps to build both strength and size?  If there are different physiological reasons for how low reps build strength and how higher reps build strength, then it raises a fascinating question.  What if you combined low reps with higher reps? What would the results be? If different physiological mechanisms are responsible for the increases in strength and size at different reps then would a combination program of different reps result in better results than single rep programs?  As we have seen higher reps do increase strength and size and if they build strength due to a different mechanism than lower reps there may be some advantage in combining lower rep training with higher rep training.

This study doesn’t answer the question but this one does.  In the meantime, the point is that light weight and high reps are not really “endurance” exercises; high reps are both strength and endurance training and the degree to which they affect strength or endurance depends on the number of reps being performed.

Reference:

Holm L, et al, Changes in muscle size and MHC composition in response to resistance exercise with heavy and light loading intensity, Journal of Applied Physiology, Nov 2008, 105:1454-1461

73 Responses to The effect of high rep training on strength and size

  1. Pingback: The effect of high rep training on strength and size | Training Science

  2. James says:

    I met this man in the video and his muscles were not huge but everything on him was thick. I mean THICK. His hands and joints and connective tissue are solid. He does workouts based on time versus reps. The results are evident.

  3. Pingback: The Guide to Muscular Endurance Training for Weightlifting Beasts

  4. don says:

    Thank you, it seems most people of late, particularly woman think that for true strength gain one needs less weight with more reps. I am an old timer who disagrees.

  5. well i like the post.. but ideally speaking low weight high rep gives u endurance… but it doesn’t mean that their will be no increase in strength of the muscle. at the level of fatigue, their is enough micro rupture of the muscle fiber which will regenerate as a fresh new fiber over a period of time.. which ultimately result in increase in strength. Also we have lot dormant muscle fiber which starts firing if you go for more repetition.

  6. Vanner says:

    10×8=80 reps per session. This still seems pretty high rep to me.

    • Jonathan says:

      There is a difference between high rep and high volume, its not like your doing all 80 reps at once. The rest in between sets makes all the difference.

  7. Mom says:

    All goes back to “what are you training for”, what is your goal?

  8. Dominic says:

    Fascinating article – thanks. Couple of questions. Is it correct therefore to calculate – for the purposes of comparison – a comparative ratio of 1:4.6 improvement for the HWLR v a 1:7.3 improvement for the LWHR? That is for every 1% increase in muscle size you gain 4.6% or 7.3% in overall 1RM strength. I guess it depends on your training goals but if that’s correct then LWHR works for me. Secondly, would you say that the LWHR has more of a cardio element to it in which case is this a better weight training programme if your focus is on lean fitness?

    • Rich says:

      Hi, Dominic.

      I don’t believe it would be accurate to say that for every 1% increase in muscle size you gain 4.6% or 7.3% in overall 1RM strength because there are simply too many variables for that to be true. Primarily due to people have varying levels of genetic talent – some will gain relatively more strength than size while others will gain more size than strength – but also due to other factors such as nutrition, training methods, and lifestyle.

      LWHR does have more of a cardio element than HWLR but I don’t think it is significant enough to make a real difference. Low bodyfat levela are as much or more a function of nutrition as training, in my opinion.

      Cheers,

      Rich

  9. matt says:

    “As we have seen higher reps do increase strength and size and if they build strength due to a different mechanism than lower reps there may be some advantage in combining lower rep training with higher rep training.

    This study doesn’t answer the question but another study that I will discuss in another article does”

    Do you have a link to your other article where you discuss combining high/low rep workouts?

    Otherwise good article, I enjoyed it!

    matt

  10. Chros says:

    I am following Sandows Training, it works. Now I have read about the misconception of high reps being interpreted as endurance exercise.. Anyway, i modified his program a bit and now currently doing 110 reps of 50 pounds, dumbell curls..

  11. Christopher says:

    It would seem reasonable that a person could use a set weight for a very long time before needing to increase resistance if they just used the ten-sets training method and increased repetitions over time.

    Starting with 10 x 8 with 70% 1RM, progressing to 10 x 10, 10 x 12, 10 x 14,…,until 10 x 36 where one might see that that weight is now only ~15% of the trainee’s 1RM. Imagine the strength and conditioning of the legs of a young hockey player or speed skater putting 225 lbs on the bar and then squatting 10 sets of 36 reps, or 50, or 5 sets of 100 reps.

    This could also be useful for people with joint problems that prohibit them from using heavy loads.

  12. Michael says:

    Total rep volume per week for the 10×8 group: 240. Total weekly rep volume for the 10×36 group: 1,080. There isn’t a single advanced level pro bodybuilder that does that much volume per week. I have 18″ arms, a 52″ chest and 28″ thighs, and I’m still not fit enough to do 500 reps a week, let alone 1,080. That’s insane, even for an advanced lifter.

    Just for reference, Kali Muscle does a 500 rep routine, doing as many sets of 20-50 reps as it takes to get 500. That’s once a week per bodypart, not 3x a week. Unlike the untrained individuals selected for this study, he’s a Mr. California title winning bodybuilder, with arms in excess of 20″, who can curl 275 pounds. Not even a guy at his fitness level would do over 1,000 total reps per week, because it would be overtraining.

    Beginners shouldn’t be doing more than 250 total reps per week no matter what the rep protocol, let alone 1,080 reps. It’s amazing that they even grew at all from such a ridiculous workout. If they did the same amount of total reps using an 8-12 rep protocol, they’d lose muscle mass, which demonstrates that even when done improperly, high reps is still better than low reps. They gained strength and mass DESPITE overtraining. That in itself is remarkable.

    I also know from personal experience that this study is flawed. I gained 40 pounds of muscle in 3 years doing 1 set of 50-100 reps per bodypart, 3x a week (150-300 total reps per week). That’s the same rate at which Kali gained muscle after he got out of prison, according to one of his detractors who claims he used steroids. It’s how I know he didn’t use steroids, because I’m natural, and I put on the same amount of muscle in the same timeframe using similar methods. I’ve never met anyone who gained 40 pounds of lean mass in 3 years on sub-maintenance calories doing 8-12 reps. That’s difficult to do with that rep range, even on drugs and a 6,000 calorie diet.

    There are even steroid mass monsters like Rich Piana who swear by high reps; his arms didn’t blow up to 23″ until he started doing 40-50 rep sets for arms. He learned it from other bodybuilders that huge who figured out that they weren’t going to get any bigger doing low reps, no matter how much juice they shoot up.

    There are better studies from both before and after this one that demonstrate that high reps is best for maximizing hypertrophy in the shortest timeframe. Google “myostatin” and “IGF-1″; there’s a few studies that examine the anabolic response from that angle, demonstrating that high reps = increased hypertrophy rates. Anything less than 16 reps is a waste of time, and anything between 20-100 is ideal.

    Over the long stretch, lifting heavy is the slowest way to build muscle, despite what some untrained lifters might gain from it their first 3 months under the bar. That’s why they call them “noob gains”; no one gains muscle at that rate from strength training after the first 3 months, unless they throw in some metabolic work. Even the McMasters study (2010?) demonstrated that with proper volume protocols, high rep and low rep groups gain muscle at the same rate in their first 3 months of training, which renders the findings of this study irrelevant.

    Metabolic work makes muscle grow, not CNS adaptation work. For a total noob, strength training engages them in a certain amount of metabolic taxation necessary to produce initial mass gains, but they quickly adapt to that limited level of metabolic taxation, and end up on a mass gain plateau that can last decades if they don’t switch up to higher reps. (Look at Hugh Jackman for example; he’s been a 3×5 guy for over a decade. He’s nowhere near as big as me). Low reps use glycogen for fuel, high reps use triglyceride and oxygen for fuel. Low reps also increase myostatin production (limits mass gains) whereas high reps decrease myostatin and increase IGF-1 production, and increase protein synthesis 60% over low reps. Strength training is not very metabolic. In fact, it actually slows down metabolic rate, causing increased fat gains when bulking, and it causes vasoconstriction, which contributes to high blood pressure.

    Even combining low and high reps is a waste of time if your main focus is mass gains, because all those low rep sets are a waste of energy that could be put into building tissue post-workout. You still end up with a lower metabolic rate doing combo than you would if all you did was high reps, which means less total mass gains than high reps only. Heavy lifting also causes joint problems, spinal compression, rheumatoid arthritis, and nasty injuries like muscle and tendon tears. I can see how a high rep finisher set would be great for powerlifters to keep from plateauing in strength gains by increasing mass gains, but for someone interested in general fitness or bodybuilding, high-low combos are a complete waste of time.

    Run all this stuff by a well-informed doctor or physical therapist. They’ll tell you the same. Light weights for high reps is the new black. You just can’t overdo it like the group in this study.

  13. John Stchur says:

    Michael, your one set of 50 reps per body part intrigues me. Could you be more specific and reveal which exercises you employed? Also, was it one set to failure? I’m in my mid-sixties, but have never
    stopped training . . . but I don’t think I my age-reduced recovery levels would allow 3 times per week.
    Do you think every 3rd or 4th day would still work. Also, did your strength go up proportionate to your mass gains? Thanks. At my age the low reps/heavy weights approach was killing my joints!

    • Michael says:

      John: one set to failure for one exercise per bodypart, 50-100 reps. If you can, you want to try to add an additional 5 reps each workout by rest-pausing after you reach failure. You can work every muscle in isolation, or you can just do compounds; either way will work, but if you have recuperation problems, then compounds-only is best. All I do is bench press, bent row and squat, and that hits everything. I use dumbbells, so I use a hammer grip for bench press and bent rows, but if you’re using a barbell, a wide, supinated grip works best.

      3 days a week whole-body is fine. When you do one set of high reps per bodypart, it doesn’t phase your recovery that much. You might feel a little sore on rest days at first, but you adapt pretty quickly. I had my 68 year old father try my routine 3x a week, and he wasn’t sore past the first week. his main problem at first was his shoulders, because he’s had shoulder surgery. He didn’t get much muscle soreness, though.

      Because the volume is minimal, you can even train whole-body 6 days a week if you want. I have exercise intolerance from variegate porphyria, but I can still manage to train whole body 6 days a week this way. 3 days a week will work for awhile, but you eventually hit a plateau, and the only way to continue growing will be to either increase sets per workout or train more often.

      When you train high frequency, it increases your recuperation rate, so if you can manage it, it’s actually better to train 6 days a week. That’s something I learned when I was getting therapy for a lumbar sprain. They had me do one set each of several high rep exercises, every day, and I recuperated very quickly. It’s like doing a set of pushups every day; you get used to it pretty quicky. Every day except Sunday, I do a half hour of aerobics, then the weights, and I don’t sore from it. I feel energized, and I actually have less lower back soreness training 6 days than I did when I was training 3 days.

      I don’t know what sort of equipment you use, but if you’re stuck with free weights, you might want to try 25-50 reps for starters, until you know how you’ll fare on squats. When I started training super high reps, I couldn’t do 50 bodyweight-only squats, so I had to start in the 25-50 rep range. Same protocol: one set to failure. When you can do at least 50 squats without weight, move up to the 50-100 rep range.

      Yes, your strength will increase in proportion to your mass gains, although it might not seem like it because you take longer to add weight with such a high rep range. Mass gains = relative increases in maximal strength potential. I can bench over 400 pounds now, compared to benching 200 for 5 reps when I first switched to high reps.

      You don’t need to train heavy to get stronger. As long as you add reps every week and then add weight to the bar when you reach 100 reps, your strength will increase. If you compare results on PR’s of a typical low-rep lifter and a high rep lifter over several years, the strength increases are pretty much the same. The body can only grow so fast, and can only gain so much mass and strength over a particular length of time, no matter what training method is used. As long as you’re increasing reps and load, you can increase strength in any rep range.

      If you can’t manage 3 days a week, then try cutting back to 2, but I don’t think you’ll have a problem with it. Give it a try; you’ll figure it out. It’s a hell of an endurance workout; that’s for sure. You’ll get real winded and a good deal of lactic acid burn, particularly on squats, but stick with it, and you’ll see results.

  14. Michael: Thanks so much for being so specific. I feel I can now proceed with a high-rep program without worrying about losing strength. Really, at 67 — just one year younger than your dad — I have no choice.
    The heavy weights/low reps/many sets approach was taking a toll on my joints. I would like to keep you posted on how it’s working. Do you check this site often enough that posting here would be the best way? BTW, what part of the country do you live in? I’m a Michigander but spend an ever-increasing number of weeks in Florida each year.

    • Michael says:

      I get email notifications, so anything you share here I’ll read.

      I was having the same problems with my joints, which is why I went super high rep. I read somewhere online that some people get great gains doing reps that high, and that it’s good arthritis therapy, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it out. Besides, I’m more interested in overall fitness than competing in any iron game sport, and at the time I was basically just looking for a maintenance and weight loss program to stay in shape. The mass gains were a happy plus.

      I live in California.

      Anyways, I’m always interested in hearing what it does for others. Whatever your results, be sure to let us know.

      • david dicicco says:

        wow this is very interesting and exciting .It confirms what I’ve been believing over the past year.Im 44 and I’ve been doing 20 rep sets on most stuff and have gotten stronger and bigger .I decided to switch to low reps this week and feel achy in a bad way , tonight i squatted 335 for sets of 6 and felt like i was going to tear something i wasn’t straining and felt like i could have done 10 reps but I’m not used to heavy low rep training .I Normally squat 225 for 6 sets of 20 to 30 reps and i feel great a real rush no aches either.Im going to try this 3 day plan with the bench row and squat i believe i can rest pause 225 for 100 on squat right now idk for 3 days a week though lol but I’m up for the challenge and after reading this i believe il get size from it .Btw I’m from troy michigan john .

  15. Jimbo says:

    Interesting idea’s on this page.

    Couldn’t help wondering if you did say 15 sets of 5 based on your 5rm what would happen. In theory we should get stronger (cause of the 5rm) and also gain strength endurance because of the volume, if we keep the rest perdiods short… say no more than 30 sec.

    Wonder how that would work?

    Any thoughts?

    • Michael says:

      If you started with your 5 rep max on the first set, you’d have to decrease poundage several times to get through all 15 sets.

      Even if you started with a submaximal weight to make the first few sets warmup sets, it would wreak havoc on your body if you did that very often. Doing it once a week on a bodypart split would be worse than doing a 5×5 3x a week, because despite the additional rest time, you get repetitive stress injuries from trying to do all those heavy sets in one workout. Even doing 5×5 year-round can mess you up; take it from my personal experience with that. If you’re a total noob you’ll get some fast initial gains for maybe 3 months, but after that, it’ll taper off to almost nothing. You’ll also have the repetitive stress injuries if you keep it up.

      Not even powerlifters train that way. They do some variation of periodization or pyramiding; they don’t lift maximal poundages for low reps year-round. Even so, most guys who’ve been training like that for 20-30 years have back, hip and shoulder problems (I’m one of them). The reality is that lifting in the higher rep ranges doesn’t offset the damage caused by lifting in the lower rep ranges; in the long run, you’re better off not lifting heavy at all, or only once every three months at the very most to determine PR’s.

      Low reps (anything below 20) are for strength, higher reps are for size. Some people think they can trigger hypertrophy with high volume heavy lifting, because the longer you lift, the more you exhaust the fast twitch fibers and switch over to the medium and slow twitch fibers (the ones that have the greatest potential for size increase). To some degree it works, but by increasing the number of steps you have to go through to achieve the end effect, you undermine that effect. You have to do at least 10 sets of low reps to exhaust the fast twitch fibers enough to switch, so you’re basically doing a lot of wasted sets that cut into recovery and tissue growth.

      With super high reps, you do it on every set, because fast twitch fiber exhaustion is time-under-tension dependent, not load dependent. For example, if you swing your arms around for more than a minute, you exhaust all your fast twitch and medium twitch fibers and switch over to aerobic activity (slow twitch fibers). They won’t grow because the stress isn’t enough at any point to trigger a hypertrophy response (i.e. you never achieve momentary muscle failure or come anywhere close), but it demonstrates that any activity of long duration will exhaust fast twitch fibers, regardless of load.

      Contrary to all the slow-to-fast urban legends circulating on the internet, it works the same with weight training, going from fast twitch to slow twitch as you switch from glycogen utilization to triglyceride utilization (anaerobic to aerobic). When you do low reps, you have to do a boatload of sets to switch, because your TUT is never high enough in any single set to break through the glycogen barrier. You end up fighting against your own fast twitch recovery. With super high reps, you switch to medium twitch after the first 20 reps, and to slow twitch after reaching 50. If you fail somewhere in the 25-100 rep range, you get medium and slow twitch hypertrophy. You get bigger faster doing that than from doing less than 20 reps for a bunch of sets. You also get fast twitch hypertrophy by way of total anabolic effect, which is why you still gain strength even if all you do is high reps. It doesn’t work out that way if you train low rep; you just get strength gains with minimal hypertrophy.

      It requires a lot more energy and does a lot more damage doing say, 10×10 (or your 15×5), than it does doing one set of 25-50 or 50-100 reps. In the end, you get less hypertrophy with high volume heavy lifting, because a) you still have all that myostatin buildup from heavy lifting suppressing hypertrophy, b) you don’t sufficiently fatigue medium and fast twitch fibers, c) you don’t get the increased IGF-1 production and increased protein synthesis that you would get from high reps, and d) because the energy requirements of repairing the damage caused by heavy lifting are too high.

      When doing a conventional high volume, low rep routine, to get past the repair cycle into the tissue remodeling cycle, you have to eat a lot more food; plan on gobbling down 5,000-6,000 calories a day, which is hard on your system. The more damage done, the more repair required to get to the actual growth phase. The less damage done, the less repair is needed, and the more growth can occur, with less utilization of energy. You also have to consider that with heavy lifting, you get the increased myostatin production inhibiting muscle growth, and you can’t overcome that by simply increasing set volume. With super high reps, you don’t get the myostatin problem or the damage problem. All you get is the increased hypertrophy response from increased IGF-1 production and protein synthesis, muscular endurance conditioning, and cardiovascular conditioning.

      My first 3 years of training super high rep, I gained 40 pounds of lean while on a maintenance diet. I never made gains anywhere near that significant doing traditional high volume training, even when I was gobbling enough food to get fat. Anyone who makes gains that good on a traditional program is on something; they’re spending a lot of money on supplements or drugs, because without them, heavy lifting simply cannot make a person grow that fast past their first year of training.

      Also to consider is that heavy lifting is completely anaerobic, which means that you never get enough blood (and nutrients) to the connective tissues to cause sufficient connective tissue growth to keep up with strength increases. That’s why strength athletes and heavy training bodybuilders get muscle and tendon tear injuries. With high reps, everything grows in balance, so you don’t get those problems. Lifting light also offsets and even heals damage caused by arthritis due to the increased flushing effect, whereas heavy lifting actually increases arthritic damage. If you don’t already have arthritis, repetitive heavy lifting can cause it.

      The body has structural limitations. If you don’t observe those parameters, you will do permanent damage that you will come to regret. If you’re into competitive powerlifting or strongman, have at it, but if you’re mainly interested in bodybuilding or overall, long-term fitness, you’re better off with high reps. Less damage, more growth, more health.

      The human body was not designed for repetitive maximal load bearing activities; it was designed for short-term maximal load bearing activities (sprinting, lifting heavy objects) and repetitive minimal load bearing activities (walking long distances, and carrying/swinging light objects for long periods). Think about it: hunting requires tracking game for long distances, rendering a kill-strike to the animal, and then tracking it for more miles to find its dead body if the kill-strike doesn’t immediately cause its death. Gathering requires similar long duration exertion; so does farming. There is no natural adversity that would require us to rely on fast twitch, heavy load bearing activity for long periods of time. That’s why the musculoskeletal system is designed the way it is. If you don’t respect that, you will screw yourself up.

      If you do a single set 50-100 reps routine, you won’t see quick gains on the bar, because you have to increase your reps by 50 before adding weight. But you do add more weight each progression than with a 5-10 rep progression range, so it all balances out. If you do a 5×50 rep routine, you’ll see the same gains on the bar as you would if you did a 5×5 routine, because the load-increasing parameters are the same as for 5×5. If you need to see that sort of thing to stay motivated, stick with 5×50 once or twice a week per bodypart. If you don’t need to see constant gains on the bar to convince yourself that you’re getting results, do the whole body, 1 set of 25-50 or 50-100 reps thing, 3-6 days a week. Either way, in the long-term, your strength gains will be the same.

      Whether you lift heavy or light, your strength gains will be the same in the long-term, because strength gains are load progression dependent, not load size dependent. If you add 50 pounds to a lift, it doesn’t matter whether you used a 3-5 rep protocol, a 5-10 rep protocol, or some repetition range well above 20; a 50 pound strength gain is a 50 pound strength gain, regardless of method.

      • Jimbo says:

        Thank you for your answer.

        its not often that i get an answer that has both good reasoning and common sense behind it, you clearly know what your talking about,

        I have also tried the low rep heavy weight and got nothing more than injuries and fatigue.. and a little size

        You mentioned that with the super high reps that it would increase IGF-1 production and protein synthesis, muscular endurance conditioning, and cardiovascular conditioning.

        Those are exactly what im looking for Muscular endurance and cardio conditioning in particular.

        Just to confirm that i have the correct thinking a routine like all compound exercises split into push one day pull the next at around 50 reps for each exercise is about right? and increase the weight when i get to 50 reps?

        Or do the reps need to go higher?

        Thanks for your help and thoughts

        • Michael says:

          Yeah, that works. Work it like a 5×5 program, but with 50 reps, each bodypart twice a week. Start with your 50 rep max, and keep using that weight until you can do all 5 sets for 50 reps, then add 10 pounds, repeat. You don’t ever go above 50 reps when you do it this way; you just make it your goal to get 50 reps on all 5 sets. That way, you don’t burn yourself out going to failure on every single set of every single workout.

          You don’t want to go over 500 reps a week total, so for a 5x program, you have to stick with 50 reps on a twice a week schedule, or do a 10×50 for each bodypart on a once a week bodypart split (that’s totally hardass; I don’t recommend it unless you’re very advanced and you need a bodypart split to add in arm days and such). If you want to increase your rep range per set, stick with whole body, 1 set per bodypart, 50-100 reps, 6 days a week. That, or do a 5×100 once a week per bodypart.

          If you can’t even get 50 reps doing bodyweight squats, try doing it 5×25 until you get your squat weight up enough to at least be able to manage 50 bodyweight squats. Super high rep squats are very difficult; I still can’t squeeze out more than around 70 bodyweight squats, and I have 28″ thighs. Keep in mind, an upper rep limit of 500 a week is advanced training, so you might want to start out with a 5×25 program anyways, just to get up the stamina to pull off a 5×50. Either that, or do a single set of 25-50 6x a week.

          For a bulking diet, keep it simple; figuring grams per pound of bodyweight for each macro, eat your bodyweight + 100 grams of carbs (i.e. if you weigh 200 pounds, eat 300 grams), and around a gram per pound of bodyweight in protein. Make sure to get in enough fats, too; stick with whole fat foods so you get in at least a gram per pound of bodyweight in fat. You gotta have the saturated fat in your diet to fuel hormone production, and because it’s the easiest way to increase your calories (9 calories per gram, compared to only 4 per gram of carbohydrate). If that’s too much food and you gain more than a pound a week, drop 50 grams of carbs. If that’s not enough, drop 50 grams of fat. Go back and forth from there a little at a time until your weight gains are no more than a pound a week. You don’t want to gain any more weight than that per week, or you’ll get real fat. Some of it will be fat anyways at a pound a week, but that’s okay. It’s extra fuel for your muscle gains. If you’re not gaining a pound a week on my macro suggestions, add extra carbs.

          For cutting, drop down to a total of 1500 calories per day, keeping your protein grams at around a half a gram per pound of bodyweight, and cutting everything else to get down to 1500 calories. Don’t go too low on fat, though; less than 30 grams a day is bad for your health. Decrease the sodium too, because that will keep your potassium up so you won’t get all crampy. Either way, bulking or cutting, be sure to get lots of water; I drink a minimum of 4 pints a day. Carbs and water bloat your muscles, which gives you room to grow, like blowing up a balloon in a plaster cast and then filling the space with meat.

          You also want to do a half hour of light cardio before starting each workout, whether you’re bulking or cutting. That helps to tap into your fat reserves so that you have triglycerides and other stuff immediately available when you pick up the weights. It also helps to keep you from getting fat from the additional calories in your diet.

          If you go all hardcore with the diet to maximize gains, you want to limit your bulks to 6 months and cuts to 3 months. If you bulk for a whole year, you’ll get super fat, and then have to spend a whole year cutting. I eat maintenance calories year-round; I don’t mind if my gains are a little slower, because I’m mostly doing this for overall fitness.

          When you hit a plateau, just switch your routine up according to the parameters I’ve provided. For example, if you’ve been doing 5×50 for awhile and your progress stalls, you can try 5×25, 5×100 once a week per bodypart, or do a 1 set routine for awhile. The 1 set variations are good, because you can use rest-pause methods to make your progression in reps faster, which gives it extra shock value. For example, doing 50-100 reps, I aim to add 5 extra reps past failure on each exercise, every day.

          Anyways, that’s what’s been working for me. I haven’t even been that serious about mass gains, just sticking with a maintenance calorie diet, but I still managed to gain 40 pounds the first 3 years, and an additional 10 pound this last year. I started with a 3x a week 1 set program; that held up for 3 years, then stopped working the fourth because I outgrew it. Then I upped my reps per week last year by hitting whole body 6x a week, and started gaining again. That 10 pounds came in 6 months.

          It’s like any other training protocol; you’ll have intermittent periods of fast gains followed by periods of no gains. You just have to stick with it, and switch things up once in awhile to keep it fresh.

          If you want to supercharge your workouts and increase your rate of gain, look into creatine. It’s also good for getting off of plateaus. I’ve seen guys make some serious gains on that stuff. Most people who use it properly claim it’s as good as steroids, but without all the dangers. You also get to keep all the mass you gained when you go off of it, unlike steroids.

          Anyways, try this stuff out, switch it up a little if necessary to figure out which version you can tolerate for starters, and let us know how it’s working for you in a month. Just keep in mind this is a pretty hardcore method; don’t expect it to be as easy as low rep methods if you decide to do a multiple set routine.

          If you want to see someone else’s take on this, look up Kali Muscle’s channel on YouTube. He has a series of videos that he calls his “500 hunnit” series, and lots of other videos with good info. He works out different than I do, but it all works out the same. All his working sets are at least 20 reps, and he aims for 500 total reps each workout. He’s way more jacked than I am. The biggest guys in prison train this way; that’s where he learned it.

  16. stchur says:

    Michael: I am still unclear on a few aspects of a super high rep program
    1) I find there are two kinds of “failure.” With nonstop repetitions — no pause whatsoever at either the top
    or the bottom of each rep — I find I reach failure rather quickly. However, with a brief pause (for
    example, holding the bar at the bottom of each curl for a quick two or three breaths) after the initial
    25 or 30 nonstop reps, I find I can grind out many more reps before a combination of oxygen debt and
    muscle fatigue make further reps impossible. Which kind of failure should I shoot for?
    2) Regarding gains in strength: If one increases their ability to, say, curl a weight for 50 reps by 15
    pounds, has it been your experience that their one rep max would also be up 15 pounds? You men-
    tioned Kali Muscle being able to curl 275 pounds. Did he develop that kind of strength with high rep
    training, or did he do more traditional strength training earlier in his career?

    Thanks,
    John Stchur (“t” & “c” are silent – Shur)

    • Michael says:

      Hey John, if you’re going for 50 reps, use a weight you can pump for 50 reps non-stop. What you’re doing is called rest-pausing; you failed when you hit the last non-stop rep, and everything past that is a forced rep. If your rep range starts at 50, use a weight you can do non-stop for 50 reps.

      Read my last response to Jimbo; lots of info there for creating a program that will suit you. If you’re not strong enough yet to manage a 50 rep program with the lightest weights you have, try a 25 rep program. This is an advanced training method; you have to build up your strength first.

      You can do rest-pause reps to increase the intensity and speed up your progression in reps, but you gotta hit that lower end of your rep range first. That’s your foundation point.

      Also, it’s pointless to try to lock out on every rep when you train like this; you could hurt yourself if you try. My range of motion is never more than 3/4. Always keep your elbows or knees bent a little when you extend you arms or come up out of a squat.

      Also, focus on compounds; don’t worry about isolation exercises. I have 18″ arms, but I haven’t done curls for 10 years. That’s all from benching and rowing. Compounds work everything. All I do is bench press, bent rows and squats, but I’m not lacking in the arms, shoulders, calves, hamstrings, abs or forearms. Even my neck is thick. You don’t need to bother with stuff like curls and pressdowns until you have some serious mass, and even then, the only reason to do isolation exercises is for shaping the muscles. If you’re not a bodybuilder prepping for a contest, it’s a complete waste of time and energy.

      Strength is strength. Your maximal strength potential will increase across the board if you used high reps to make the gain, because you increased your muscle mass to get that strength gain; mass is the bottom line determiner of force output potential. That said, you can’t just shuttle back and forth to test your max poundage in diversely different rep ranges. If you do that, it’ll appear that you’ve lost strength, because super high reps and low reps require a different neurological and energy system adaptation.

      If you really want to know, train high rep for 3-6 months, then test for PR’s after training heavy pyramids for a week to adapt your brain to that sort of signal processing. Whatever you gain on your 50 RM, you’ll definitely see the same gain on your 1 RM, maybe even more. It’s not an exact correlation, so don’t expect pound-for-pound gains in different rep ranges.

      That said, my bench press has doubled since I started doing this, so short answer, yes. Currently, I bench and row 50 pound dumbbells for 50 reps, up from 20′s when I started. On the barbell, I’ve progressed from 200 pounds 5 RM to 400 pounds 5 RM. It took 5 years, but that’s not bad for not even trying. Up until recently, my routine has been minimal, just for maintenance purposes. If I had done a 5×50 routine, I’d be a lot stronger.

      As for Kali Muscle, he learned his current methods in prison. In prison, those guys don’t have time to spin their wheels doing anything that won’t make them as big as possible as quick as possible. In prison, image is everything; the bigger man has the power. They do high rep training for size, because it works. He trained heavy for football when he was in high school, but he didn’t get very big or very strong from it; he didn’t get jacked until he went to prison. I’ve never seen anything in any of his videos to indicate that he trained anything but high rep after learning it in prison. He lifts heavy in videos sometimes to show people how strong he really is, but he doesn’t train that way. He even tells people not to train that way, because it doesn’t work for size, and the risk of injury is too high. In his own words, he tries to keep all his working sets above 20 reps.

      Anyways, look him up on Youtube. His story is fascinating. There’s other big guys who talk about doing high reps for size–Jason English, Rich Piana, to name a few. Shawn Ray once said he built his mass with 50 rep sets. Whatever big weights you see those guys pumping for super high reps, you can be sure that they can max out with at least 3x that much. I’ve watched Jason English do a 100 rep set of bench presses with a 135 pound barbell; he can max out at around 450, if I remember correctly. That’s pretty good for a guy who’s had shoulder surgery and has a bad elbow. His rep range is mostly between 20 and 50, unless he’s doing a collaboration video with someone who trains differently.

      Strength doesn’t always equal size, but mass always equals strength. You can’t build a 54″ chest and 20″ arms without getting a 500 pound max bench press. Unless you’re talking about synthol, there’s no such thing as fake muscle. Focus on getting bigger, and the strength will follow. When you can bench 50 pound dumbbells for 50 reps, you’ll definitely see a difference in how much extra strength you have in your daily activities. Max strength is good for doing something maximally heavy once; it’s no good for things like walking up stairs or moving furniture all day. There’s really no comparison between the two.

      Even powerlifters have to do higher rep ranges to up their mass (look up periodization and pyramiding), because without extra mass, they can’t get any stronger past a certain point. If you look at their total volume of work in each rep range, they actually do a lot more high reps than low reps. I’ve seen guys that get religious about a program like 5×5, and they get some good strength gains for a year, and then they don’t gain any more strength or size for 10 years. No mass gains = limited strength gains.

      Anyways, I hope that helps.

  17. stchur says:

    Michael, again, thanks so much. I have already begun my high rep program but, till now, was doing it with a feeling of guilt because I had to back off in weight so drastically compared to poundages used in a more conventional program. But the more conventional program was beating me up and producing no gains! Your response has given me more confidence that high reps are the way to go — plus, already my joints are feeling better.

    I’m doing squats, ez bar curls, dumbbell bench and bent rows one day . . . and deadlifts, seated press
    and shoulder-width upright rows only to bottom rib on the next day. Then I rest a day, except for a very
    small amount of ab and oblique work. Then I repeat that cycle.

    Maybe I should eliminate curls, although they were always a point of pride because they were the one
    exercise that I was a “natural” at, being disproportionately strong in them, compared to any kind of
    pressing . . .

    • Michael says:

      Yeah, no problem.

      Yeah, using puny little weights is weird at first, especially if you train at a gym, but you get used to it. As I did, you’re getting that immediate relief of some joint pain, so that’s a good indication you’ve found something suitable to your needs. It also ups your energy levels, so you’ll probably notice that too after a week or so.

      Your routine sounds about right, but yeah, you might want to lay off the arm exercises and let the rest of your body catch up. Compound-only routines are great for balancing things out. As long as you’re using a hammer grip or supinated grip, you’ll get more than adequate arm work from the pressing and rowing.

      If you have shoulder problems, you should eliminate the upright rows as well, but if it’s not a problem, then no worries. Ab work is optional; anything else you do is going to work your abs as stabilizers, so most people don’t need to bother with crunches and whatnot.

      Some say deadlifts are great, others not so great, but if they don’t bother your back, they can’t hurt. Personally, I’ve always had back problems when I do them, so I just get by with squats.

      Also, try warming up with 30 minutes of light cardio, keeping your pulse somewhere in the 100-120 bpm neighborhood; that helps with weight management, and it preps you for the weights by tapping into your fat stores. Contrary to popular belief, the cardio also increases the anabolic response you get from the weight training, so even if you’re trying to bulk up, it’s always good to add that in. That has always made a huge difference for me, both in fat loss and muscle gain.

      I don’t know your fitness, but if you’re obese and you really want to ramp up the fat loss, you can do an hour of cardio in the morning, then weights, then another hour of cardio at night. There are some people who say cardio is worthless, but from experience, I’ve never known that to be true.

      Anyways, holler back in a month to let us know how that’s working out for you.

  18. Jimbo says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you so much for the reply’s i have read both the reply to myself and stchur. Brilliant advice i will get rid of my 30 rep rest pause at 10rm and move onto your program..it looks a lot more joint friendly!!

    i will be very interested in how it effects my low rm lifts… not that it matters a lot as you said its more important that you can walk up stair or in my case change a tyre both are muscle endurance more than just one big lift..

    Thinking on it some more… its basically what they do in the Defence forces… lots of high rep push ups,sit ups squats, etc I don’t ever recall weights being mentioned in the service unless it was for a particular reason..sport etc

    Thanks again

    ok im off to look at 500 hunnit.

    Jimbo

    • Michael says:

      Yeah, that’s a good analogy. Military training is mostly high rep bodyweight stuff. It seems counter-intuitive, but it works great if you don’t overdo it and you add in progressive resistance. My cousin was in the army, and after bootcamp, he did high reps in the gym. He’s as big as I am from it.

      Typo correction: it’s listed as 5-hunnit series, not 500 hunnit. His method is pretty hardcore; it took me 18 sets to get 500 total reps for squats, and the soreness from any workout lasts a whole week and makes moving around difficult. It’s easier on your body to break it down into multiple workouts.

      Anyways, whatever you end up doing, let us know how it works out for you.

  19. George says:

    So I started this last week. I’m going to do 5 X 25-50 on a split. I used 40 lb dumbells for the bench and got 30,30,25,25,25 last week. Today I got 40,30,30,17,20. I was blown out by the 4th set because I got 100 reps on the first 3 sets compared to 85 last session, but then only wound up getting only 2 more total reps today because I burned out. How do you progress on this thing? Do you try to keep all the sets equal reps or do you go for it like I did today?

    • Michael says:

      25-50 reps is the protocol for a 1 set per bodypart workout. When you do it that way, you start with your fail 25 weight, and try to add reps each workout until you hit 50, then add 10 pounds, repeat. It’s just a general range, with 50 reps being the cap. You don’t go below 25 or above 50.

      If you’re doing a 5x program, you want to do it 5×50: start with your fail 50 weight, and keep using that weight each workout until you can get 50 reps on all 5 sets. you don’t go over 50 reps as you progress in strength; you’re just working towards getting 50 reps on all 5 sets. When you achieve that, add 10 pounds on your next workout, repeat.

      When you do multiple sets, you don’t need to go to failure on every set of every workout. Each time you get another 50 rep set, you get a little bit of a break with the non-failure sets of 50. That way, you don’t burn out from going to failure all the time, and you progress in strength faster.

      Don’t worry about the total rep count when you do it this way; just hit each exercise twice a week, and make it your goal to get 50 reps on all five sets. Don’t worry about doing forced reps or rest-pause to get 50 on all 5; just go to failure on each set that you can’t get 50 reps, and keep using that weight until you can get 50 on all 5. Your total rep range per week and total sets to failure per week will be sufficient for growth, but not too much to cause overtraining.

  20. George says:

    Just one observation so far on the 5X program 3 days recovery is not enough.

    • Michael says:

      If you’re new to this, you’ll still feel sore when the second workout day comes around. You have to push through it; you adapt after a few weeks. If the soreness is too bad, drop down to a 5×25 program. If you can’t even manage that, then you’re not ready for a multi-set program; you’ll have to drop down to a whole body, 1 set per bodypart program.

      • George says:

        I wasn’t sore, it was fatigue I just wasn’t recovered. I was doing 5X20 before this 2-3 times per week. I’m just not used to the volume. I’ll go back Tuesday, that’ll be 5 days, I should be recovered by then. If not I’ll push through. I’ll tighten it when my recovery catches up.

  21. Bob L says:

    smmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmMichael, when you mentioned TUT I remembered something from theories of Mike Mentzer. Everyone talks about heavy weight and low reps but the funny thing is, he didn’t advocate that at all. The low reps were indeed low but the duration of the reps were 4 seconds up and 4 seconds down with a 2 second pause in contraction. That’s the equivilent of about 25 or more normal reps by my calcuation and that’s not heavy weight and low reps, that’s low weight and high reps but done differntly. I wonder what difference it would be just to focus on time under tension. Mentzer’s frequency was way too low except for all the extra techniques after the set ended that made it once a week or more. I’m very interested if you are still making gains and if you’re on a 6 day a week plan (whole body 6X’s a week)? Thanks

    • Michael says:

      I was making great gains on the 6 days a week single set program. But I plateaued on that program a month ago, so I recently switched to 5×50. The progression protocol is different; you add weight to the bar more frequently with 5×50. I’ve only been doing it for a week, so it’s too soon to tell what my mass gains will be on the new program. I already made a 10 pound gain on all 3 exercises, so that’s a good sign.

      As for slow reps, they’re nowhere near as effective for increasing strength or mass as lifting explosively. Here’s why:

      Slow lifting: no force multiplication. Fast lifting: force multiplication. Fast lifting for high reps = pounds of force further multiplied by total number of reps. For a simple math example, let’s assume that the actual poundage is multiplied by 5 to get the actual pounds of force generated by explosive lifting: if you lift a 100 pound barbell for 50 fast reps (500 x 50), that’s a total of 25,000 pounds lifted. If you lift a 200 pound barbell for 10 fast reps (1,000 x 10), that’s only 10,000 total pounds lifted. If you’re lifting 150 pounds for 10 slow reps, you only get 1,500 total pounds lifted because there is no multiplication of force caused by acceleration.

      The multiplication of force by way of acceleration is what causes the tissue damage that must be repaired, because greater force = greater impact = greater tissue trauma. Nothing to repair means no need for hypertrophy. So even though the higher TUT from slow lifting produces about the same amount of IGF-1 as lifting fast for high reps because lactate production during anaerobic glycolysis is about the same, there’s nowhere near as much tissue damage, so the rate of growth can never be the same. Those differences in force are why fast low reps are great for strength but not size (not enough reps to cause the energy pathway switch necessary for maximum IGF-1 production, not enough tissue damage), fast high reps are great for size (optimum IGF-1 production and tissue damage), and slow low reps (no significant tissue damage) are inferior for either. Even doing high reps slowly will not cause enough tissue damage to necessitate a significant hypertrophy response.

      That’s why the only people you ever see with big muscles from HIT are on drugs. For naturals, it’s the worst way to train, because explosive lifting produces more damage, and therefore more hypertrophy. Even a sedentary person will gain muscle mass on steroids, so any program at all, no matter how stupid, will make a juicer grow faster than a typical natural lifter.

      Check out Ellington Darden’s site sometime. He has lots of before and after photos of people using his brand of HIT, and he goes on and on about how significant those gains are for natural lifters, but if you compare their results to the results of people using other training methods, you can see he’s just talking out his ass. There’s lots of photos of people who lost some fat and gained just enough muscle to prevent a loss of inches on the arms and chest, but no significant growth.

      Doing high reps, I gained inches on my arms while losing fat. I gained 40 pounds in three years, despite a reduction in my waist measurement. That means I had to gain a lot more than 40 pounds of muscle in those three years to compensate the fat loss. That 40 pound weight gain was actually 60 pounds of muscle gain and 20 pounds of fat loss. That’s why I managed to add 2″ to my arms in that time, despite losing a lot of fat off my arms. I gained another 10 pounds this last year and an additional inch on my arms, which means I had to gain 20 pounds of muscle, which means I lost an additional 10 pounds of fat during that time. I’ve never seen any natural lifter on a HIT program do anything remotely similar while losing fat.

      Jones’ Nautilus experiments with Casey Viator are just plain fake. He claims Casey made huge mass gains in a month flat (28 pounds, which is physiologically impossible), and tries to back it up with some undated before and after pictures that look more like they were taken several years apart. Casey was on steroids during the experiment, and he admitted to after-hours training sessions off campus, using conventional high volume methods, so he did make some decent mass gains during that month. But even on steroids, it’s not possible for a person to gain 28 pounds of lean mass in single a month. There isn’t a single drug or any combination of drugs in the world that can cause such a rapid rate of protein synthesis and tissue remodeling, nor is there any training method that can cause that, whether or not drugs are involved.

      So basically, HIT is a bunch of bullshit conjured up by Arthur Jones to sell Nautilus machines. You get some fast, short-term strength gains because of how your brain adapts to the change in time parameter by increasing signals to your muscles (great trick for convincing people that Nautilus machines work better than conventional weights), but that’s all it is: a trick. After a month or two, you plateau in strength gains, because there simply isn’t enough there to make your body keep adapting. It violates every weight training principle, as demonstrated in this article:

      http://drsquat.com/content/articles/hit-hammer

      Some of the science cited by Hatfield is outdated and doesn’t really apply to a high rep training protocol, but the principles are all still valid as it applies to the differences between slow lifting and explosive lifting.

      HIT violates the Law of Individual Differences by assuming a one-size-fits-all training protocol: same sets and reps for all people, despite differences in gender, fitness, etc. SHRT (super high rep training) is an advanced set of training protocols, and has levels of intensity to suit different fitness levels of advanced lifters.

      HIT violates the Overcompensation principle (nature compensating for trauma by hypertrophying muscles) by violating the Overload principle by eliminating explosive lifting. SHRT increases overcompensation by implementing the Overload principle.

      HIT violates the SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands) by presuming that one rep range works for everything, when the HIT rep range and tempo only works for short-term strength gains. SHRT observes the SAID principle by acknowledging that optimum hypertrophy is a demand-specific adaptation, reliant on maximizing force without overtraining.

      HIT violates the Use/Disuse principle by focusing on one aspect of development to the neglect of others. SHRT can be adapted to maximally increase both strength and size gains by manipulating the repetition and weight progression protocols (i.e. 5×50 instead of 1×25-50 or 1×50-100). There are other ways to manipulate a SHRT program to extend periods of gain, such as utilization of the century set method, use of drop sets, changes in workout frequency, etc., all of which stimulate additional strength gains while stimulating mass gains.

      HIT violates the GAS principle (general adaptation syndrome) by insisting on going to failure on every set of every workout, year-round, with no emphasis on the need for periods of decreased intensity or detraining periods. SHRT makes no such presumption; in the single set versions where failure is always utilized, if no intentional vacations are taken to detrain, one will naturally burn out and take time off anyways. With the 5 set method, there are undulating degrees of intensity, because not all sets are taken to failure every workout. HIT is not strenuous enough to require detraining periods, so the body readily adapts to the stress of going to failure all the time and enters a long period of equilibrium (the plateau).

      HIT violates the Specificity principle by not utilizing explosive movements, and by not using rep ranges specific to hypertrophy, despite claiming to be ideal for hypertrophy. SHRT is primarily designed for increasing hypertrophy in advanced lifters who have outgrown lower rep ranges; strength gains are a secondary concern.

      I’ve never seen clear evidence that HIT worked for anyone who wasn’t on drugs. Mentzer didn’t even get big using HIT; he got big doing high volume training and using drugs. Any gains he made from HIT while on juice were because of the shock value of switching programs during a plateau, not from any actual benefit of doing HIT. After he quit the juice, he shriveled up just like anyone else that stops juicing and continues to train heavy for low reps. In fact, his muscle losses were worse than most. He was completely average in his last years. In the last video he ever filmed, he was a mere shadow of his former self. That’s despite his application of his own training methods.

      The principles outlined by Hatfield can’t be violated if you’re to maximize mass gains; there’s simply no way around that. SHRT doesn’t violate any of them. Most HIT programs violate all of them.

      Darden tries to get around it by adding in some periodization features (increasing tempo or reps, specialization routines, etc.), but due to the violation of the Overload principle by eliminating explosive lifting, any differences in rate of gains or length of gain periods is mediocre.

      HIT is useful as a shock technique to get off a strength plateau because it tricks your brain out of adaptation equilibrium, but anything more than a single mesocycle is a waste of time, because that’s all it’s good for.

  22. stchur says:

    Michael, sorry to bombard you with questions, but with your current switch to 5 X 50 do you still do all three exercises six times per week? Also, with your rows, do you pull both dumbbells simultaneously or alternating or one arm at a time and supported? I find the fifty rows to be a long time being bent over at my age (67). But then again, my back is absolutely parallel to the floor. I notice that now days most pictures of the really big guys show them only bent forward 45 degrees. Which do you find better?

    Due to my background, which included extensive course work in anatomy and kinesiology, it is very hard for me to let go of the unease I feel at not working arms, side delts and forearms directly, as the latter two are weak spots, especially forearms. Are these areas on you just as developed as your
    18″ arms and 52 chest? What would be an admirable goal for 50 reps in the dumbbell row and dumbbell
    bench press? By the way, I occasionally compete in the strict curl (masters division) in meets under
    the governance of the Natural Strength Athletes Association (N.A.S.A.), so for the most part am sick to
    death of never allowing myself to omit curls from my workout — even though their specificity rankles
    my sense of efficiency. But to still curl big do you think one must actually DO curls?

    One last thing: I’m very, very impressed with your knowledge and your writing ability. I’m sure everyone else here would like to know more about you, your background and accomplishments. You certainly
    have piqued my curiosity — and I AM following your advice to the letter, except for those dag-nabbit
    curls!

  23. Michael says:

    no; i only work each bodypart twice a week on 5×50. you have to keep things in perspective of total workload. if your upper limit is 500 reps a week per bodypart, you can split it up any way you want, as long as your split doesn’t put you over 500 reps per week. that’s why i could make gains doing 1 set of 50-100 reps 6 days a week; i never went over 500 total reps per week, or if i did, it was too brief a period to cause overtraining.

    the higher the set volume, the lower the frequency, and the lower the set volume, the higher the frequency. either way, it works out the same; they’re just variations for accommodating fitness and routine. if you can’t handle multiple sets because you get too winded, you do a single set, whole-body routine every day. if you can handle 5 sets but not 10, you do a twice a week split routine. if you can handle 10 sets, you do a once a week bodypart split. any way you do it, you stay in the total rep range for the week. you don’t do 5×50 6 days a week per bodypart; that would be insane.

    i don’t know if you’re getting this clearly, so here’s my current program:

    bench press, 5×50: monday
    bent rows, 5×50: tuesday
    squats, 5×50: wednesday

    repeat the sequence thursday, friday, saturday, rest on sunday.

    as for rowing, either type of dumbbell row works just fine. i currently row with both arms simultaneously, but if i get a lower back injury, i use the bench for one-arm rows.

    as for bending during unsupported rows, you don’t have to go up to 45%. that’s bad form, because you’re not really working your lats at that angle; it’s all trap work. just come up as high as you need to to feel comfortable, or switch to using a bench. when most people row, they come up from parallel as they lift the weight; when i row, i lower my torso towards the weight as i lift, to keep parallel. i don’t round my back to do it; i stay flat the entire time, bending at the hips.

    you won’t have any problems getting arm development doing compound exercises, if you perform them properly. the best way is to use a wide, supinated grip, keeping your elbows close to you torso. that position fully activates all the involved muscles. you just need to remember to keep the bar going straight up and down over your solar plexus region when benching with a supinated grip; if you let the bar come up over your neck at the top of the movement like you would with a pronated grip, you lose control.

    i haven’t done isolation work for 10 years, so yes, my current development is all from doing compounds. the need to work every muscle in isolation for balanced body development is a myth; if anything, it causes more muscle imbalances, not less. notice how a lot of big bodybuilders are arm-heavy? it’s because they overtrain those muscles by working them in isolation. when you do compounds only, everything grows in tandem. it’s impossible not to get upper arm, forearm and calf development from a compounds-only routine. that said, a bodybuilder who does curls will look better on stage, because that imbalance of arm-to-torso ratio looks better in a double biceps pose.

    if you curl in competition, then you need to stick with the curls. that’s the specificity principle. if all you need is general strength and size for fitness purposes, you do a basic routine. if you need to overdevelop certain muscles for use in a particular activity, then you use exercises that focus on that one thing. that’s why baseball players all have big thighs and asses: they focus on lower body development more than upper body. that’s why ring gymnasts have great torso and arm development, but chicken legs; they focus on the muscles they use on rings to the exclusion of everything else. that’s why members of a rowing team have nice lats and traps, but are usually deficient elsewhere: they focus on rowing. it’s called streamlining.

    this stuff all depends on your goals. general fitness and the fastest rate of overall mass gain: compounds-only routine. training for a particular type of competition that requires overdevelopment of a particular muscle: isolation work. you don’t need to be weak everywhere else, so you would just add in the curls on top of a compounds routine. if you’re competing for 1 rep max, then you stick with powerlifting training for curls. if you’re tired of doing curls, then you should stop competing.

    i’m just some nobody who reads a lot of studies on the internet. i don’t even know if i’m getting all the details right; i’m not some college educated egghead. i just know the basics of how this stuff works from reading, and that when it comes to gaining size fast, super high reps are superior to lower rep ranges.

    as for my training and size, i’ve had 30 years of trial and error experience with that. i’ve tried everything, so i know what works for how long, what the downside is, and what works best for particular goals. i know from my own experience, from my doctors, and from observing other veteran lifters that the conventional, low rep training methods are detrimental to health past a certain training age. i know from shoulder and back injuries that certain exercises (deadlifts, overhead presses, lateral raises, upright rows, pulldowns behind the neck, etc.) are bad for most people, and totally unnecessary for balanced muscular development. that’s pretty much all there is to it.

    there’s the story that the supplement and drug industries want people to hear, the stories that gung ho iron game athletes are pushing, and then there’s the story that broken down athletes, doctors, therapists, etc. are telling. i just tell it like it is, from my personal experience, and from the experiences of others who have learned the hard way or were smart enough to listen to those who have figured things out. i learned the hard way about super high reps; guys like kali muscle were taught.

    • david dicicco says:

      Wow i wish i could post your last tirade on every bb forum there is .The best most common sense advice in this game I’ve ever read and I’m 44 .People always tell me to be a trainer due to my look and strength which took years of steroids and many crappy routines .I Decline because i never felt like i had answers only questions and mistrust of all the crap info the iron peddlers you talk about try to sell its bs . As i mentioned before i started lifting heavy this week because I’ve been reading so much on powerlifting and such ,well i feel horrible ,my thigh feels like its gonna tear and i have bad aches in 1 week lol ,i was doing 15 to 30 reps on everything for 2 years .Before that i took many years off due to frustration and aches etc. and its funny i ALWAYS felt the answer was high reps for size and strength but when i tell any lifter they look at me like I’m nuts or say its the steroids which i take trt .Anyway I’m following your 5 by 50 routine and i will spread the gospel lol .Oh btw i never met anyone in 20 yrs that lifted heavy that didn’t have shoulder issues or knee issues or elbow aches etc. and they still want to lift heavy low reps total brainwashing of unparrelled magnitude and I’m being serious no lol cause its sad . Ok i got to sleep tace care folks.

      • Michael says:

        hey, if it works for you, let us know your results in awhile. i love doing reps this high, but everyone is different. some aren’t advanced enough for it yet, some can’t handle getting winded, etc. but let us know what you get out of it, and how you feel it compares to other stuff you’ve tried.

  24. stchurJohn says:

    Michael, thanks once again. I definitely will give up competing soon — and in the meantime will move
    those curls to the end of my workout, in deference to the rows, bench and squats. Thanks, too, for
    being so specific and writing down your schedule. My recovery ability is improving, following your advice, but I’m definitely not ready for 5 x 50 yet.

    You are definitely not a nobody. I see a very high level of disciplined logic in your writings and actions, and, better yet, you are willing to share to help others! I’m excited about what this type of training is doing for me and will report when I reach certain goals I have in mind regarding it.

  25. George says:

    Just a follow up about accessory movements. So I continue with the 5X50 using the 50 fail weight on the main movements and am adding reps every workout. I’m still burning out on the 4th set, but I have to say it is getting better. I’m going to give it 6 more weeks with the same weights and see. However for the accessory movements like curls which I do after the main movement I dropped the weight to the 50 fail weight and I’ve lost ground compared to the 30 fail weight I was using. I’m thinking that by the time I get to the accessory movements that those muscles are already fatigued by the main movement so that the 50 fail weight might be too light? I’m only doing 3 sets for the accessory movements.

    • Michael says:

      Burning out on the 4th set? What do you mean?

      Maybe you’re not resting enough between sets? With super high reps, you need to rest long enough to catch your breath; 3-5 minutes. Any less that that, and you can get sick from too much lactic acid buildup.

      When you do super high reps, your smaller muscles peter out faster than your larger muscles. For example, I can curl half of what I bench press for low reps, but with high reps, I can only curl 1/3 of what I can bench for high reps. That’s why you don’t need accessory movements on a routine like this; your arm muscles are getting more than enough work doing compound exercises. If you use a supinated grip, it puts even more focus on the arm muscles. My arm muscles always fail before my pecs and lats.

      Also to consider is that when you add in accessory work, you’re doing twice as much exercise as if you do only compounds. Instead of doing 3 exercises for your whole body, you’re doing anywhere from 6-11 exercises. That’s 2-3 times as much energy you’re expending, and that cuts into your energy and nutrient reserves that you would normally put into growth. It will take you twice as long to bulk up if you try to work everything in isolation, because you’re doing more work than you can support with food intake. Even if you pack down 6,000 calories a day, you won’t grow as fast as if you do a compounds-only routine and eat 2,000 less calories. All you really need to grow is a flat bench press exercise, a rowing exercise, and a squatting or leg press exercise. Anything else on top of that is a waste of time and energy.

      Isolation exercises are completely unnecessary. If you want to put on size as fast as possible, save that stuff for when you have 20″ arms and are focusing on shaping rather than bulking. The big 3 is all you need.

      You need to keep in mind that what pro bodybuilders do is for contest prep or movie prep. Anyone less advanced than them isn’t going to get as big as them by doing all the extra work they do to look good on stage, particularly if they’re not talking thousands of dollars a month of supplements and drugs.

  26. George says:

    I am using a timer and keeping it at 3 minutes between sets, sometimes longer if I have to wait for a station or bench,

    What I mean by burning out is that on the 4th set the reps are dropping into the 20+ rep range. All the reps are coming up though. The reason that I want to include the accessory exercises is that I was in a car accident last year and it’s helping me with rehabbing the injuries. It’s actually how I came to discover that high reps work. Before the accident I was curling with 100lbs, 6 months after the accident I couldn’t curl 40lbs with out pain so I started with 30 lbs and using a 30 rep fail protocol I made very fast gains. That lead me to realize that gains can be made with very high reps and so I started looking at the research and that’s how I found this site.

    Really not looking for massive size gains either, just want to safety increase lean body mass and increase work capacity.

    I’ll tell you though on the 30fail protocol, my arms were getting huge.

    • Michael says:

      I see. Well, whatever works for your goals.

      I just know that when I add in arm work doing high reps, I end up overworking my arm muscles and I get tendinitis. It’s a recipe for repetitive stress injuries. The same applies to additional shoulder work: your shoulders are already getting double the work of any other muscle from benching and rowing, so it’s actually a bad idea to add in shoulder exercises. Keep in mind that high rep work stretches and tears down the muscle tissues a lot more than lower rep ranges. Because of that, it’s really easy to overwork the smaller muscles.

      If it’s not causing you any problems and you’re happy with the results, then go for it, but watch out for tendon soreness and reduced range of motion due to soreness in the insertion area. If you start getting those problems, then you really should ditch the accessory work. Your muscles should never be sore in the extended position; only in the fully flexed position. If you get soreness when the muscle is stretched in a normal range of motion, that’s how you know you’re overtraining it.

      As for rest time, you don’t need to count; just rest until your breathing returns to normal. Sometimes it might be 3 minutes, sometimes more. There are times when I rest 7-8 minutes between sets of squats. With chest, I’m ready for the next set after 2 minutes, but back always takes me 4-5.

      If your reps are dipping down that low on the 4th set, then you’re not resting long enough between sets. When I’m using max weight, my reps never drop below 35 on the final set.

  27. George says:

    Thanks for the response. I’ll keep all those points in mind.

    This is one of the research pieces that supports the high rep protocol:

    http://jap.physiology.org/content/113/1/71.full.pdf+html

    • Michael says:

      Thanks for posting this link to the McMaster study. This is one of several studies I’ve read, although I’ve only read article references to the results of this study rather than the actual study. This both confirms and clears up a few things for me.

      The only problem is that the study was only for 10 weeks. My personal experience has been that when starting a high rep program, for the first three months, results are pretty much the same as for lower rep protocols. However, over the long-term, I’ve noticed that the results I get from high reps exceeds the results I would get with low reps, even under ideal conditions (i.e. noob gains that come before reaching a low rep plateau). For example, my first 3 years training this way, I gained 40 pounds, with minimal effort and no change in diet. I never made gains that significant in my first 3 years of weight training as a total beginner. What makes it more significant is my age and my state of fitness when starting this program, which should have reduced my rate of gains significantly relative to someone younger and in less shape than me.

      I’ve also noticed that when I train heavy, my strength drops after a few weeks of detraining. However, I took 3 weeks off last month during a move, and although my muscles looked a little flatter from less water and less glycogen storage (I wasn’t eating as well), my strength didn’t drop when I returned to training, but had improved slightly, as if I had not taken off any time at all. This seems to correlate with the change in protein balance over time. I can see how a longer course of anabolic signaling could translate to longer duration of strength and mass gains during long periods of detraining. This could also be why high level bodybuilders using a high rep protocol could get better gains from a once a week bodypart split than novices using the same low frequency protocol with lower reps.

      Reviewing this information again has helped me to gain a better understanding of my results, and the results I see in others using this method. Thanks.

      • Jon says:

        Hi Michael. I’m getting ready to try your program. One question: I use a trap bar for dead lifting as it’s more like a squat for me and does not bother my back. Would you recommend I use straps or not, or does it matter? Thank you very much for all the time you’ve put in here.

        • Michael says:

          nah, you don’t need to bother with straps. that trap bar thing sounds like a good idea, though. just keep in mind that when you have your hands to your sides, you’re essentially doing a squat rather than an actual deadlift, so you might want to stick with either doing regular back squats or the trap bar squats but not both, otherwise you’ll overwork your quads. personally, i do dumbbell hack squats, holding the dumbs at my sides. some people call that a “suitcase deadlift”, but a squat is a squat.

          when you use straps, you keep yourself from evenly developing all your muscles that you use in a compound movement. if your forearms give out before your legs and back, it means they need to catch up. if you lift without straps, whatever muscles fail first get the most work, and it allows them time to catch up, since the other muscles aren’t being taxed to grow as much.

          hope that helps.

          • Jon says:

            Thanks Michael. I have done a few high rep tbdl workouts without straps since I posted that question with no issues so will keep doing them that way. I haven’t back squatted in probably 20 years, since I bought my trap bar. I’m 60 and have been doing heavy weight, low reps for years. Since last summer my numbers started dropping off and I was getting very sore joints for the first time. I was actually on a heavy singles program when I stumbled on this thread and decided to give high reps a shot. My joints already feel better than they have in a long time.

  28. Philip Toppin says:

    Hi MICHAEL. I can accept the logic you presented in terms that high reps may be more benifical in gaining muscle mass and definitely better for your joints in the long ran. I like you have been in the game for several decades and have suffered through very heavy training (Bertil Fox training partner for many years) even back then they were great bodybuilder that employed the high rep system and two of them that I knew personally were Albert becckles and Serge Nubert of whom I have trained with also.
    Recently I have decided to go the high rep route and I must admit I feel less drained and I am getting some descent gains. How ever I feel obliged to question the idea that you stated that isolation exercises are for shaping a muscle. An isolation exercise just simply allow you to ALMOST work that particular muscle on its own. A muscle do not know the difference between a compound exercise or an isolation exercise it can only respond to tension and duration.
    I truly enjoy and share your opinion on high rep training . Keep up the good work .
    Yours in sport.
    Philip.

    • Michael says:

      moving your arms or legs through different ranges of motion does cause some differences in how a muscle contracts. for example, there was a study to determine the difference in effect between bench pressing with a pronated grip and a supinated grip. with the supinated grip, there was 40% more fiber activation in the upper pecs, and people who use the supinated grip exclusively have better upper pec development than lower pec development. the barbarian brothers when they were at their peak is an example of this.

      the same can be said of isolation curls: anyone who does them exclusively after a long time of doing nothing but wide-grip bar and bell curls gets better peaks than width, because holding your arm in that position forces the outer head to contract more than the inner head. there are also differences in how the triceps contract through different ranges of motion; for example, using a supinated grip for bench press or for triceps extensions of any kind increase activation of the inner head, whereas using a pronated grip with elbows flared for pressdowns accentuates outer head activation.

      another example is the difference in quad and buttock muscle development from doing wide stance or narrow stance squats. if bodybuilders didn’t see results from these types of variations, no one would use them.

  29. George says:

    Okay so it’s a good 5 weeks since I’ve started the 5X50 using the 50fail weight and I’ve only gained about 9 reps total on the 5 sets and I’ve lost a little size. I’m going to take a few days off and start back up on Sunday using the 30fail weight. I think the 50fail weight is just a little too light for me.

    • Michael says:

      how are you eating? you have to eat a lot of food. if you don’t eat enough, you burn a lot of fat doing this, and if you’re not eating enough protein, you’ll lose some size.

      if you’re trying to lose fat while doing this, you’ll lose size if your rate of fat loss exceeds your rate of muscle gain, and your strength gains will also slow down to a snail’s pace.

      figure out how many grams of each macronutrient you typically eat per day, then go here:

      http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html

      protein has 4 calories per gram. fat has 9 calories per gram. carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram. to figure out your caloric needs for this routine with the calorie calculator, you need to select “very active” on the dropdown menu for activity.

      an easier way to determine your bulking needs is to figure a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, a gram of fat per pound of bodyweight, and a gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight, plus 100 extra grams of carbs on top of that. so if you weighed 200 pounds, you’d need 200 grams of protein, 200 grams of fat, and 300 grams of carbs per day. that’s a lot of meals to pack down.

      right now, i’m averaging a 20 pound weight increase on each exercise per month. but i have to eat over 4,000 calories a day to get strength gains that good. i have to break it down into 6 meals per day; it’s difficult for me to eat that much, particularly when it comes to carbohydrates. no matter what sort of program you use, you have to really pack down the food to get optimum results. the gains i’ve talked about in some of my other posts where very slow, when you consider how long it took me to get them. i was barely eating half the carbs i’m eating now during that period.

      also, if you’re doing 5×50, you can’t hit each exercise more than twice a week, or you’ll overtrain. if you’re only doing it twice a week and having these problems regardless of your dietary intake, then you should definitely drop down to a 5×30, or even a 5×25. you gotta watch your weekly rep totals to make this work.

      you said you were having recovery problems when you started this routine; that’s a good indication that your total rep volume is too high, or that you’re doing too many sets per bodypart per workout. it took a long time for me to build up to the point where i could do a 5×50 twice a week program, and it will be at least a year before i’m ready for a 10×50 once a week bodypart split. as i said in other posts, it’s an advanced routine. i was doing a 1×50-100 program 6x a week before this, and even that was easier, despite the weekly rep total being around the same.

      if i remember correctly, you said you were doing a 5×20 routine before this, 2-3x a week. for each exercise, that’s a maximum of 200 reps total for 2x a week, or 300 reps total for 3x a week. you can’t expect to jump up to a 5×50 2x a week program, with a total weekly rep range somewhere between 400-500 reps, and expect to gain anything if you’re still recuperating from accident-related muscle atrophy. i’m a big, strong guy, and i’m just barely at a point where i can make a 5×50 work. your problem isn’t because the weight is too light; if that were true, i wouldn’t be making the gains i’m making right now. the problem is that your total reps per week or per workout are too high for your fitness level.

      anyways, i hope that helps. if you’re not juicing, you’re not superman; you need to keep that in mind, no matter what you decide to do. the unenhanced human body has its limits. if you can’t bench twice your bodyweight, then you’re not ready for 5×50. even if you weigh 150 and can bench 300, you’re still probably not ready for it. you need to be carrying a certain amount of muscle mass to pull it off. i weigh over 200 pounds and can bench over 400, and up until a month go, i still wasn’t ready for it.

  30. George says:

    Michael you’re exactly right. I had just started using the 30 fail weight and was making monster gains. I need to bake there for a while. I’m not in condition for 5×50. I’ll use the 30 fail protocol till I plateau. I’m a fast gainer probably only need 3 months.

    Diet is good. I’ll get a baseline and report back.

  31. stchur, john says:

    Michael, lots of food for thought in the latest exchange between you and George — and more than a little reason to again start doubting myself. Wow, you’re gaining 20 lbs. per month on each exercise! At one point you said you used a pair of 50′s for your 50 rep sets in the row and bench. Are you now up to 60′s or even more? I am not making anything like those gains, although I am getting a little stronger.

    I think part of the problem is that I don’t know where I’m at on the “recuperation vs. natural “giftedness”
    continuum. For example, as a youngster of 19 I was the first guy in Michigan outside the Hvywt. class
    to deadlift 600 lbs. and up until recently I held the National record in the strict curl (156.5 lbs.) for my age/bodyweight class and the World record for the strict curl against the wall. BUT . . . those are “old man’s” records. Sixty-seven years old/ 5’9” /211lbs. bodyweight./ 17&3/4′ arms/ 50″ chest/ 25″ thigh but only 7&1/8″ wrist. Currently I am stuck at 46 reps in the dumbbell bench for four workouts in a row, after having been able to add one rep per workout previous to hitting this wall. Doing a little better than that on the squats and rows. As per your recommendation, I train three times per week, one set of 50 reps to fail on squat, bench and row. I’m wondering if I, too, might respond better to 30-reps-to-fail sets and, if so, should I do more than a single set?

    On eating. At my age, I don’t think I could possibly take in over 200 grams of protein, 200 grams of
    fat and 200 grams of carbs without having an adverse effect on my health. You have a father my age; what’s been your experience with him? My guess is that I average about 120 – 130 grams of protein right now . . .

    Lastly, can you cite any examples, personal or otherwise, of how strength in the ‘big three” has carried over into gained strength in other lifts (like the curl or overhead). If I could be 20% stronger in the squat, bench and row and that gave me a 5% – 10% increase in my curl — without actually doing curls, which, as you know, I’m sick of — I’d be a happy camper! Do you think that’s possible?

    • Michael says:

      i always make great gains the first month or two on any program. pushing 60′s right now for 50 reps. but that won’t last forever; the faster you gain strength, the quicker you plateau in strength gains, because your mass gains need to catch up to support the increase in strength. a 10 pound gain per month on each exercise is excellent, but even that will slow down the bigger and stronger you get. that’s where periodization of some type comes in handy.

      if you’re not gaining on a 1 set 3x a week program, you might need more volume. you can try doing it 6 days a week, or go straight to doing a 5x routine twice a week split. i’m guessing you might need the extra volume, based on your description of bodyweight and measurements. you could try 5×30 for awhile, and if that’s still not enough, move up to 5×50.

      the protein sounds sufficient; as long as you’re getting at least a half a gram per pound of bodyweight, you’re getting enough to build muscle, although not as fast as if you eat closer to a gram per pound. if you’re trying to bulk, you definitely need to up your total calories by compensating for the lack of protein with more carbs. there’s a number of decent calorie calculators online, but the simplest way is to multiply your bodyweight x 20 for total calorie intake, then adjust up or down from there as you monitor your weight gain so that you can hit the sweet spot. a pound a week average is good, but you don’t want to go over 2 pounds a week average.

      my father isn’t a bodybuilder, and he can’t stick to a training program more than a few weeks. he’s in too much pain any more to bother with it, and he’s not really interested in building muscle. his diet is pretty minimal because he’s been having stomach problems; he only eats a half a sandwich for lunch, one piece of meat for dinner, and a bowl of cereal for breakfast.

      as for strength carry-over, i can always overhead press more than half my bench press weight when i test, and i can always curl half my bent row weight. i was worried about that sort of thing for awhile, but those fears are completely unfounded. your arms and shoulders will always grow in tandem with your chest and back, as long as you’re benching and rowing properly. if you’re pronating and flaring your elbows, it doesn’t translate so well, but if you supinate and keep your elbows tucked in, your arms will have no problem keeping up.

  32. George says:

    Ok 30fail baseline today. Dumbell bench 50X30,24,21,17,17. Will give it 5 weeks and see where we’re at.

  33. Robert says:

    Hey Michael, Love your responses. I’ve been lifting for YEARS at low rep high weight and I knew I wasn’t getting the gains that I deserved for the time put in at the gym. I am going to try out your high rep routine and give it a whirl and see how it goes…thank you for all your insightful posts and responces. I’ll respond back in a month or two and let you know how things are going.

    • Robert says:

      Also, I just want to mention, I have suffered shoulder impingement lifting heavy and have struggled to to do any powerlifts with my shoulders and chest because of it…I have done physio,chiro and nothing helped my shoulder until I started doing very light weight high rep shoulder workouts…I kinda figured because the shoulders are smaller, they require high reps, but I never would have though legs, chest and back would also give you a lot of benefit through high reps.

      My question for you Michael is this: What are your thoughts on incorporating low weight, high rep combined with a high weight low rep

      for example 15reps x 5 sets of bench press =75 sets of Bench
      and then 5reps x 5 sets of bench press = 25 sets of Bench…lifting heaving on the 5×5.

      Giving you a total 100 total reps. I have done the above workout above and I have seen strong gains, but moved against that routine only because of all the online articles explaining you need to do low rep, high weight.

      • Michael says:

        you can do both low and high reps and get good strength and size gains, but it’s not necessary. as long as you structure your workout to incorporate regular weight increases on the bar (i.e. 5×50 instead of 1×50-100), you gain strength and size at around the same rate. doing stuff like 5×5 is only necessary if you’re training for powerlifting competition or you’re in some other sport that requires a high power-to-bodyweight ratio; it really doesn’t serve any useful purpose as part of a general health regimen.

        the main idea of high reps is safety and longevity. if you have impingement issues, then you need to lay off the heavy training entirely, and stop doing shoulder exercises. i have the same problem, which is why i switched. if you keep your reps over 25, you get rehab effects. i’m not saying you’ll get rid of your impingement problem entirely, but along with therapeutic exercises for impingement, it helps to undo the damage you’ve done to yourself from heavy lifting and bad form.

        all your muscles will respond well to high reps, as long as you structure your routine properly, keeping in mind rep totals, set volume per workout, recovery time, etc. there are plenty of high rep bodybuilders out there: rich piana, kali muscle, tom platz when he was competing, shawn ray when he was competing, albert beckles, serge nubret, jason english, markus ruhl, etc. even CT fletcher does high reps for size, although he’s mostly a powerlifter. there’s others that have admitted to it, and most of the pros have implied at some point that they do high reps for mass, or have been filmed training that way. juice or no juice, all the biggest iron game pros are mass freaks because they do high reps; none of the juicers that train heavy all the time ever get that huge unless they’re genetic freaks.

        i’m in my 40′s, but i’m already pretty big, and i have an endo-mesomorphic body structure; i can expect to achieve 20″ arms at some point, if i can keep up the eating. you shouldn’t expect to get that big if you’re over 50 and smaller than me, unless you’re on some serious HRT and have an appetite to match.

        what a lot of people don’t understand is that regardless of how you train, trying to get huge takes a toll on your health because of the amount of food you have to eat to get massive, and because of the strain on your organs and joints from weighing over 200 pounds. i weigh 230 right now, at a height of less than 5’9″; regardless of my bodyfat percentage, that’s potentially dangerous. not everyone can get as big as me, let alone as big as a pro bodybuilder; it’s difficult to do, and difficult to maintain. it gets tiring eating 6 meals a day, and i have to worry about stuff like atherosclerosis from all the overeating. i know that l-arginine therapy gets rid of that, but it’s risky and expensive, so any way you look at it, getting big has health risks.

        i’ve been getting chest pains and pulse irregularities for the past few years; every muscular guy who weighs over 200 pounds has those types of issues, no matter how good of shape they’re in. my resting heart rate is 60 bpm and my blood pressure around 120 over 80, but there’s days when my pulse will jump up to 120 bpm and my head feels like it’s going to pop from my blood pressure going sky high. my doctor says that all my tests indicate that i don’t have a problem, and i know that it’s just a reflex reaction that keeps my blood pressure and heart rate from dropping too low during periods of inactivity, but that’s some scary shit to have to deal with on a weekly basis, because you never can tell whether it’s something normal or a medical emergency. i also get flank and lower back pains a lot, even though my kidney and liver function tests all came back normal. this is the kind of stuff that drove lou ferrigno to see his doctor once a month when he was competing, to make sure his vitals were all good.

        i don’t want anyone getting any wrong ideas here; high reps may build mass better and faster than low reps and be easier on the joints, but there’s nothing magical about it. if you can’t eat at least 6 meals a day and walk around like you’re walking on eggshells to prevent impact injuries that come with weighing over 200 pounds, don’t expect to get freak muscle, or to not get health issues. all superhuman achievements have their price.

        • Robert says:

          Thank you so much for your time and knowledge Michael. I still am not quite sure what the end result would end up doing only compound workouts and not targeting specific muscle groups.

          For example, there’s no inclide bench press, you mention that’s a waste because it’s not as compound as a flat bench. But wouldn’t flat bench give your chest bigger lower half as opposed to the preferred upper larger half of your pecs?

          Thanks again, love the responses, I hope you don’t get burnt out from answering all these questions, take your time getting to them, you are very useful.

          Do you have any photos of your current physique? I would be very much interested and seeing some before and after pictures of your physique of putting on the lean 40lbs of muscle mass…I think the pictures alone will speak for itself.

  34. stchurJohn says:

    Michael. Wow, it was like Christmas when I turned on my computer this morning and saw all the Training
    Science posts! I so look forward to your insights. I got my first set of weights in1959 and for at least the second half of the 55 years since have felt tricked/lied to and bamboozled by the whole muscle industry.
    YOU tell it like it is!

    I hope you don’t get impatient with my constant questions or think I’m just not getting it. I’ve garnered wonderful benefits and strength from all my years, but, at 67, am still a “mixed bag” of the same physical problems and limitations that everyone gets by my age . . . and amazing youthfulness in other ways. Thus I am sometimes unable to do things precisely as you recommend. One example would be an inability to handle truly massive amounts of protein without a soreness in my kidneys. I’ve already
    had one large kidney stone, a few years age, and passing that was one of the worst experiences of my life!

    Also, my motives for trying to learn EVERYTHING I can about super-high reps goes beyond my own dreams of somehow still turning into Superman, at an advanced age (lol). Without exception, ALL of
    my teammates, workout buddies and Iron Game friends from the 1960s are now in very, very sad shape, and it kills me. Many of them I worry about constantly, because they are so hurting, depressed . . . and “shrunk.” The vast majority of them took steroids; I did not. They also never bothered to obtain a good working knowledge of biomechanics and anatomy and, consequently, did a lot of mechanically unsound exercises to further their strength. AND . . . they all did only sets of heavy
    doubles and triples, exclusively (we were all either competitive power lifters or Olympic-style lifters back then, not bodybuilders). I want to be able to offer them HOPE, but I don’t want to try to talk them into the super-high rep approach until I know it so well I’ll be totally convincing (you wouldn’t believe how
    ornery some old people are (ha-ha, I’m one of ‘em) when it comes to changing their thinking).

    BTW, fifty reps with the 60s is very impressive! It’s unlikely I’ll ever get there. Don’t know why, but aging has affected all pushing strength AND endurance detrimentally, while it hasn’t affected anything where
    I’m pulling or curling very much at all. Anyway, thanks again. You are certainly one of the good guys
    with all the help you’ve given all of us.

    John Stchur

    • Michael says:

      okay, you need to calm down. if you’re 67, don’t take hormones and can’t eat gobs of protein because you have kidney problems, you will never get as big as i am right now, let alone as big as the mass freaks with 20+” arms that train this way. no amount of pep-taking yourself is going to change that. your glory days are over; be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and focus on holding on to what you have.

      those measurements i posted in my first comment are from june last year. i weigh 230 right now, and i’m on the verge of needing new shirts, so i’m guessing my arms are around an inch bigger now. i’m bigger than stallone, who is your age, despite the fact that he takes GH. hell, you’re even bigger than stallone; his arms are only 17″. but i seriously doubt that you’ll get any bigger if you can’t spoon down 6-8 meals a day, no matter how good this type of training might work for you at your age. that’s the reality you need to face. it’s getting hard for me to do that any more, so there’s a chance i might not achieve my lifetime goal of 20″ arms.

      those 60 pound bells i bench feel every bit as heavy as they are. if i get a muscle spasm during a set, they can do just as much damage as a set of 200′s. the other day, i pulled a muscle in my posterior pelvic region just setting them down after a bench press set. i might build 20″ arms before i’m ready to throw in the towel, but i doubt i’ll be benching 60′s when i’m 67. based on how i feel now at 230, if i accomplish my goal and still weigh over 250 at that age, i’ll be hurting a lot worse than i am now. age changes everything, for everyone.

      i’ve posted enough here for people to figure things out on their own. this is taking up too much of my time, so i won’t be reading or responding to any more posts. good luck with your thing, but don’t expect the world. high reps can give you a mass gain edge and a maintenance edge, and i can say from observation and experience that they work as good as minimal steroid use if you know what you’re doing, but there’s nothing magical about any of this. you still need youth and food to make any program work like that.

      try to keep things in perspective.

  35. stchur, john says:

    David, your post only showed up as an email notification. I was waiting for it to appear on the actual
    TrainingScience site to facilitate a reply but couldn’t find it. Yes, Troy, MI is where we’re from, but we
    are currently in Florida. We will be back in Troy around April 15th. Email me your number so we can
    get in touch, or send me your email. Either way it will be good to trade experiences regarding this super-
    high rep training. I’m working hard at it, but it sure is no walk in the park! I’m making some gains, but
    huge difference in how much better my joints feel and in my energy levels.

  36. david dicicco says:

    My num is 248 515 2868 i didn’t realize your from troy small world .Im not sure how to email you this message but il ask my friend tomorrow

  37. david dicicco says:

    Well i just did my first 5by 50 workout .I started on the flat bench with 35 lb db for 60 reps easy , i then did 50lb for a fast 50 then 50 then 40ish the last set i honestly lost count i was in the zone i held the dbs when i got tired at full extension then did a couple reps and repeated rest pause style .I then did 1 arm db rows starting with the db under the bench and pulling out and retract fully at the top like a fly this is much hard form then up and down you usually see .Icould only use 35 lb lol for 30 to 40 reps each set my ego wouldn’t let me drop the weight to do 50 but actually i think 30 to 40 is good for this excersise due to form . Ok my summation is i loved it really loved it everything feels good I’m sore but no aches i will try on squats monday , i slightly hurt my thigh a few days a go so I’m waiting till mon for squats .

  38. I agree with what Michael is saying. High repetitions is the way to gain mass.

    I have written about it on my website and I noticed great results with it when I used it in my squats.

    When I switched to low reps and really heavy weight, I hardly noticed any increase in mass.

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