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Low rep or High rep: Which is best?



November 17 , 2016 | Posted by Dave Cripps |

Low rep or High rep: Which is best?

High rep, low rep, which is best?


This hotly debated gym question between coaches, trainers and exercise enthusiasts, really isn’t difficult to make a clear conclusion…




Like a group of politicians in Parliament, people make irrationale and incorrect views by selectively using information to support their belief, instead of considering the whole lot


So here we go:


  1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder


What is high and what is low?

You may think 70% of 1rm is low, while someone else thinks its low


This is the start where this question gets lost in the scientific facts


Its not as much about high or low…but %1rm instead


  1. Part 1 of 2: Hypertrophy


Strength is one part structural, one part neurological….

Part 1 relates to hypertrophy…


The conclusion of studies in general shows as long as you lift to maximum

(the most reps possibly achieved over a given number of sets, at a given load)


Then the hypertrophy gains are relatively similar, above 40% 1rm


But wait…


  1. Part 2 of 2: Recruitment


The second part is almost ALWAYS IGNORED


Strength isn’t about just mass…

Its about how effectively you can recruit muscles both individually and collectively (intra and intermuscular co-ordination)


Science strongly supports the theory which has been around for decades that to get optimal return on this, you need to lift at greater than 70-80% 1RM. Why?




Consider squatting for sets 4, versus sets of 10…


You mess up one rep on the 4’s, that’s a quarter messed up…

You mess up one rep on 10’s, that’s only a tenth…


At higher intensities, you know the need to get the bar moving from rep 1 is high

So you go flat out, pedal to metal, all in from the get go…


This intent means much greater total recruitment and therefore superior adaptation


Plus, in the words of Liam Gallagher ‘Some might say’ this selectively recruits the bigger more powerful muscles fibres and therefore gives greater overall strength gains


  1. Please oh please stop talking about hormones


I’ve talked about this at length before so won’t repeat but we know while hormones play a role in hypertrophy, its in fact cell signalling which is more influential


This requires intensity…

This requires complete rests for full PCr stores (not old school 60-90sec rests)


  1. Conclusion


  • Lift above 75% 1rm
  • Use more sets and less reps (5sets x 6 reps, vs. 3 x 10)
  • Lift with intent
  • Use long rests


Damn, have I just gave away the whole secret and no longer have nothing else to say!?


Speak shortly


Dave Cripps