The Truth Behind the 8-12 rep Body Building Myth

The claim is that this is the optimal repetition range for building muscle.

The origin: In 1954, Ian Macqueen, M.D., an English surgeon and competitive bodybuilder, published a scientific paper in which he recommended a moderately high number of repetitions for muscle growth.

The truth: This approach places the muscles under a medium amount of tension for a medium amount of time, making it both effective for and detrimental to maximum muscle gains.

A quick science lesson: Higher tension — a.k.a. heavier weights — induces the type of muscle growth in which the muscle fibres grow larger, leading to the best gains in strength; longer tension time, on the other hand, boosts muscle size by increasing the energy-producing structures around the fibres, improving muscular endurance. The classic prescription of eight to 12 repetitions strikes a balance between the two. But by using that scheme all the time, you miss out on the greater tension levels that come with heavier weights and fewer repetitions and the longer tension time achieved with lighter weights and higher repetitions.

The new standard: Vary your repetition range — adjusting the weights accordingly — so that you stimulate every type of muscle growth. Try this method for a month, performing three full-body sessions a week: Do five repetitions per set in your first workout, 10 reps per set in your second workout, and 15 per set in your third workout.

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