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Research says More Repetitions don’t Ensure Muscle Hypertrophy

It is a common misconception that higher the number of reps, heavier the weights, more is the muscular hypertrophy. Let us not believe on what you ‘feel’ but let us concentrate on what actually happens inside your body and what actually can bring results. Read this article to know it.

All the athletes, especially, competing bodybuilding athletes train to get well-defined, big muscular structure, carved out to stun the public and judges while on the stage. There are people who like to grow big out of passion too. It is always advised to increase your knowledge before increasing your muscle. Totally relying on special trainers is good but then, there are some of the misconceptions which might be ingrained inside their respective minds as well.

Especially, in India, most of the bodybuilding enthusiasts and athletes do not study much, even most of the trainers do not update themselves with latest research. Fitness, bodybuilding and sports are the fields where you need to upgrade yourselves and be aware of the science based approach for molding your muscles the way you want – big or lean.

Here, we will explore the relationship between your repetitions and your muscle growth. The mechanism is easy to understand and once, you do understand it, it is easy to train correctly for muscle hypertrophy. Many exercise-related factors influence muscle growth and one of them is repetition range – the amount of repetitions performed during a set. Unfortunately, this is one of the most misunderstood part of training.

Most of the people think that use of high number of reps that is in excess of 15 per set is not apt for increasing muscular mass. The reason for this is fundamental – During a high repetition set the weights used are not high enough to innervate the highest threshold motor units. These motor units control the fast switch type IIB fibers, these are the ones which have greatest potential for growth. The majority of work, rather, is performed by type I fibers which are fatigue resistant but have a limited ability to hypertrophy. Therefore, although high-repetition training is an excellent approach for heightening local muscular endurance and improving the quality of muscle tissue, it produces only minimal gain in muscular size.

On the other hand, there is one more misconception that in order to grow big, you have to train like a powerlifter, using extremely heavy weights and low repetition that is less than 5 reps per set. It is a common sight to watch a bodybuilder load up the bar and perform bench press or squats at his or her I-repetition maximum. This approach is contrary to the established principles of physiology. For a variety of reasons, the moderate-repetition approach that is approximately 8 to 10 reps per set is conclusively better choice for achieving optimal gains in muscular mass.

First reason being that training with moderate range of repetitions stimulates the activation of a maximum number of muscle fibers. Smaller muscle units are activated first and as the set becomes more intense, larger units are brought into movement until all available fibers are recruited, allowing full spectrum of fibers to exert force!

Second reason being the secretion of endogenous, anabolic hormones is highest after a moderate repetition set. After a muscle has been subjected to intense stress. These hormones help to instigate the growth process. As a rule, the greater the amount of circulating anabolic hormones, the greater the potential of increase in muscle hypertrophy.

Third reason being that moderate repetition training augments myofibrilar hydration. During training, the veins taking blood out of the working muscles collapse. However, the arteries continue to deliver blood into the muscles, creating an increased concentration of intra muscular blood plasma. This plasma seeps out into the interstitial spaces. This in turn causes extra-cellular pressure gradient, which results in the flow of plasma back into the muscle. This process is commonly referred to as a ‘pump’.

Fourth reason is that by increasing time under tension, a moderate repetition set maximizes muscle damage – a fact that has been shown to be imperative to increases in muscular hypertrophy.

Hence, what works the best for muscle hypertrophy is overloading your muscles with more tension instead of overloading your bars, simultaneously, performing moderate number of repetitions in a set.

References

  1. Evans, W.J., et al. The metabolic effects of exercise-induced muscle damage. Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev. 19(-HD-):99125. 1991.
  2. Hakkinen, K., et al. Acute hormonal responses to two different fatiguing heavy-resistance protocols in male athletes. J. Appl. Physiol. 74(2):882–887. 1993.
  3. Häussinger, D., et al. Cellular hydration state: An important determinant of protein catabolism in health and disease. Lancet. 341(8856): 1330–1332. 1993.
  4. Hellebrandt, F.A., et al. Mechanisms of muscle training in man: Experimental demonstration of the overload principle. Phys. Ther. Rev. 36:371–383. 1956.
  5. Kraemer, W.J., et al. Hormonal and growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercise protocols. J. Appl. Physiol. 69(4):1442–1450. 1990.
  6. Kraemer, W.J. et al. Endogenous anabolic hormonal and growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercise in males and females. Int. J. Sports Med. 12(2):228–235. 1991.
  7. Wilmore, J.H., et al. Physiology of Sport and Exercise (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1999.
  8. Zehr, E.P., et al. Ballistic movement: Muscle activation and neuromuscular adaptation. Can. J. Appl. Physiol. 19(4):363–378. 1994.
  9. Brad Schoenfeld, CSCS: Repetition and Muscle Hypertrophy

About The Author

Rajul Tiwari

Rajul Tiwari is the Editor-in-Chief at bodyandstrenth.com and has 18 years of experience in media, content, publishing and education. She has worked with media houses like Daini.... Read More..

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