HIGH Reps To Build Muscle?

Guest Blog Post From Nick Nilsson
The “Mad Scientist” Of Bodybuilding
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Using HIGH Reps To Build Muscle?
Here’s 3 Ways To Use High Reps To Shatter ANY Plateau!

Normally, when you think of gaining muscle you probably think “low reps”… But I’ve got three ways to use HIGH reps to slap on the muscle mass FAST.

When you hear folks talking about “muscle building workouts”, chances are that you are NOT picturing high-rep training!

In fact, when trying to build muscle, most trainers will actively stay FAR away from anything resembling high reps (and when I say high reps, I mean anything more than 13 to 15 reps per set).

But here’s the thing…
That can actually be a HUGE mistake!

Just like heavy weights and low reps, the higher rep ranges can be a VERY valuable and even ESSENTIAL tool in your muscle-building arsenal.

And there are three high-rep training techniques that I want to share with you right now. Each one of them plays a critical role to your muscle-building success.



1. Very Light Weight, Very High Reps

Yep, I know this sounds absolutely CRAZY. How can light weight and very high reps do ANYTHING for building muscle? Here’s a hint… it’s not about resistance… it’s about physiology.

In order for a muscle to grow, first you’ve got to stimulate growth by overloading it with resistance – no argument there. But AFTER you’ve stimulated the growth, you’ve got to supply NUTRIENTS to the muscle cells to help them rebuild.

What if your blood supply is poor to the trained muscle? Got a muscle group that doesn’t pump up very easily? It’s probably one of your hardest muscle groups to develop. Poor circulation means fewer nutrients get to that muscle for recovery and rebuilding, leading to reduced growth.

THAT is where light weight and very high reps come into play. You see, VERY high reps have the effect of increasing capillarization in muscle tissue (simply defined, capillaries are the tiny blood vessels where blood cells release their nutrients to the rest of the cells in the body).

Bottom line, you do a set of 100 reps and your body responds by increasing capillary density in the targeted muscle, which SETS THE STAGE for future muscle growth.

The high reps sets don’t directly CAUSE muscle growth (the resistance isn’t high enough), they just improve blood circulation to the target muscle so when you DO train heavy and for lower reps, your target muscle gets more nutrients and can grow and recover more easily.

Want to put this tip to work?

Pick a “hard to pump” muscle and at the start of EVERY workout you do for that bodypart (e.g. every time you train biceps), do a single set of 100 reps with a VERY light weight. Basically, pick an exercise and just CRANK out the reps. Do this EVERY time you train that bodypart and you soon will start to notice a difference in how easily that muscle pumps up and how well it grows.

100 rep workout



2. Moderate-Weight, High-Rep Training

This sure sounds like an oxymoron. After all, how can you use moderate weights when you’re performing high reps!

As a matter of fact, you CAN. In fact, it’s one of THE best training techniques you can use for building muscle FAST. It’s a technique even elite powerlifters (who normally train with VERY low reps) use to increase muscle mass.

There are definitely certain exercises that lend themselves more to heavy-weight, high-rep training.

Squats, for example, are the best example for this technique. (You may be familiar with the popular “20-Rep Squat” program.)

20 rep squats

This moderate-weight, high-rep training has many of the same circulation benefits of the VERY high rep training but with the advantage of increased resistance, which will help directly stimulate muscle growth in addition to helping improve circulation.

Using myself as an example, I used squats with this technique and worked up to performing a set of 40 reps with 315 lbs (believe me, THAT was fun…). I’ve also managed a set of 25 reps with 225 lbs and a set of 70 reps with 135 lbs on the bench press.

This technique can be used with any exercise, really. You’ll find some exercises work better for it than others but basically, you’re taking a weight that is a bit lighter than your normal working weights and you’re just focusing on cranking out the reps.

Like the previous technique, I find this is best done at the beginning of a workout when you’re still fresh. You’ll be able to get more reps out of the exercise that way. Some trainers like to use it as a back-off set (powerlifters generally use it this way), doing the high-reps with moderate weight after finishing with the heavier stuff.

So next time you’re about to do squats, put a moderate weight on the bar and just see how many reps you can crank out! Forget about what you’re going to do on the rest of your sets – just get as MANY as you can. Your legs will be hit with a whole new muscle-building stimulus!



3. High-Rep Partial Training

This final tip brings us into an interesting area. High-rep partial training actually allows you to do high-rep training with HEAVY weight! In fact, you will be AMAZED at how much weight you can use with this style of training.

We’re going to be getting the benefits not only of the increased circulation that I mentioned with light-weight, high-rep training, but we’re also going to get the substantial muscle-building benefits of using HEAVY weights at the same time.

Another benefit… because you’re using heavier-than-normal weights, you’re going to be working your connective tissue very effectively as well. And, because you’re using high-reps, you’re going to be forcing a LOT of blood into that connective tissue, which is notorious for its normally poor blood supply. This helps immensely with strengthening and healing.

High-rep partial training is fairly straightforward to perform. It’s best done in a power rack, where it’s easy to adjust the range of motion. For example, using bench press, you can set the safety rails to a few inches below the lockout position.

Working in only that top range of motion (which is the strongest segment of the range of motion) means you can use a LOT more weight than you normally could for the full-range exercise.

Nick Nilsson repping out with heavy partial rep bench presses!

So you set up the bench, set up the rails and add some weight. Now you just perform as many partial reps as you can! To give you an idea of weight and reps, I’ve done sets of 50+ reps with 315 lbs on high-rep lockout partial bench press.

High-rep partial training can be done at any point in your workout, as an addition to your “normal” training (1 or 2 sets) or as the complete bodypart workout on its own.



The Final Word

Overall, I’m a big fan of high-rep training for building muscle, when PROPERLY used. These three techniques are VERY effective for not only setting the stage for muscle growth but actually building the muscle itself!

If you’re interested in a program that makes use of ALL of these techniques, definitely check out my latest book “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass.”

I make use of each one of these techniques during various phases of the program. When it comes to building muscle FAST, I’ve not found a program that works better!

Muscle Explosion

Check out this great feedback I’ve received from one of the users of the “Muscle Explosion” program:

“I finished the last workout of ‘Muscle Explosion’ yesterday. I’ve gained close to ten pounds during the month of workouts. Not bad at 45 years old! I had the feeling this was going to be a tough system, and I was more than a little afraid of the five-days-in-a-row of heavy deadlifts. But I stuck with the plan, endured the feelings of physical shock during the workouts, and the soreness afterward.

Nick, you’re really on to something here. I don’t think I could personally continue at this intensity week after week, but what a fantastic growth spurt method. I love the way you’re ‘pushing the envelope’ and refining and advancing the art and science of natural bodybuilding. You don’t just rehash the great ideas, you turbo-charge them!

– Tim Lauber

Muscle Explosion
Click Here To Download Your Copy Now.

About The Author

leehayward

Lee Hayward is a competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online helping people build muscle, lose bodyfat, and get in shape since 1999. Lee was selected as one of the Top Fitness Trainers Online through YouTube's Next Trainer Program and his work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes.

40 Comments

  • Ness

    Reply Reply

    Good read, I agree 100%. Great techniques for an advanced trainee

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Dan S

    Reply Reply

    Great minds think alike, I was doing this kind of workout yesturday

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • I’ve never tried the 20 rep squat before, but it’s something I look forward to trying!

    Mark Rippetoe says, “Trust me, if you do an honest 20 rep program, at some point Jesus will talk to you. On the last day of the program, he asked if he could work in.”

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • SB

    Reply Reply

    Is there any disadvantage to banging out the 100 very light weight reps at the END of a body part workout.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Roland

    Reply Reply

    Sometimes(once a week) I do aerobics as cardio with very light weight (2kg). You may laugh, but usually I sweat my ass off. It’s 20 mins, lateral raises, front raises, bent over row/raise etc while continuously moving with my legs, spiced with some holds and dips and pushups at the end. My shoulders usually burn like hell.
    After that comes 20 mins for legs with more than 400 reps including bodyweight squat, elevated lunges and with holds in squatted position.
    So it’s much like this 100 rep set, but as a standalone event.

    Is this too much muscle stress for cardio between workouts resulting overtraining?

    I feel my muscles burning the following day, I try to have a rest day after this, but if a weight lifting workout is scheduled I can perform as usual.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • SB,

    Totally fine to do 100’s at the end of a workout, too. You’ll just probably have to use a bit lighter weight as you’ll already be a bit fatigued. You’ll get the same circulation benefits, though.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • “do a single set of 100 reps with a VERY light weight.”Which is the best time to do a set with high reps?can i do so in the beginning of workout so that i get an extra warm up??

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Roland:
    Sometimes(once a week) I do aerobics as cardio with very light weight (2kg). You may laugh, but usually I sweat my ass off. It’s 20 mins, lateral raises, front raises, bent over row/raise etc while continuously moving with my legs, spiced with some holds and dips and pushups at the end. My shoulders usually burn like hell.
    After that comes 20 mins for legs with more than 400 reps including bodyweight squat, elevated lunges and with holds in squatted position.
    So it’s much like this 100 rep set, but as a standalone event.

    Is this too much muscle stress for cardio between workouts resulting overtraining?

    I feel my muscles burning the following day, I try to have a rest day after this, but if a weight lifting workout is scheduled I can perform as usual.

    That’s more of a muscular endurance / conditioning workout, than a cardio workout. But it’s certain good to include that kind of training in addition to your regular workout programs as well.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Roland

    Reply Reply

    leehayward,

    Hm, good to know, thank you! 🙂

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • salmi

    Reply Reply

    I tried that before ( in the seventies ) and it works very well.What a pump!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Mirage

    Reply Reply

    Lee,

    When you say High partial reps, does it mean doing the reps partially on smith machine with heavy weight instead of doing it in a full range of motion ?

    Thanks,

    Mirage

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Christian

    Reply Reply

    Hey Lee,

    By doing the 100 rep light weight set before my usual training am I basically setting my muscles up for maximum growth during my heavy weight sets? Also, on step 3 with the partial reps, is this something i should do every 2-3 weeks? (so i don’t get used to a partial stretch on the muscles when I’m lifting.)

    Appreciate all of your insight,

    Christian

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • mahmoud abdallah

    Reply Reply

    this workouts is for pumping blod in to the muscles
    what about drop set stating with 10 rep weight

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Larry Hurst

    Reply Reply

    I incorporate a set of high rep curls in my bicep workout, got the idea from Poundstone, guy who competes in the WSMan contest, he would use just the 45# olympic bar for 110 reps, I can get 70 after my biceps have been trained, lot harder than you would think. Squats, I do 20 reps, very mental, I also do it with deadlifts, like 40 reps with 185, very hard

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • LEE THIS IS ME RICK AND LET YOU KNOW I HAVE BEEN DOING YOUR WORKOUTS LIKE 8 KILLER TIPS FOR A BENCH PRESS BY YOU AND I WANT TO SAY THIS TO YOU THANK YOU TO DO THIS FOR ME AND I NEED TO KNOW HOW MINUTES TO DO CARDIO AND I DO ABS TO AND SOME TIME I DO BIG GROUPS AND THEN I TO SMELL GROUPS TO AND SOME TIME I DO LEGS TO AND THAT IS I WANT YOU TO CHOICE FOR ME AND YOU ARE GOING TO BE MY COACH TO HELP ME THANK YOU

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • RICK:
    LEE THIS IS ME RICK AND LET YOU KNOW I HAVE BEEN DOING YOUR WORKOUTS LIKE 8 KILLER TIPS FOR A BENCH PRESS BY YOU AND I WANT TO SAY THIS TO YOU THANK YOU TO DO THIS FOR ME AND I NEED TO KNOW HOW MINUTES TO DO CARDIO AND I DO ABS TO AND SOME TIME I DO BIG GROUPS AND THEN I TO SMELL GROUPS TO AND SOME TIME I DO LEGS TO AND THAT IS I WANT YOU TO CHOICEFOR ME AND YOU ARE GOING TO BE MY COACH TO HELP ME THANK YOU

    ===================

    Hi Rick,

    If you would like customized diet and training programs and on going coaching from me, then you should join the Total Fitness Bodybuilding Inner Circle Coaching Club at:
    http://www.TotalFitnessBodybuilding.com

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • RANDOLPH LANGFORD

    Reply Reply

    LEE , I LOVE UR WORKOUT TIPS , UR THE MAN

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Moe

    Reply Reply

    do these techniques work with beginners ( first couple months)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Darshan Weerasinge

    Reply Reply

    Hi Lee, great that you paid homage to the time testd 20 rep squat rotuine. I have made great gains with this type of program. However I dont think your description of “just put a moderate weight and see how nay reps you can crank out” explains this technique best esp to beginners. I think using your normal 10 rep weight and taking a rest pause of a about 3 breaths between reps when the reps get challenging is the best way. This is the classical 20 rep squat rotuine …heavy breathing between reps that allows you to handle heavier than normal weights. This forces the body to release large quantties of Testosterone and growth hormone and makes the entire body grow.
    Just some constructive criticsm Lee….thanks so much for al the great tips

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Jesse

    Reply Reply

    I reckon it’s all about pump, not pure strength.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • nitin

    Reply Reply

    Lee, can we use high rep training in other mass builder exercises as well ? like Bent over barbell rows and single hand dumbell rows for back and lats, my trainer says that to get huge back lift heavy.

    any comments ?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Andy

    Reply Reply

    Hi i have never really done that type of workout however it is my leg day tomorrow and only normally squat for 4-6 reps with 3 sets 55kg a side what would you suggest weight wise to squat with and also how many sets we talking just 1 set then next exercise can someone give me some good tips please. 😀

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • prince crispus

    Reply Reply

    Am ok with your teaching

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Scotty

    Reply Reply

    Nick- You are the sh*t Bro! Thanks for sending this & EVERY other email you’ve sent to me regularly. You & your pop are good, hard-working physical madmen & I can’t help but totally respect that.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Scotty,

    Thanks man! I really appreciate that!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Moe:
    do these techniques work with beginners ( first couple months)

    ====================

    If you are new to working out then you should follow a basic bodybuilding split routine for at least a few months to build up your base level conditioning before moving on to more advanced workouts.
    I’ve got a good program you can check out at:

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Darshan Weerasinge:
    Hi Lee, great that you paid homage to the time testd 20 rep squat rotuine. I have made great gains with this type of program. However I dont think your description of “just put a moderate weight and see how nay reps you can crank out” explains this technique best esp to beginners. I think using your normal 10 rep weight and taking a rest pause of a about 3 breaths between reps when the reps get challenging is the best way. This is the classical 20 rep squat rotuine …heavy breathing between reps that allows you to handle heavier than normal weights. This forces the body to release large quantties of Testosterone and growth hormone and makes the entire body grow.
    Just some constructive criticsm Lee….thanks so much for al the great tips

    =====================

    Well, I didn’t write this blog post. My friend Nick Nilsson did. But non the less thanks for the constructive criticism, we need people like you to help keep us on our toes 🙂

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • nitin:
    Lee, can we use high rep training in other mass builder exercises as well ? like Bent over barbell rows and single hand dumbell rows for back and lats, my trainer says that to get huge back lift heavy.

    any comments ?

    ==============

    You can incorporate higher rep training in virtually all exercises. If you can do high rep squats, you can do high rep anything!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Andy:
    Hi i have never really done that type of workout however it is my leg day tomorrow and only normally squat for 4-6 reps with 3 sets 55kg a side what would you suggest weight wise to squat with and also how many sets we talking just 1 set then next exercise can someone give me some good tips please. :D

    ==================

    I’ve got a video that outlines the entire 20 rep squat routine in more detail if you want to check it out at:

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Jason

    Reply Reply

    Hey Lee, love every bit of advice you offer us. Thank you. One quick question, I see you like utilizing all the different rep ranges. So with that in mind what do you think of the Y3T training program? It seems pretty intense and I’ve really been looking into it.
    It’s basically, 1st week- weight is heavy and reps are low. 2nd week- weight is moderate-heavy and the reps are moderate. 3rd week- weight is light and the reps are high. Then after the third week you repeat the process again. Any thoughts? Thanks again, Jason.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Your write up is a good example of it.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • phani

    Reply Reply

    hai lee…..my body fat percentage is 18.7 ..and my body is loose …i recently watched your rep ranges vedio clip…should i do like that…or in order to make my body hard should i increse my rep ranges for all the exercises ..including bench press ,squat…

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Good article. I have never tried high rep/low weight myself
    but a buddy of mine is doing that with great success.

    I am kind of old fassion and stick with the 5×5 and constantly adding weight.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Nina

    Reply Reply

    Very good Info ! Thanks!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Russell E. Willis

    Reply Reply

    In order to build lean muscle you need to work out three to four times per week. You should do workouts that use all the muscles in your body, as this will help you to lose weight quickly and strengthen your muscles at the same time. Working out every day can cause your body to become injured and would be counterproductive.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Sam

    Reply Reply

    Nice article
    The thing to note is that you may need more time for recovery as compared to low rep high poundage exercises. As for me, a middle aged guy, I do high poundage low rep many sets exercises per workout.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Randy

    Reply Reply

    This rest pause method goes back 70 years ago. I used the “Super Rest-Pause Method” as explained and elaborated on by Donne Hale in the Old Iron Magazine, July 1965, pages 22-23. Most of the programs initially used the sequence of 1 rep then a 10 second rest, 2-reps then a second rest, 3-reps then a 10 second rest until one reached 10 reps and a 10 second rest.
    Donne reversed the order of performance. The advantages here is one worked with the heavier weight first thus inducing hard fiber, long lasting and strong muscles that could perform as well as they looked.

    To perform the “Super Rest-Pause Method’ You take a weight and perform 10-reps then a 10 second pause, pick up the weight perform 9-reps then a 10 second pause, pick up the weight again then 8-reps another 10 second pause and so on until you are down to 1 rep. If you can do more than one rep you simple keep going until failure on this last set. A lot of intense concentrated work can be done this way in a minimal of time. You only do ONE set of this per exercise as it totals 55+ reps. This reverse method allows one to start with heavier weights to ensured the development of tough fibered , long lasting muscle that can perform as well as it looks along with endurance.

    Donne is one of the top physical culturalists in America for 70 years and today at 94+ years he looks amazingly youthful and continues to regularly work out. He has published his own Magazine the Florida Weight-Man in the 1960s, written for Iron Man Magazine in the 1960s in a segment called “Bits of Brawn”. He also operated the Sandy Surf Hotel on Miami Beach in the 1960s where international top strongmen body builders and other athletes came and trained.
    Don himself was able to clean and jerk 300 pounds at 160 pounds in the 1930’s and in addition to this was a top boxer and hand balancer. Even in his mid-60s he was capable of strict barbell pressing well over 200 pounds.

    I myself have followed his training advice such as the “Super Rest-Pause Method” above and at age 62 have a 19 1/4 inch arm and can do seated 80-degree simultaneously presses with a pair of 105 pound solid dumbbells for sets of 5 reps. I have never used anything stronger than a protein powder and not all much of that.

    Stephen Herndon, BS, MS, MA, Ed.S., Ph.D., Professional Member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Gary

    Reply Reply

    Here’s a practical application for swimmers. My present stroke count for the hardest stroke–Butterfly–is 13 strokes for a 25 meter pool length. My goal is a 200 meter continuous distance. So, the entire number of strokes is 13 x 8 = 104 strokes. Arm strength is not the greatest factor in Butterfly, but it is something that can be improved with resistance training. So, I need endurance for the pull and recovery, 104 “endurance units” worth of it. I select a light weight that allows the approximate timing of the stroke and just gets me to 104 reps. For example, 5 pound dumbells are perfect for the recovery stroke. Triceps pulldown is great for the pull stroke, so same concept. This is no different than what professionals perform with a $3,000 VAsa trainer. Just food for thought.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • yannick

    Reply Reply

    At 45 i recently switched to high reps myself 15-60 reps, 60 being used for legs of course and doing 3 sets of each exercise.

    I injured myself at 29 while power lifting took 11years to find prolotherapy and PRP that saved my life, at 41 started training again, but was in the same mindset and started lifting heavy again doing 5 reps in the db incline with 95 pounds, well i was back into prolotherapy not long after that and most of what was done had to be redone since the ligament did not hold and i did not give the proper time to heal.

    I was very very skeptic about high rep training, since i kind of come from the old school of body building 6 reps and heavy weights, i was very surprise for the first month how my body changed and i was able to hold on to my muscle mass doing that kind of training, i still have 20 pounds to lose and want to get in tip top shape. With high rep training i don’t have to fear injury i can still do dumbbell squats with 25 pounds for close to 30 reps and leg extension with 80 pounds for 60 reps. I also added resistance bands, and i love how my body is getting more defined.

    I added a bit more protein to my diet too, and try to keep my carb in check around 100-150g per day eating good fats.

    I am very excited to see where that leads, i also go for 100 reps sometimes and yes its for capillary and cardio because other then that it does nothing, but its great after a prolotherapy or PRP treatment since you been injected in the ligament to get them stronger, this rushed blood where it needs to be.

    I guess that staying injury free is the new way to train these days.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Thanks for sharing your feedback, it’s much appreciated. High rep workouts like this will definitely help improve your fitness level, work capacity, and speed up fat loss.

        (Quote)  (Reply)

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