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Bodybuilding Study: Rep Ranges Don't Matter

A new study says that rep ranges (low, high, to failure) spur similar muscular results.

One-Arm Dumbbell Curl

We know what you're thinking. Here's another college capstone-fueled "study" telling us that bacon cures (or causes) cancer and well-timed cake binges could give us a body like Dwayne Johnson. This isn't one of those headlines. The American Physiological Society, a highly regarded organization, just published some studies that call into question our understanding of rep ranges. 

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Forty-nine men, comprised of both beginner and experienced weightlifters, took part in the experiment. The men trained for 12 weeks after being randomly assigned as a high-rep (30-50 percent of their 1RM) or low-rep (75-90 percent of their 1RM) trainer. The scientist then broke down the results with skeletal muscle biopsies, hormone examinations and some good old-fashioned strength testing.

The results were shocking.

"In response to [low-rep training] strength increased for all exercises in both groups ... with only the change in bench press being significantly different between groups. Fat- and bone-free (lean) body mass, type I and type II muscle fibre cross sectional area increased following training with no significant differences between groups," the study says. "Our data [shows] that in resistance-trained individuals, load, when exercises are performed to volitional failure, does not dictate hypertrophy or, for the most part, strength gains."

That's a huge turn from more classic training theories (some of which you've seen on M&F) that claim that gains in strength are closely tied to rep ranges. Even so, one point between the schools of thought are aligning. The volume of sets and reps is more meaningful than the split (x reps/x sets).

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