Weider Principle #30: High-Low

A new principle combines high and low reps to fuel muscle growth


At the beginning

of this journey through the Weider Principles, we said that some of them had grown a bit musty. We shined them up and showed you how each of the 30 tenets previously discussed can improve your workouts today. Now, we have exciting news—the unveiling of a new principle to honor the legacy of the late Joe Weider.

Fifty years after Joe Weider developed his initial training tenets, our new principle builds on those rules and all the principles that followed. It prescribes how you can alternate high and low reps in the same workout, from one set to the next or from one exercise to the next, to get the best of both worlds. It’s a two-tiered attack, high and low, back and forth, that is sure to generate growth, Weider-style.


You’ve probably heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This is a very effective style of cardio that alternates periods of higher intensity work (such as sprinting) with periods of lower intensity work (such as jogging). Essentially, the Weider High-Low Principle applies this strategy to weight-training, but in this case you’ll alternate lower reps (typically 4–8 per set) with higher reps (typically 12–20 per set). There are two ways to do this.

The first

is to alternate rep ranges each set. For example, follow a set of 6–8 reps with a lighter set of 15–20 reps (or vice versa). It’s important to note that this pairing is not a dropset. Rest for at least a minute between sets. For example, on pulldowns, you might go: 15–20, 6–8, 15–20, 6–8. Use a weight in each set that pushes you to failure. (Especially when using dumbbells, you can simply keep both the lighter and heavier weights handy and switch back and forth.)

The other way to utilize high-low is do one rep scheme for all the sets of an exercise and the opposite rep scheme for all the sets of the next exercise. So, for chest, you might do four sets of 8 in the bench press, then four sets of 16 in the incline flye, then three sets of 8 in the weighted dip, and end with three sets of 16 in the cable crossovers. As with HIIT cardio, the differing pace may take some getting used to, but that variety is what makes high-low training effective.


Here are the pluses of high-low training.

  • WIDER REP RANGE: This is an easy method of working your muscles over a full spectrum of reps. The lower-rep sets build strength while the higher-rep sets boost blood volumization. All the sets combined foster growth.
  • MUSCLE CONFUSION: Your body is accustomed to your reps-per-set staying the same or progressing in predictable patterns. Stacking high-rep and low-rep sets consecutively is a dramatic change for most people. Such variance will force your muscles to adapt via growth.


There are two potential pitfalls of high-low. Here’s how to avoid them.

  • DISTRACTION: For those accustomed to workouts following typical rep patterns, it can be dif cult at first to switch back and forth set after set and push those sets to failure. If this is your problem, use high-low to switch your rep schemes only from exercise to exercise until you get a better feel for it.
  • REDUCED REST: If you train alone and switch resistance every set, much of your rest time may be consumed by the toil of peeling plates. For this reason, you may want to avoid using high-low on exercises, like leg presses and deadlifts, in which you can use a lot of weight.


There is a third way to incorporate the high-low principle. You can do a workout of mostly low-rep sets followed by a workout of mostly higher-rep sets. You can do this within your split, alternating high-rep and low-rep days for different body parts throughout each week. You can also do this for each body part with a low-rep workout one week and a high-rep workout the next. Either way, this method of high-low training minimizes the muscle confusion benefits. But it allows you to better focus on one style of training one day and a different style the next. FLEX