Research has proven that lifting within the eight- to 12-rep range is best for muscle growth, but it’s not the only way to grow. In fact, if you stick with it too long your gains will likely stall. Translation: Don’t be too predictable.

Besides, higher and lower reps have advantages, too. Higher reps maximize blood volumization and stamina. Lower reps are best for boosting strength. And both can generate growth.

For this reason, the best strategy is likely a mixture of rep ranges. Alternating between high and low reps is going to throw out the middle, temporarily, and focus only on the high (15 to 30) and the low (four to seven).

First, here’s a quick primer on the high-low rep philosophy:

High-low basics

  • High-rep sets are 15 to 30 reps. Low-rep sets are four to seven reps.
  • Alternate high-rep and low-rep sets of the same exercise.
  • Or do all high-rep sets of one exercise and then all low-rep sets of the next exercise, seesawing throughout the workout.
  • Or do all high-rep sets one workout and all low-rep sets the next time you train that body part. Alternate for at least six workouts.

High-low tip sheet

  • It’s best to do high-low set sequences with exercises that allow you to easily change the resistance, like pulldowns.
  • On the other hand, heavy exercises like deadlifts or legs presses would likely involve too much plate-loading between sets.
  • During a high-low cycle, avoid mid-range sets of eight to 12 reps.
  • High-low can effectively shock calves and abs, which are not usually worked with low reps.

The high-low back routine

Exercise Sets Reps
Front Lat Pulldown 4 15, 6, 15, 6
T-bar Row -superset with- 3 4-6
Low Cable Row  3 20
Dumbbell Row 3 4-6
Stiff-arm Pulldown 3 30

Now let’s analyze the three distinct ways you can incorporate high-low in your routine.

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