What Is The Best Rep Range To Build Muscle And Strength?

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Know Your Muscle Fiber Types

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m sharing what is the best rep range to build muscle and strength, based on muscle fiber types.

But before I do that, I’m going to assume you’re feeling awesome, energetic, and leaner than ever.

Why?

Because you keep tuning in to every episode on our Live Lean TV YouTube channel.

So big thank you for that, and also here’s a virtual fist bump too.

Alright, if you’re still taking on the task of designing your own workout programs, I hope you’re taking today’s topic on what is the best rep range to build muscle and strength, into consideration.

The answer to this depends on the muscle fiber makeup of the muscle you’re targeting.

Sexy, I know.

For Optimal Gains Don’t Make This Common Training Mistake

I touched on fast twitch vs slow twitch muscle fiber training in a recent video post.

Fast Twitch vs Slow Twitch Muscle Fiber Training

But today, I want to talk about it in more detail, especially when it comes to deciding the best rep range to build muscle.

Just keep this simple statement in mind:

A workout design that is effective for one muscle group may not be as effective for another muscle group.

In other words, sure you may have had great results building bigger arms using a typical hypertrophy muscle building approach to:

  • rep counts
  • set counts
  • tempo

But this doesn’t mean that same rep, set, and tempo design will also work for building bigger legs, or any other muscle group.

Best Muscle Building Workout Tip So Many Males & Females Ignore

Different muscle groups have different muscle fibers

Based on the muscle fiber type, this means a different training stimulus may be required to make optimal gains.

Think of it this way.

It takes more than just training hard to accomplish your goals.

You also have to train smart.

How To Workout Smarter For Your Goals

Let’s first look in more detail on the muscle fiber types in your body.

2 Basic Categories of Muscle Fiber Types

Type I: Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers

People that perform aerobic long endurance activities, like marathon runners, primarily train the Type I slow twitch muscle fibers.

Type II: Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers

The type II fast twitch muscle fibers are classified into 2 subcategories:

  • Type IIa fast twitch muscle fibers
  • Type IIb fast twitch muscle fibers

The type IIa fibers have more endurance than Type IIb fibers and help grow more muscle mass.

Bodybuilders tend to perform sets between 20-70 seconds long, which helps them obtain more development in muscle building Type IIa fibers.

Type IIb fibers are developed for more power. 

Powerlifters tend to performs sets less than 20 seconds, which helps them become more powerful.

2 Tips For Peak Strength And Optimal Muscle Gains

Keep the following 2 tips in mind.

Tip #1. Best Rep Range For Fast Twitch Muscle Fiber Types

For muscle groups with a higher fast twitch muscle fiber type makeup, when the goal is strength, I’d typically, but not always, train using:

  • lower reps: in the 1-6 rep range
  • more sets: typically 5+ sets
  • heavier weight: between 70-100% of my 1 rep max, a.k.a. 1RM

Fast Twitch Muscle Group Example #1: Hamstrings

The hamstrings are an example of a muscle group that are comprised mainly of fast twitch muscle fibers.

How to Build Strength With The Barbell Deadlift:

When the goal is building strength, here’s one example of rep, set, and weight selection, when performing a barbell deadlift to train your hamstrings.

For big compound moves like the barbell deadlift, I also sometimes use a short intra-set rest interval of 1-3 seconds.

An example of a intra-set rest interval during a set of barbell deadlifts would mean when the plates on the barbell hit the floor, I’d stop, while keeping my hands on the bar, wait for 1-3 seconds, then explode back up.

Here’s an example of an intra-set rest interval.

  • Reps: 5
  • Sets: 5
  • Weight: 85% of 1 rep max (1RM)
    • For example: if 1RM = 315 lbs, to calculate 85% of your 1RM would be: 315 x .85 = 270 lbs
  • Intra-set rest interval: 3 seconds between reps

Fast Twitch Muscle Group Example #2: Gastrocnemius (Upper Portion of the Calf)

The calves are primarily made up of the gastrocnemius, the upper portion of the calf, and the soleus, the lower portion of the calf.

Even though both muscles are classified as calf muscles, the gastrocnemius is comprised of approximately 60% fast twitch muscle fibers.

The soleus is comprised more of slow twitch muscle fibers, as it is only contains approximately 12% fast twitch muscle fibers.

Therefore your approach to training your calves needs to be different.

Now let’s talk about how to build muscle mass.

How To Build Mass In Your Calves Using the Standing Machine Calf Raises

From a mass standpoint, in the past, one of my weak points has been my calves.

So let’s take a look at how to apply this training method to calves.

The standing machine raise primarily hits the gastrocnemius, which is the upper calf muscle.

As mentioned earlier, the gastrocnemius is primarily made up of fast twitch muscle fibers, therefore it’s more of a fast twitch exercise.

This means the gastrocnemius responds best to low reps and heavier weight.

When I do standing machine calf raises, which hits the upper calves, I usually focus on the following:

  • Reps: a set should last for approximately 20-40 seconds, using a slow tempo, which usually equals 10-15 reps.
  • Sets: 5
  • Weight: 85% of 1 rep max (1RM)
    • For example: if 1RM = 400 lbs, to calculate 85% of your 1RM would be: 400 x .85 = 340 lbs
  • Intra-set rest interval: an intra-set rest doesn’t typically apply to this short range, small muscle group, but you could add it in if you’re going really heavy.

As mentioned, the lower portion of the calf, the soleus, is comprised of more slow twitch muscle fiber.

So let’s talk about the optimal way to train the slow twitch muscles fibers found in the soleus lower calf muscles.

Tip #2. Best Rep Range For Slow Twitch Muscle Fiber Types

Here’s how to train muscle groups with a higher slow twitch muscle fiber type makeup.

For exercises that primarily target slow twitch muscle groups, typically you would train them the opposite way compared to fast twitch muscle fiber groups.

Since slow twitch muscle fibers tend to have higher levels of strength endurance, for optimal results I’d typically, but not always, train using:

  • higher reps
  • lighter weight

How To Build Mass In Your Calves Using the Seated Machine Calf Raise

When I do seated machine calf raises, which hits the soleus lower calf muscles, I usually focus on the following:

  • Reps: a set usually lasts for more than 40 seconds, usually in the 15-25 rep range. This is the proper time under tension needed to create muscle growth in this slow twitch muscle.
  • Weight: lighter weight

So there you have it.

That is just one way to train by optimizing your muscle fibers, and ultimately your performance, strength, and muscle gains.

Remember this.

Regardless if you’re a guy or girl

Muscle gains should always be one of the main focuses in your training.

If you are looking to build muscle or lose fat, the more muscle you build, the more fat you will consistently burn off. 

Try applying these tips to your training and take your gains to a whole new level.

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Question For You:

  • Have you ever optimized your workouts based on muscle fiber type or is this all new to you?
  • If yes, what were your results?
  • Faster, stronger, bigger, or leaner?

Be sure to share your answers in the comment section below.

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24 responses to “What Is The Best Rep Range To Build Muscle And Strength?

  1. i’d hit those parts with heavier weight in the 8-12 range. to get more cuts you need to burn more body fat. this will help.

  2. hi brad.for the chest,bicep, tricep,delts and traps, would you recommend higher reps or should i do heavier weights with lower reps if my goal is to have cuts instead of mass? Thanks again in advance for your response.

  3. What are some workouts, and muscle groups, that would help me out with archery? Also, is it possible to lift weight and build lean muscle while losing fat at the same time? I eat healthy and try to build lean muscle. My reps are at in the 12-15 range, depending on which excerise I do. Please reply.

  4. Hi Brad, I love your videos, they are very informative and to the point! I wanted to ask you if you could teach us some techniques to learn to do pull-ups, as they are the one exercise that still can’t quite master 🙁 Thank you!

  5. Brad it seems like I’m actually gaining belly fat from the meat and nuts breakfast? 🙁 mainly belly fat

  6. Hey Brad, in an earlier video you mentioned that for optimising building/gaining muscle, the max number of reps should be in the range of 8-12. From this video I’m assuming that rule is dependent on muscle type? Can you just confirm so I know I’m on the right track. Thanks!!

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