Think your journey to gains is over? Think again. For those of us advancing in age, adjusting our rep ranges can be the key to unlocking new muscle growth. Over 40, I've previously recommended relinquishing sets of fewer than 5 reps, but that doesn't mean we should remain tethered to the monotonous 8 to 10 rep range.
It appears that, for too long, the fitness world has been fixated on performing sets of 8 reps. This number has been ingrained in our minds, as if our ancient, cave-dwelling forefathers passed down this sacred tradition. Sets of 6 or 7 seemed insufficient, while sets of 9 to 10 or more felt as tedious as engaging in a conversation with an insurance salesman. But here's a revelation, my friends: there are more effective rep schemes available to us than what we've previously dreamt of in our weightlifting philosophy.
Believe it or not, you can sculpt substantial muscle, perhaps even more than you ever imagined, by diving into sets of 12, 15, or even 20 reps. This is particularly promising since you've likely paid little attention to higher rep ranges throughout your lifting career.
To incorporate these higher rep schemes into your workout, consider dedicating each training day of the week to varying rep ranges. For example, focus on sets of 6 to 8 on your first training day (e.g., upper body), then switch to sets of 8 to 10 in your next session, and finally embrace sets of 12 to 15 or more in the subsequent session. Repeat this cycle to keep your muscles guessing.
Skeptical about the benefits of high reps? Before passing judgment, try this protocol a couple of times:
Choose a weight for nearly any exercise that allows you to complete 20 reps with a one-second concentric (lifting phase) and a two-second eccentric (lowering phase)
- Begin with the first set of 20 reps.
- Rest for a mere 30 seconds.
- Follow with the second set of 20 reps (or as close as you can manage).
- Rest for another 30 seconds.
- Conclude with a third set of 20 reps (or as close as you can get).
Optional: Plunge the worked muscle group into ice to soothe the fiery sensation.
This approach has yielded surprising results, as evidenced by the research of Fink, Kikuchi, and Nakazato in 2018. Their findings showed that this method was twice as effective in building muscle, even in experienced lifters, when compared to conventional 8-rep sets. In addition to its muscle-building benefits, higher rep ranges are easier on the joints, making them a compelling option for those looking to enhance their physique.