You may be familiar with the old adage – heavy weights / low reps build strength & size, light weights / high reps build endurance. This belief about the effects that different numbers of repetition have on the body has been repeated for many, many years. I started lifting weights in 1982 and it was accepted as truth at that time. This belief is even accepted wisdom in the exercise physiology community. The exercise physiology textbook in my library, published in 1996, states, “Performing an exercise between 3-RM (repetition maximum) and 12-RM provides the most effective number of repetitions for increasing muscular strength.”(1) The bottom line is that there is little to no debate as to the effect different numbers of repetitions have on the body. If you want to increase strength and size, heavy weights and low reps is the universally agreed upon prescription.
From a practical perspective this has resulted in most or all resistance training programs recommending heavy weights and low reps exclusively. Basically every strength training or bodybuilding program recommends repetitions of 20 or less. During 15 years of following popular strength training literature I can recall only 2 instances where reps higher than 20 have been discussed and in only one of those instances was it even seriously recommended as a viable training method.
In the first case, in the early 1980s or so a professional bodybuilder (Johnny Fuller, if my memory serves me correctly) revealed that he preferred to train using 32 repetitions for most or all of his exercises. At the time this was used as an example of the recommendation that each trainee needs to find what works best for him/herself, but I don’t recall that the article recommended such high reps for anyone else. Nor did any follow on articles I ever saw suggest that trainees might experiment with reps in that high range.
In the second case, Muscle and Fitness magazine ran a few articles in the late 1980s about 100 repetition training. This series was run after one bodybuilder in particular revealed that he used 100 reps for brief training periods a few times a year. After that series of articles, I don’t recall ever hearing about this type of training again.
So, while the adage says heavy weight/low reps build strength and light weights/high reps build endurance, I do not believe that high rep strength training is commonly used or seriously considered as a viable training method by most trainees or their coaches. It isn’t commonly recommended to those who are most interested in increasing strength and/or size, nor does it seem to be a part of the serious endurance athletes training methods.
Since the adage says light weights / high reps building endurance, and increasing endurance is a goal of endurance athletes, I began wondering why high rep strength training was not commonly used by endurance athletes. Even though the primary goal of endurance athletes is to improve endurance, heavy weight / low rep strength training is what is most often recommended to them. The reason strength training is believed to be beneficial for endurance athletes is that it increases the amount of force produced during contraction, resulting in an increase in power output and, presumably, endurance performance. What about the second part of the adage though? The part that says light weights / high reps build endurance. One of the muscle factors contributing to power output is fatigue resistance. Increased resistance to fatigue is just another way of saying that the muscle’s endurance increased. I reasoned that if high rep resistance training really did increase endurance then perhaps it might be a beneficial training method for endurance athletes. With that thought in mind I started searching the available research to see what had been done on this topic. I found some exciting and surprising research for us to review. Let’s get to it.
The first thing I wanted to know was whether research supported the belief that heavy weights / low reps build strength and that light weights / high reps build endurance. After all it wouldn’t be the first time that someone discovered that conventional wisdom was not completely accurate. I thought it best to be sure.
The classic research on this topic was conducted by Thomas DeLorme in 1945 (3). DeLorme’s research indicated that heavy weights do indeed build strength while higher reps build endurance. DeLorme is even credited with the axiom that heavy weights / low reps build strength and high reps / light weights build endurance. Quite a few other research studies on this topic have supported DeLorme’s findings hence the reason it is now accepted as conventional wisdom.
This is not to say that DeLorme’s original axiom has gone unchallenged though. Several research studies (4,5) that have found that the primary adaptation to either high or low reps is an increase in muscular strength. So even though it is accepted today that heavy weights / low reps builds strength and light weights / high reps builds endurance the fact is that some research has challenged this belief, suggesting that high reps primarily build strength, not endurance and resulting in conflicting data on the topic.
In 1982 two researchers from the University of Kentucky set out to resolve this conflict (6). Specifically, they wanted to determine the effects of three different resistance training protocols – heavy weights / low reps (6-8 reps), medium weight / medium reps (30-40 reps), and light weights / high reps (100-150 reps).
They recruited forty-three untrained, healthy subjects and trained them with the bench press exercise three times per week for nine weeks with one of three training protocols. The low rep group performed 3 sets x 6-8 reps maximum, the medium rep group performed 2 sets x 30-40 reps maximum, and the high rep group performed 1 set x 100-150 rep maximum. Resistance was adjusted as needed to ensure each subject stayed in the appropriate rep range through the training program.
Before training began each subject was tested for their individual 1 rep maximum (1-RM), relative endurance and absolute endurance. Relative endurance was determined by the maximum number of bench press repetitions they could complete with 40% of their 1-RM and adjusted as 1-RM changed, while absolute endurance was measured by how many reps could be completed with 27.23 kilograms.
At the end of the study all subjects were tested again for maximum strength, relative endurance, and absolute endurance. All three groups improved maximum strength and absolute endurance. The heavy weight / low rep group decreased in relative endurance while the other two groups increased relative endurance significantly. The results of this study are shown in table 1.
Table 1: Percent changes in max strength, absolute endurance, and relative endurance following strength training at three distinct repetition ranges
% Change in Max Strength
% Change in Absolute Endurance
% Change in Relative Endurance
Heavy weight /
Medium weight / medium rep
Light weight /
As can be seen from the data in table 1, the results of this study support DeLorme’s axiom. Heavy weight / low reps do build strength, while light weights / high reps build endurance. However, in contrast to DeLorme’s axiom, note that all 3 rep ranges resulted in increases in maximum strength. And all 3 rep ranges resulted in increases in endurance, with the exception of the relative endurance of the low rep group. So while low reps increase maximum strength more than do high reps and high reps increase endurance more than low reps the point is that resistance training significantly increases both strength and endurance. The researchers commented on this same point.
“The reader should note, however, that with the exception of the relative endurance task for the high resistance low repetition group, all training protocols demonstrated significant improvements on each of the three criterion tests.”
Anderson and Kearney’s research went a long way to resolving the conflicting data on DeLorme’s axiom – heavy weights increase strength the most, high reps influence endurance the most, but all resistance training results in improvements in both strength and endurance.
In 1994 Stone and Coulter modeled a study after Anderson and Kearney’s study with the exception of using a less extreme rep range for the high rep group (7). Stone and Coulter had their subjects perform either 3 x 6-8 reps, 2 x 15-20 reps, or 1 x 30-40 reps. The results of this program supported the findings of Anderson and Kearney. Strength and absolute endurance increased for all three groups. The low rep group improved strength more than the other 2 groups and the high rep group improved endurance more than the lower rep groups.
The bottom line is that while DeLorme’s basic axiom is generally supported by this research, the fact is that resistance training results in improvements in both strength and endurance but to varying degrees depending on how many repetitions are performed.
What about alternating rep ranges?
The studies cited above have compared one rep range to another, high reps vs. low reps for example. In every study researchers had subjects perform just one rep range and in each case heavy weights / low reps increased strength the most. What the researchers never examined was how a program of multiple rep ranges compared to a program consisting of a single rep range.
In 2004 a group of researchers tackled this very question in a fascinating study of varying combinations of high and low rep training (8). This group speculated that a combination type program that included both low and high reps would be more effective than a periodized program consisting of single repetition scheme during each training period or phase.
To test their hypothesis they recruited 17 untrained subjects, divided them into two groups, and then trained each group twice per week for 10 weeks. Subjects were tested for maximum strength and muscular endurance pre- and post-training. The first 6 weeks of training was designated as phase 1 and both groups trained exactly the same during this phase. Workouts consisted of two exercises (leg extensions & leg presses) for 3 sets x 10-15 reps. At the end of this first phase of training there was no difference between the groups; both had significantly and equally improved strength and endurance. This is not surprising since both groups trained exactly the same during phase 1.
During the final 4 weeks of the study, both groups conducted 5 sets x 3-5 reps of each exercise. One group, the combi-type group, added a single set of 25-35 reps following their final low rep set. At the end of the training program the combi-type group had increased their strength 58% more than did the other training group (14.7% vs. 9.3% respectively). The results are displayed in table 2.
Table 2: Set and rep ranges for 2 training phases and percent change in strength following phase 2.
Phase 1 training
Phase 2 training
% Change in strength after phase 2
Strength type group
9 sets x 10-15 reps
5 sets x 3-5 reps
Combo type group
9 sets x 10-15 reps
5 sets x 3-5 reps,
1 set x 25-35 reps
In their discussion of these findings, the researchers wrote,
“This suggests that the combi-type regimen caused a larger increase in dynamic muscular strength than did the strength-type regimen when combined with the hypertrophy-type regimen in a periodized fashion… This effect appears to be inconsistent with the classical principle operating in resistance-exercise training, in which low-repetition protocols are used for muscular strength and low-intensity, high-repetition protocols are used for muscular endurance. Sensible combinations of high- and low-intensity protocols may therefore be more important to optimize the strength adaptation to resistance training.”
There were also significant differences in endurance between the two groups. During phase 1 both groups increased endurance with no significant difference in the percent change. However, the combo type group’s endurance continued to increase during phase 2, while the strength type group’s endurance decreased 4.2%. The results are displayed in table 3.
Table 3: Percent change in endurance following each phase of training and total percent change in endurance.
Change in endurance, phase 1
Change in endurance, phase 2
Total Change in Endurance
Strength type group
Combo type group
In summary, this study found that a combination program consisting of heavy weights / low reps and light weight / high reps was more effective for improving both strength and endurance than a traditional periodized training program consisting of a single rep range during each training phase. This is truly a fascinating finding.
What are we to make of all this data on low and high rep strength training? Based on this data I suggest that the evidence supports that resistance training consisting of a combination of reps is superior to a more traditional lower-rep strength training program. While I’d like to see more research on this topic this data is enticing enough that I strongly recommend giving a combination of low rep / high rep training serious consideration.
Personally, I adopted a combination high and low rep program in 2007. At that time I had been strength training consistently for 25 years (I started in 1982) and had tried pretty much every training program that had come down the pipe. Changing to a combination program was the single best change I’ve ever made in terms of increasing strength. Despite being in my mid-40s and many years past my prime I was able to increase my strength to the level it had been at during my mid-20s. Too bad I didn’t discover this 25 years earlier.
What explains the results of a combination program? What physiologically is happening within the body that produces such large strength gains? Why does the addition of high rep training – training that has been conventionally viewed as endurance training – to a traditional low rep program produce greater gains in strength than a low rep program only? I pondered this question for about a year until I finally arrive at the muscle factor model as the physiological explanation. I believe this new model for how muscles function during exercise and how they adapt to exercise explains why a combination program is superior to single rep range training. Based on this I chose the term Muscle Factor Training to describe combination training.
If you would like to try muscle factor training I suggest starting with the following. In addition to the low rep training you are already doing, add:
For example, let’s say your current training program includes 4 x 8-10 reps in the bench press. You would replace 2 of those low rep sets with 1 set of 20 reps and 1 set of 40 reps. Your new bench press program would look like this:
The old adage is that heavy weights / low reps build strength while light weights / high reps build endurance and a review of the research shows that the adage is basically true. However, while that adage is basically correct it does not reveal the complete picture. Strength increases from reps as high as 150 but if you are only doing one rep range then lower reps increase strength the most.
A combination of both high and low reps – what I call Muscle Factor Training – has been shown to increase strength significantly more than a traditional low rep, periodized type training program. For those who are most interested in maximizing muscular strength and size this finding is significant and should be seriously considered when designing a strength training program.
1. Katch, Katch, McArdle, Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance, 1996, Williams & Wilkins, pg. 427
3. DeLorme, Thomas L., Restoration of muscle power by heavy resistance exercise, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 1945, 27:645-667.
4. Stull G, Clarke D., High-resistance, low-repetition training as a determiner of strength and fatigability, Research Quarterly, 41(2), 189-193
5. Clarke D, Stull G., Endurance training as a determinant of strength and fatigability, Research Quarterly, 41(1), 19-26
6. Anderson T, Kearney J., Effects of Three Resistance Training Programs on Muscular Strength and Absolute and Relative Endurance, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 1982, 53:1, 1-7.
7. Stone WJ, Coulter SP., Strength/endurance effects from three resistance training protocols with women, J Strength Cond Res 8:231-234.
8. Goto K, Nagasawa M, Yanagisawa O, Kizuka T, Ishii N, Takamatsu K., Muscular Adaptations to Combinations of High- and Low-Intensity Resistance Exercises, J Strength Cond Res, 2004, 18(4), 730-737.
In a recent research study(1) a group of researchers set out to explore the impact of lighter weight and higher rep training on muscle mass and function. They designed a study “to compare the adaptive changes in muscle size, contractile strength, and MHC (fiber type) composition evoked by resistance training performed at either low or high contraction intensity (i.e. low or high reps) while equalized for total loading volume”
Specifically, this study compared 10 sets x 36 reps using 15.5% 1RM to 10 sets x 8 reps using 70% 1RM. The study ran 12 weeks, with 3 workouts each week.
How did the 10×8 program do? It produced a 7.6% increase in muscle size (hypertrophy) and a 35% increase in 1RM (one rep maximum).
Not bad. Not bad at all. And, candidly, not the least bit surprising. Heavy weights and low reps has long been the accepted way to maximize strength and size.
How about the 10×36 reps program? Many would predict that such a “high” rep range would build endurance and, if it didn’t cause an outright decline in strength and size, would surely not increase strength and/or size. Remember, standard physiological and training wisdom is that more than 20 reps is “endurance” training and endurance training does not increase strength and size. This belief is reflected in the following quote I read on a bodybuilding forum. “Anything beyond 20 reps is high, and not good for strength gains”.
Anyone who would predict that high reps are good for endurance only would be wrong.
The 10×36 program produced a 19% increase in 1RM and a 2.6% increase in muscle size. Pretty impressive for a program many would call “endurance training”.
There are a couple of things to be learned from this study. First, this study clearly shows that a program consisting exclusively of heavy weight and low reps produces greater increases in strength and size than a program consisting exclusively of lighter weights and higher reps. This isn’t any sort of surprise – research over the past 80 years has very consistently shown this same thing.
But there is more to the story than just heavy weights and low reps wins. The most glaring point to consider is that “high” reps increased strength levels 19% and muscle size 2.6%. This naturally brings up two questions. Is this the only study that has shown “high” reps increase strength and size? And from a physiological standpoint how do higher reps cause strength and size to increase?
There have been multiple studies comparing changes in strength and size from different rep ranges and, despite what conventional wisdom teaches, these studies have consistently shown that higher reps cause increases in both strength and size. Yes, heavy weights and low reps increase strength and size the most. But that doesn’t mean higher reps don’t also build strength and size. Conventional wisdom has incorrectly interpreted the research as “heavy weights and low reps build strength; light weight and high reps build endurance”. The first lesson from the research is that “light weights and high reps do increase strength, just not as much as lower rep schemes.”
It is important to note that the research has shown that the higher the rep range the smaller the increase in strength and size. So while reps in range of 25- 35 can build strength an impressive amount, the higher above this that you go the smaller the increases in strength.
There is no getting around the fact that a program of only heavy weights and low reps builds significantly more strength and size than a program of only lighter weight and higher reps. So if you are trying to decide what reps you should exclusively be doing, pick reps less than 20. But, this study also clearly shows that that conventional strength training thought is inaccurate to some degree. Higher reps do increase strength and size.
This brings us to the second question. What logical explanation can we come up with to explain these results? By what physiological mechanism could high reps build strength?
The most logical answer is that what conventional physiological and training wisdom call “high” and “endurance” really aren’t particularly “high”, nor are they really “endurance”. It appears that “high” and “endurance” start somewhere far beyond 20 reps. Exercise doesn’t suddenly transform from “strength” to “endurance” within a matter of a few reps. Going from 12 reps to 24 reps in the same exercise doesn’t somehow turn the exercise into an “endurance” workout. Instead, strength and endurance exist on a continuum, with both elements being trained at all reps. Training at the strength end of the continuum, training between 1-15 reps, increases strength the most and endurance the least. As you increase the number of reps strength is less affected and endurance is more affected, until at some point you are doing so many reps that changes in strength are no longer measurable. That point happens somewhere above 150 reps, according to the research.
What the research hasn’t told us is how higher reps built strength and size. What physiological mechanism is at play that causes higher reps to build both strength and size? If there are different physiological reasons for how low reps build strength and how higher reps build strength, then it raises a fascinating question. What if you combined low reps with higher reps? What would the results be? If different physiological mechanisms are responsible for the increases in strength and size at different reps then would a combination program of different reps result in better results than single rep programs? As we have seen higher reps do increase strength and size and if they build strength due to a different mechanism than lower reps there may be some advantage in combining lower rep training with higher rep training.
This study doesn’t answer the question but this one does. In the meantime, the point is that light weight and high reps are not really “endurance” exercises; high reps are both strength and endurance training and the degree to which they affect strength or endurance depends on the number of reps being performed.
Holm L, et al, Changes in muscle size and MHC composition in response to resistance exercise with heavy and light loading intensity, Journal of Applied Physiology, Nov 2008, 105:1454-1461
In the early 1970s a man named Arthur Jones introduced a revolutionary strength training method to the bodybuilding and strength training world. Jones had been studying muscle physiology for about 30 years and had long understood that the standard training methods of the day were not completely consistent with what was known about how muscles function during exercise or how they adapt to exercise. Many of the training practices of the day were rooted in tradition and contradictory to known physiological facts. Jones, a lifetime strength trainee himself, believed that training would be more effective if it were modified so that it worked in accordance with what was then known about muscles. He figured that a training program based on how the body really functioned would produce much better results than those training methods that ignored, denied, or were ignorant of the true workings of the body.
Utilizing his understanding of muscle physiology Jones spent many years testing and experimenting with different training methods, constantly seeking to discover training methods that produced the best results. Being independently wealthy afforded Arthur both the time and money required to test his ideas and he ultimately spent 20+ years and millions of dollars in his quest. The end result of all his work was a revolutionary training method – High Intensity Training – and a completely new type of exercise machine – Nautilus Training Equipment.
However, there was a problem; Arthur’s high intensity training method was not just revolutionary; it was contradictory to the conventional training wisdom of the day. Humans, being only human, are usually reluctant to abandon long-held beliefs and so many were resistant to Arthur’s methods. Controversy broke out about Arthur’s high intensity training method and two opposing camps formed – one group supporting high intensity training and one supporting conventional (high volume) training. These two groups spent lots of time and effort defending their methods and attacking those of the opposing camp. Even today, more than 35 years after Arthur first introduced high intensity training, the two camps still exist and the debate still rages. In fact, one of the the primary debates in the bodybuilding world is still centered around which method – high intensity or high volume – is best.
Of significance is that Arthur’s high intensity training method was basically the first time that exercise physiology was used as the foundation of a training program. Before Arthur, training was mostly based on tradition and what the top champions of the day were doing. Arthur completely ignored tradition and the training of the top champions of the day and focused on designing training based completely on the functioning of muscles. The fact that his methods continue to be widely used today is a testament to the effectiveness of his physiology-based training method.
The Problem of Two Opposing Theories
All this is not to say that the entire world has embraced high intensity training. As noted above, today the strength training and bodybuilding world basically consists of two opposing training methods – high volume and high intensity. Both methods are currently used and promoted as the best training method by their respective proponents.
The reason both training methods still exist is because both are known to work, at least for some number of people. And therein lies the problem. In science, anytime a theory is shown to be contradicted by even a single observation, then, by definition, that theory is inaccurate. When a theory is shown to be inaccurate it must be abandoned or modified. The high volume training theory and high intensity training theory are, in essence, opposing theories as to how the body works. Since these two theories contradict each other it means that both theories are wrong, at least to some degree.
The body works in one way, not in two contradictory ways. Or, said another way, there is one set of principles/laws by which the body functions, not two contradictory set of principles/laws. We know that both training methods produce results for some people. We also know that, by definition, both theories are wrong to some degree since they contradict each other. What all this tells us is that we are missing some important information as to how muscles function during and adapt to training. Once this missing physiological information is filled in, both of the competing theories will be assimilated and replaced by a new training theory. The missing physiological information is what has allowed the two competing training theories to continue to exist for more than 35 years and has prevented further advances in training methods.
Enter the Muscle Factor Model
In 2006, while conducting background research for an article on strength training for endurance runners, I came across a strength training study whose results were quite startling. The study compared a non-traditional training method to a standard periodized training program and found that the non-traditional method produced 50% greater increases in strength than did the periodized program. The researchers themselves were unable to explain why the non-traditional program produced the best results and noted that the results were contradictory to both current beliefs about the functioning of muscles and classical training methodology.
That particular study caused me to rethink some of what physiology currently teaches about muscle activation during exercise and its adaptation following exercise. In turn, this led to a breakthrough in muscle physiology; a breakthrough I have termed the Muscle Factor Model. I suggest that this new model more accurately explains how muscles function during and adapt to exercise. Furthermore, this new model suggests some significant modifications in training methods for any sport in which strength, power, or endurance is important. I believe the muscle factor model is a key piece of the missing physiological information and will ultimately result in the integration of high volume and high intensity training. The muscle factor model may lead to the most significant changes and refinements in training since the introduction of periodization in the United States back in the 1980s. I realize those are bold claims so let’s have a look at this new model. We begin with a discussion of muscle contractile properties.
Muscle Fiber Contractile Properties
Physiologists generally divide muscle fibers into three basic types – Slow Twitch, Fast Twitch A, Fast Twitch B – each with its own distinct contractile properties.
Slow twitch fibers are the weakest of fibers, contract relatively slow, and have very high levels of endurance.
Fast Twitch A fibers are stronger than Slow Twitch fibers, contract relatively fast, and have high levels of endurance.
Fast Twitch B fibers are the strongest of fibers and have the fastest contraction speed but have the least amount of endurance.
The above description of the contractile properties of each muscle fiber type might lead you to believe that each type of fiber has distinct contractile properties. Nothing could be further from the truth. Muscle fibers of any type are not all alike; they don’t all contract the same; they are not homogenous. Instead there is a broad continuum of contractile properties in all the muscle fibers of any type. Physiologists have measured up to a 129x range of contractile properties in muscle fibers of the same type. What this means is that in any specific fiber type you will find fibers that contract much slower or faster than other fibers of the same type; fibers that contract much more or much less forcefully than other fibers of the same type; fibers that possess much more or much less endurance than other fibers of the same type. For example, physiologists measured the time to exhaustion in a group of fast twitch fibers and found some of the fast twitch fibers fatigued in as little as 16 seconds while other fast twitch fibers were able to contract for 34 minutes before reaching fatigue. The contractile properties discussed earlier tell us what the average contractile properties are for each type of muscle fiber. The average Slow Twitch fiber is slower, weaker, and has greater endurance than any of the Fast Twitch fibers. The averageFast Twitch B fiber is stronger and faster but less enduring than other fiber types. But the broad range of contractile properties across all muscle fibers means that fibers of the same type do not all have the same level of strength, endurance, or speed.
A very important point about muscle fiber contractile properties is that there is a strong inverse relationship between a muscle’s strength and its endurance. The stronger a muscle fiber the less endurance it has and vice versa. Weaker fibers possess much greater endurance than do strong fibers. Stronger fibers possess much less endurance than weaker fibers. This point is critical to understand.
Muscle Activation During Exercise
Not all muscle fibers are activated during exercise because the body only activates the minimum number of fibers required in order to get the job done. Muscle fibers are activated in a very specific order, from weakest to strongest. Physiologists have termed this the size principle of activation. Basically, muscle fibers are recruited based on the amount of force required to complete the task at hand. Recall that there is a wide variation in the strength of muscle fibers; every whole muscle has fibers with different levels of strength, from very weak all the way up to very strong. The weaker fibers are recruited first with the strongest of fibers only being recruited during the heaviest of tasks. Fibers are generally recruited in the following order based on the level of force required to perform the task:
Slow twitch – Fast Twitch A – Fast Twitch B
There are 2 important points to understand about muscle fiber activation – 1) it is a team sport and 2) total force is the sum of the force of all the active fibers.
1. It’s a team sport: Muscle fiber work together. Activation proceeds from Slow Twitch – Fast A – Fast B. It is NOT the case that Slow Twitch fibers exclusively handle the easy tasks, Fast Twitch A exclusively handle the moderate tasks and Fast Twitch B exclusively handle the heavy tasks. Instead, as the load increases from easy to moderate to heavy an increasing number of fibers are activated and all are working together to complete the task.
2. The total force produced by a whole muscle during a task is the sum of the force of all the individual fibers. All active fibers, whether Slow Twitch, Fast A, or Fast B, contribute force during movement and the total amount of force generated by a muscle is the sum of the force of every active fiber. During a really heavy lift, even though the Fast A and Fast B fibers are activated and doing the bulk of the work, active Slow Twitch fibers are producing force and helping lift the weight.
In practical terms this is what it means:
If you pick up a light weight, then only Slow Twitch fibers will be activated because little force is needed to pick up the weight.
If you pick up a heavy weight then both Slow Twitch + Fast Twitch A fibers will be activated because more force is required to lift the weight. Note that the Slow Twitch fibers are still active during this exercise, but since they are unable to generate enough force to get the job done by themselves, some Fast Twitch A fibers are also required to help out.
Pick up an even heavier weight and now you are using Slow Twitch + Fast Twitch A + Fast Twitch B fibers to lift the weight. The Slow Twitch and Fast Twitch A fibers did not possess enough strength to lift the weight by themselves, so the strongest of fibers, the Fast Twitch B fibers, were activated.
The same thing applies to any activity. For example, running at a slow pace activates only Slow Twitch fibers because the force required to run slowly is small enough that the Slow Twitch fibers are strong enough to handle the job themselves. Running at a faster pace activates Slow Twitch + Fast Twitch A fibers because running faster requires more force to be generated. Very fast running (i.e. intervals and sprints) and fast or steep uphill running activate the Slow Twitch + Fast Twitch A + Fast Twitch B fibers due to the high level of force required to run at very fast paces.
Muscle Fiber Activation at Exhaustion
As an exercise proceeds it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a set amount of force production because of fatigue. The first repetition of an exercise might be reasonably easy but repetition 20 with that same weight might be an all-out effort. Are all fibers activated during the hard to all-out effort that athletes routinely reach during intense workouts? Only in some cases; in most cases not all fibers are activated.
During exercise as a person’s active muscle fibers fatigue some inactive muscle fibers are recruited to assist those active fibers that have fatigued. However, there is a limit to the amount of additional fibers that are recruited. Not every muscle fiber is activated during exhaustive exercise. Instead, the person reaches exhaustion or terminates the exercise. About the only time that all fibers are active is during the heaviest of tasks, such as during very heavy weight lifting (i.e. about 6 or less reps). Less forceful tasks, such as high rep strength training or distance running, do not result in 100% activation of all available muscle fibers, even at the end of the exercise when the trainee is working as hard as they can in that particular exercise. For example, one study found a little less than 70% leg muscle fiber activation while running to exhaustion on a level treadmill and a bit more than 70% activation during exhaustive running up an inclined treadmill.
Overload and Intensity
One of the primary principles of training is the overload principle. Exercise physiology generally describes overload like this – the application of an activity specific overload in order to cause physiologic improvement and bring about a training response. What this means is that muscles must be trained with a sufficient level of intensity in order to cause adaptation to occur. There is nothing earthshaking in the concept of overload as it has been a principle of training for more than a century.
However, we need to carry the concept of overload a bit further and apply it to individual muscle fibers; what is true for a whole muscle is also true for individual muscle fibers. In order to cause a training response in any individual muscle fiber that muscle fiber must be trained with a sufficient level of overload, with a sufficient level of intensity. This is accomplished by training a fiber reasonably close to its maximum capacity. Or said another way you must sufficiently fatigue a fiber in order for it to adapt and improve. This point is critical in understanding how muscles fibers work and adapt to training.
Let’s examine this principle in training terms.
You put weights on a bar so that you are only able to lift the bar a maximum of 10 times. Since the bar is very heavy you will activate Slow Twitch + Fast A + Fast B fibers while lifting it. After 10 reps (about 30 seconds of lifting) you are no longer strong enough to lift the weight an additional repetition so you set the bar down, ending the exercise. Which fibers did you overload?
You only overloaded some of your Fast B fibers. Specifically, you overloaded those Fast B fibers that fatigued in 30 seconds or less.
There were a whole bunch of fibers that you didn’t overload. Which ones? Those fibers that take longer than 30 seconds to fatigue were not fully overloaded when the set ended.
At the end of the set some of your Fast B fibers were exhausted and couldn’t continue to contract. But a lot of your Fast B and all your Fast A and Slow Twitch fibers were not exhausted at rep 10 because they posses more endurance than the strongest of the Fast B fibers (remember, it has been shown that it can take several minutes to exhaust all the Fast B fibers). The reason you terminated the exercise at rep 10 is because the whole muscle lacked the strength to lift the weight, but only some of the Fast B fibers were fatigued.
This set fatigued, and therefore overloaded, some of the Fast B fibers and those are the fibers that will get stronger. But the remainder of your Fast B and all your Fast A and Slow Twitch fibers were not particularly overloaded and will adapt little to none.
When those few Fast B fibers adapt you will be stronger but you will not be as strong as you could get. Why? Because lifting a heavy weight is a team effort and all your Fast B, all your Fast A and all your Slow Twitch fibers contribute to the total strength of the muscle but you didn’t adequately train all your Fast B or your Fast A and Slow Twitch fibers to get stronger. Only when you train all your fibers to overload will you get as strong as you are genetically capable of getting.
Putting it All Together = Muscle Factor Model
When we put all the above facts together, we arrive at the Muscle Factor Model. In order to cause an adaptive response in a muscle fiber, that muscle fiber must 1) be active and 2) be overloaded; failure to accomplish both of these results in little to no adaptation in that muscle fiber.
Recall the inverse relationship between a muscle fiber’s level of strength and its endurance capacity – the higher the strength the less the endurance, the lower the strength the greater the endurance. If you are going to overload a muscle fiber you must work it to a reasonable level of fatigue. Considering that muscle fibers posses widely varying levels of endurance, this means that only a relatively few muscle fibers are fatigued at the end of any normally conducted exercise session.
In training terms this means:
In order to overload weak muscle fibers with abundant endurance requires long training sessions conducted at low levels of force production.
In order to overload stronger muscle fibers with moderate levels of endurance requires moderate duration training sessions conducted at moderate levels of force production.
In order to overload the strongest of muscle fibers with poor endurance requires short duration training sessions conducted at high levels of force production.
If you want to maximize your performance, then you have to train all the muscle fibers that contribute to force production during your chosen activity. You have to train your weak fibers, your moderate fibers, your strong fibers, and your strongest fibers. Since force production is a team effort any untrained fibers detract from the overall performance of the team (in this case the team is the whole muscle).
The muscle factor model provides a more complete explanation for how muscle fibers work during and adapt to exercise. Only muscle fibers that are active and overloaded during exercise will adapt and grow. The only way to overload a muscle fiber is to train it to a sufficient level of fatigue. Normally performed exercise programs usually do not train all or most of the fibers in a whole muscle due to the way muscle fibers are activated during exercise and because muscle fibers have widely varying levels of endurance. The only way to maximize performance is to train all the muscle fibers that are active during the event; any untrained muscle fibers prevent the athlete from reaching his/her maximum potential.
Monday Legs(3-5 sets each 8-12 reps for all besides olympic lifts)
Lying Leg curls
10sets 8-10 reps for calves
Tuesday Push 1(same scheme as before)
incline bbell bench
decline dbell bench
dbell or arnold press
side lateral raise
overhead rope ext or decline skulls
Wednesday Pull 1
weighted pull ups
rear delt exercise
Friday Legs 2
10 set 8-10 reps calves
Saturday Push 2
close grip bench
incline dbell or machine
flat bench dbell press or fly
overhead rope ext or decline skulls
Sunday Pull 2
weighted chin ups
reverse delt exercise
rest a day then repeat
Reblogged from: JTFITNESSPERFORMANCE
BY JTFITNESSPERFORMANCE · OCTOBER 13, 2013
One of the simplest yet rewarding routines out there is the “Push/Pull/Legs” split. It is an easy template mould which harnesses all the required criteria for a full-proof program – balanced time spent on each individual body part/movement and consistent overall training volume. It is also one of the best programs for optimal recovery, which puts it right up there.
The split is based on the idea that your body is essentially split into three parts, in terms of “movements”:
As I have said in the past, if your goal is to be athletic, or athletic and aesthetic you should train movements not muscles (http://jt9797.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/movements-not-muscles-program-included/). I favour this split over any other mainstream program for that very reason. By splitting the program up this way it allows the individual to strengthen the basic human movements required for almost all athletic activities, while also delving into the muscle building side of things. It is perfect for athletes who are looking to gain mass, especially in the off season.
Sets and Repetitions
You cannot rely on the movements alone to develop performance and muscle mass simultaneously. To build both athleticism and muscle you must tamper with the sets and repetitions ranges, as well as the exercises (we’ll look into this later). As a general rule of thumb a single session should consist of 4-6 movements (exercises) and 16-24 sets. Here are the ideal sets and repetition ranges you should perform for each exercise:
As you can see we begin with strength and athletic development exercises that focus on low repetitions and heavy weight which are used to develop strength. These require the most amount of energy and technique; therefore they must be performed at the start of the session. We slowly fade into mass building parameters, focusing on slightly higher repetitions.
Exercise selection is easy – on pull day you do pulling exercises, on push day you do pushing exercises, on leg day you do leg exercises. You begin with compound movements and slowly move onto isolation movements. Here are some exercises you could use:
|Days||Primary Exercise||Main Assistance and Compound Mass||Mass Assistance||Mass|
|Push||Bench PressOverhead PressPush Press||Overhead PressBench Press (and any variation e.g. close grip)DipsDumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Overhead press (single or double)
|Push upsDipsCable fly’sFly’s
|Triceps PushdownTriceps ExtensionPush upsCable fly’s
|Pull||DeadliftOlympic LiftsRack-pulls||Olympic LiftsRows (any type)Chin upsPull ups
|Chin upsPull upsShrugsRow variation (lighter)
Straight arm pushdown
|ScarecrowsBand-pull apartsFace pullsCurls (any arm work)|
|Legs||SquatOlympic LiftsDeadlift||Olympic LiftsBulgarian Split SquatsHip TrustsGood mornings
|Glute-ham raisesPull-throughSwiss ball leg curlReverse hyperextensions
|Sled dragsLeg extensionsLeg curlsGlute-ham raises
Swiss ball leg curl
Pulling It All Together
Why didn’t I just hand you a readymade template for you to follow? I decided to lay out the structure for a reason. Too many trainers hand out generic programs that do not meet the needs of individuals. By giving you the opportunity to pick your own exercises, repetitions, sets and training days you have the chance to make an individually moulded program that will be focused towards your own goals, take responsibility. A personalized program will always out perform a generic one.
I will lay out a ready to go program, but this is only for beginners and people who want to see what the finished product looks like. If you know what your goal is and have a basic knowledge in training, channel your program towards attaining your goal. Pick exercises that strengthen your weak areas and train how you want to train! Here we go:
Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic program but it will never outdo a personalized program.
3 Day a Week vs 4 Days a Week
Push/Pull/Legs can be split into a three or four day a week program:
|Day||3 Days a Week||4 Days a Week|
Both have their benefits, if your goal is purely strength and size based or you’re going through a bulking phase, you may find the four day a week to be beneficial. However, I personally prefer the 3 day a week program as it gives athletes plenty of time to work on skills needed in their sport, as well as sprinting and other conditioning sessions, while still gaining great amounts of strength and size.
In conclusion, this is a fantastic program for people looking to gain strength and mass. I regularly use this style of program with rugby players and other contact athletes who need to gain muscle mass, while still developing athleticism.
Author: Alex Borja B.S. SPT, HFS
The P.H.A.T. program or “Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training” program is unique in that it involves the combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding training. If you are new to the scene, powerlifters are often regarded as using lower reps and higher weight in their workouts to mostly gain strength whereas bodybuilders strive for mass using a higher rep and less weight approach in comparison to powerlifters.
Well if you haven’t heard of him by now I will explain. Layne Norton is a professional natural bodybuilder, powerlifter, and writer. Oh, and did I mention he has his Ph D? He is very experienced in the fitness industry and sought after highly for his articles and thoughts. So Layne Norton is highly qualified to introduce his newest training system: P.H.A.T. training.
Well you can pretty much use common sense when thinking of the possible outcomes from using both powerlifting and bodybuilding approaches to training – at the same time!
Typically when one is training for strength, he will inevitably need to gain mass once he hits a wall. That is just fact. He will someday reach a plateau where he can no longer get any stronger without adding some more muscle to help with the motion. The opposite holds true to: the bodybuilder will evenetually need more strength to add more mass to his body. P.H.A.T. hopes to aid with this…
So in conclusion: Strength and Mass are directly proportional. (To a degree)
So one can draw the conclusion that putting the two types of training together, for mass and for strength, the outcomes can be very impressive. Does P.H.A.T. really work? Can we really train for strength and mass within the same week to boost our overall results and accelerate to new heights we never thought possible? There’s only one way to find out.
This is a very intense, volume heavy program that is meant to push you to your limits. No person has achieved more than they were able to by not pushing themselves to places where they thought they couldn’t reach. Having said this, P.H.A.T. training can be highly demanding and as such you should always distinguish real pain to “training pain”. If you feel yourself taking it too far, back off for a day or two. An injury can set you back months to years while knowing your limits will set you back a few days. Train hard but train smart.
Day 1: Upper Body Power
Day 2: Lower Body Power
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy
Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
Day 7: Rest
Also: See Layne Norton’s Interview with Directlyfitness.com!
Alex Borja B.S. SPT, HFS
Newly minted physique pro Tish Shelton has lofty goals in mind for her first season in the IFBB ranks—namely earning a trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Olympia next fall. Challenging expectations to be sure but certainly legitimate considering the rising star from Mobile, Alabama brings a notable and striking package to the stage.
In fact, we just discussed a coterie of contenders for the upcoming season in the previous post that could have easily included the steely 5-foot-1, 125-pound powerhouse and reigning NPC North Americans short class champion. Pro physique continues to be intriguing with newcomers like Rikki Smead, Erica Blockman, Tracy Weller and Tish Shelton all joining the mix this year.
Following Tish’s dazzling, pro card-winning routine, highlights from a contest shape debut shoot in Pittsburgh, Pa. last summer feature a tantalizing combination of sinewy and sinuous. Tish’s tremendous development is on display—wide, detailed back
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