There are countless opinions out there about what the best number of reps and sets is. Powerlifters tend to stick to heavier weights while bodybuilders stay in the hypertrophy rep range. But is there actually a “best” amount of repetitions when it comes to building mass or strength?
A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research provides some very interesting insight into what the best training plan actually looks like.
Interestingly, the researchers found that a training program utilizing higher reps for the lower body and lower reps for the upper body resulted in more strength and power gains in the upper body than a program using high-intensity low reps for both.
Best Rep Range for Mass: Hypertrophy Rep Range
In simple terms, doing more repetitions on movements like squat and deadlift led to greater mass gains in the lower body (which is pretty obvious), but also improved strength in the upper body more effectively.
Previously discussed extensively, this strength in the upper body translates very well to size gains as well in natural athletes (people who don’t use performance-enhancing substances). In fact, it is one of the main points of the study—the group that mixed hypertrophy work in with strength work actually made more progress overall.
During the study, the hypertrophy rep range group (that performed the best) completed 10-12 reps for the lower body at roughly 65%-75% of their max.
Best Rep Range for Strength
They also completed 4-5 reps at 88%-90% of their max for the upper body.
The group that mixed rep ranges got a whole lot stronger in the bench press than the group that did low reps on both squat and bench. Not only did they increase their one rep max—they increased their lifting speed as well (power).
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that a training program focusing on hypertrophy rep ranges for lower body and strength rep ranges for the upper body. While this may be true, there are also benefits to doing lower reps for the lower body. The main thing you should take away from the study is: change is good—alter your repetitions at all times with the use of periodization to maximize your progress.
If you are looking to make the most amount of progress long-term, you will definitely need to squat and deadlift heavy utilizing a DUP strength training program which includes doing lower reps for the lower body.
However, if you are currently lagging in your bench press progress and want to give yourself an easy boost, upping your lower body reps and cutting your upper body reps is a perfect solution.