I’m sure most of you who have searched for different types of workout programs have noticed that most of them give you a certain amount of repetitions to perform for each exercise. Some programs tell you to do 8-10 while others may only tell you to do 4-5. But does it really matter?

In this article I am going to give you some things to think about. It is widely known that in order to gain muscle mass you should perform 8-10 or 10-12 reps per set. In a program that is supposed to help you get lean you are told to perform 12-15 reps. Then there are programs that use “cluster sets” which tell you to perform 3 reps, rest for 15 seconds, and then perform another set of 3 reps.

Time and time again I’ll start with a client that will come to me with a program that they have been doing for a while and the rep counts will be all over the place. Although I do not mind taking a look at their program, besides apparently it didn’t work, and give them the truth.

Building a body that is packed full of muscle mass is not an easy task. Our bodies are determined to remain compact to allow us to be more mobile. It ends up being a constant fight between your mind and body. But there is a way to win this battle.

Let’s stick with rep counts as they relate to building muscle mass. It is important to start with how your body responds to the stimulation you provide. Building muscle has nothing to do with the muscle pump you feel after completing a set. A lot of supplement manufactures will want you to think otherwise. But that’s a subject that would take a lot longer to explain.

So when you add resistance exercise to your workout regimen there are a multitude of changes that take place in your body. I will simplify it to make it easier to understand. So you decide to add 25 pounds to your bench press maximum. You take the bar off of the rack and the craziness begins. Your muscles send a signal to your brain that tells it to activate more muscle fibers in order to handle the increase in weight. This causes your brain to activate as many muscle fibers as it takes to move the weight. While you’re pressing the weight your muscles are constantly sending messages to your brain. More muscle fibers needed, more on the right side, now the left. This is how your body keeps the bar balanced and moving.

Rep Counts

But what happens when the bar stops? You’re tapped out! You can’t move the bar another inch. Well that’s another part of your muscle that says “enough is enough”. You see your body has built in mechanisms that will stop you before you cause serious damage. The problem is that it is at this moment where your brain says we need more muscle for next time. I call it a mental marker. The next time you bench your brain and muscles remember what happened last time and prepare for it by building more muscle (fibers).

What does this have to do with rep counts? Well a lot! As a coach I will have my team perform a conditioning drill and I’ll tell them exactly where to begin and where to end. They will do exactly that. They have a preconceived starting and ending point and when they reach it they stop.

When you lay down on the bench, stand under the squat rack, or stand over a deadlift bar and you tell yourself you’re gonna do 8 or 10 reps, that’s exactly what you’ll do. You have programmed your brain that you have a starting point and an ending point and once you reach it your body burns out.

The most muscle is gained when the most stress is placed on the body. If you set a mental marker of 6 reps that’s all your body will give you. My suggestion is that you do not have predetermined rep counts. Take the program that says to perform 3 sets of 10 reps and scratch out the “10 reps” part. Get rid of it! In order to build the most muscle you need to train until muscle failure and sometimes beyond.

If you have the correct program, or trainer, you should have already performed an assessment and figured out what you 1 rep max is. Then take eighty percent of that (approximately) and that is your working weight. Now go do it to failure! Stop counting reps!

**If you have not yet gotten a Fitness Assessment done I highly suggest it. All of my clients start out with a complete and detailed Nutrition and Fitness Assessment. If you haven’t had one done yet and do not know where or how to get one done contact me, so I can help you. You will never know how much progress you’re making if you never knew where you started.

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