gain muscle weight lifting

Almost any time someone starts weight training, they’re immediately faced with one major issue – high reps vs low reps. Should they be doing sets of 3-5? 8-10? 15+? The old “bro” recommendation of “low reps to get big, high reps to get ripped” may not necessarily be totally true, but it’s actually not that far off. By utilizing some Russian sports science crossed with old school anecodtal “broscience”, you’ll be able to maximize your gym gains.

Using Prilepin’s Table

High Reps vs Low RepsPrilepin’s Table (sometimes also known as “Prilepin’s Chart”) is a classification of weight training percentages and optimal volume created by Russian sports scientist A.S. Prilepin. Originally appearing in Managing the Training of Weightlifters by Nikolai Petrovich Laputin and Valetin Grigoryevich Oleshko, the table was comprised by Prilepin for the use of other Russian sports scientists in the training of Soviet Olympic weightlifters. Prilepin’s Table has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years because of its use by Louie Simmons in training his Westside Barbell powerlifters. A basic look at the table’s data shows the following:

  • 55-65% of 1RM should be done in sets of 3-6, with optimal total reps being 24, and an acceptable range of total reps being 18-30
  • 70-80% of 1RM should be done in sets of 3-6, with optimal total reps being 18, and an acceptable range of total reps being 12-24
  • 80-90% of 1RM should be done in sets of 2-4, with optimal total reps being 15, and an acceptable range of total reps being 10-20
  • 90+% of 1RM should be done in sets of 1-2, with optimal total reps being 4, and an acceptable range of total reps being 1-10

Although Prilepin’s Table was created for the sake of maximizing strength and power development, these guidelines can still be incorporated when engaging in a muscle-building workout. While some may debate the use of high reps vs low reps for hypertrophy, a well rounded program will use both.

Structuring High Reps vs Low Reps in Your Workout

A good place to start your workouts is with big, compound exercises such as squats, presses, bench, deadlifts, and so on. Old school “broscience” or not, most know that low to moderate reps are good for strength training and muscle-building, and Prilepin’s Table above enforces that. Keep your “big” exercises in the 70-80% guidelines above, and you’ll have the low reps part of the “high reps vs low reps” debate mostly tackled.

From there, you could go into assistance exercises for more moderate reps (think 8-12) to increase the time your muscles are under tension, and further your hypertrophy development. If you want to include some higher rep work to increase your “pump”, improve muscular endurance, or even just as a “finisher”, this would be a good way to end your workout.

Sample Workouts to Try

Utilizing all the information you’ve been given thus far, here are a few example workouts you could employ into your program.

  • For a chest workout, you could start off with bench according to Prilepin’s Table above for 70-80%. Next, do 4-5 sets of dumbbell incline press for 8-12 reps, then cable crossovers or flies as a “finisher” for 3-4 sets of 15+.
  • A sample leg workout could start off with squats, then leg press both according to Prilepin’s Table above for 70-80%. Reverse lunges and lying leg curls could both be done for a few sets of 8-12, then leg extensions as a “finisher” for sets of 15+.
  • Shoulders could be trained the same with with seated dumbbell press according to Prilepin’s, then laterals and bent laterals both for sets of 8-12, with no “finisher” needed.

When it comes to high reps vs low reps, there can definitely be more than one way to do things, but this overall setup will work well. Combining a good mix of heavier weight with lower reps, moderate weight with moderate reps, and occasionally lighter weight with higher reps will give you more than enough to maximize your hypertrophy efforts.

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