Getting the right weight, and the right rep range is critical to your success in this game.

In a recent article I debunked the idea that the hormonal release from compound-only routines (like 5×5) was sufficient to stimulate maximum muscle growth. This is called the Hormone Theory, and it’s bunk. You also need those isolation exercises for optimal growth.

Another assertion that is put forth (oftentimes by the same guys) is that heavy-ass weights and low reps works best to stimulate growth.

But high weight and low reps is not the best approach for building muscle. Here’s why….



Hypertrophy Studies


A meta-analysis (study of studies) conducted in 2007 [1] found that lifting 60%-85% of your 1 Rep Max was the most effective way to stimulate growth. This percentage of 1 rep max translates to about 6-12 reps per set.

Where does my THT program have you training? At 6 reps at the lowest, and 12 reps at the highest (with some rare exceptions).

Additionally, the following is from world-renowned trainer Charles Poliquin…

In practical terms, mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress are best produced with the following “hypertrophy-style” protocol:  A moderate rep range (8 to 12 reps) with moderate loads (65 to 85 percent of the 1RM)…Training to failure is also indicated because lifting to the point where you can’t go anymore produces muscle damage and a large protein synthesis response, which will lead to greater muscle development.

On top of that, myself, along with Tom Venuto, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and many others all advocate the following:

  • 1-5 reps  85-100% Neural Strength & Power, Little Hypertrophy  
  • 6-8 reps 75-85% Neural & Metabolic Strength & Hypertrophy
  • 9-12 reps 70-75% Metabolic & Neural  Hypertrophy & some strength
  • 13-20+ reps 60-70% Metabolic local endurance, some hypertrophy, little strength

THT TrainingDownload the full and free THT workout below. After inputting your email, you will be taken directly to the download page for instant access to the workout. You don’t need to go to your email to confirm anything.


Myostatin Levels


Flex Wheeler

Flex Wheeler

Myostatin is a protein we all have. It actually LIMITS the amount of growth we can experience. Low myostatin levels can result in crazy growth. So a deficiency is a good thing (from the bodybuilder’s point of view).

Over at Dr. Ellington Darden’s page a poster says this…

“…apparently Flex Wheeler had a myostatin gene ‘deletion’ which allowed him to build loads of size, despite having a reputation for being a half-ass trainer.”

Fact is, most (if not all) pro bodybuilders have low myostatin levels. Couple that with years and years of steriod use and you get the insane physiques we see today in the world of professional bodybuilding.

Anyway…remember: Less Myostatin = More Muscle.

A study by Baylor university tested 6 reps to failure vs 20 reps to failure and their effect on myostatin.

The result? The 20 rep protocol produced myostatin levels 3 times lower than the 6 reps protocol. That’s 300%. That’s a huge difference. And it probably means a huge difference is the amount of muscle than can be built as a result.


A bull with a myostatin deficiency. No training. Just huge muscle.

But 20 reps? Coupling this study with everything else in this article, it would seem that 8-12 reps is still the sweet spot.

I do have an idea you can try. While still training to failure in the 8-12 rep range, you can pick up a lighter weight at the end of a set and knock out some more reps. This way you get the best of both worlds.

But only do this on the last set for a particular body-part as the resulting fatigue will stop you from being able to perform at your best on successive sets.


Metabolic Stress Levels


Metabolic stress levels (from a build-up of lactate and hydrogen ions) correlate with hypertrohy/muscle growth. You get much more of this with higher reps and by training to muscular failure. Low reps and not going to failure doesn’t get this job done.

By the way, crazy metabolic stress levels, beyond what trainees have ever experienced before, is partly responsible for the incredible gains obtained by guys and girls on the new Chest Blast program.


Satellite Cells


Another mechanism in the hypertrophy game is the activation of satellite cells. These satellite cells actually give their nuclei to cells already in the muscle. Again, the kind of metabolic stress produced by higher reps activates this process better.

Interesting to note: these nuclei don’t seem to go away even if you stop training and the muscle shrinks. This probably goes a long way to explaining the “muscle memory” phenomenon, where people get bigger and stronger SUPER-FAST after a long lay-off from training.


Getting a Pump


While getting a pump is most definitely not the most important factor in the growth game, it does in fact play a role.

How? The body only build more muscle as a defense mechanism. It must perceive a sufficient threat so that it feels the need to compensate for this threat with more muscle mass.

When you get a pump, the cells of the muscle swell in size. This swelling is perceived as a threat (to the integrity of the cell) and one way the body seeks to compensate for this is by increasing protein synthesis levels.

You don’t get much of a pump at all when training at low rep ranges.


Now, for education and entertainment purposes, here are 2 videos. One from Rich Piana, and one from Kai Greene. They are telling you to stop being obsessed with heavy weights and focus on truly stimulating each muscle to grow.

“It’s NOT About The Numbers.” Check it out…

He says,

“Numbers will ruin you if you get caught up in the number game. All that matters is how you execute the exercise – squeezing, stretching, getting a good pump.”

Then talking about a guy doing heavy bench presses for low reps, he goes on to say,

“You feel good. You’re like ‘yeah’. But as far as chest development? You haven’t done a damn thing. You got nothing accomplished, nothing! Waste of time.”

Now here’s Kai Greene talking about this very issue and HAMMERING home the point well! The great part is from 11min 15secs onwards (the video should start playing from this point).

At around 15:30, Kai touches on what I was saying above about “moving weight” vs “feeling the muscle”.

Yes, this is old wisdom come back again full circle.  What we always knew to be true IS true.

When I started MuscleHack, the internet was awash with this no-failure, low-rep, compound-only BS! Thankfully the tide does seem to be turning.

Train with high intensity to failure, use moderate-to-high rep ranges, get a massive pump, then go home, rest, and grow.

To clarify, I’m not recommend you do sets over 25 reps-per-set. And I’m certainly not recommending less than 6 reps per set. The middle spot seems to work best.

If you have any questions, just ask below. I’m always happy to help.

THT TrainingDownload the full and free THT workout below. After inputting your email, you will be taken directly to the download page for instant access to the workout. You don’t need to go to your email to confirm anything.

Train With Intensity!


Reference: [1] The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Wernbom M, Augustsson J, Thomeé R.

You'll love your fast gains on THT!

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You'll love your fast gains on THT!

Cool! Click here to take you to the download page. (or check your email for the download link)