How Many Reps to Build Muscle?


nowing how many reps to build muscle gives you a snapshot of your training.

Learn why time under tension completes the picture.

Counting Reps

Anyone familiar with lifting weights will be aware of the training advice: "You do singles for strength and 10s for size". As old as Methuselah, these are wise words - yet does this guide provide us with the whole of the picture? Not really, and here is why:

Counting repetitions - regardless of their number - fails to deliver the precise details an effective training regimen demands.

Indeed, count reps to record progress, and your picture resembles that of a grainy, black-and-white analogue television set.

So what do we need? We require a precise measure whose results are as finely-tuned as a high-definition TV.

Step into the spotlight, time under tension.

Photo courtesy of Taki Steve

How Many Reps to Build Muscle?

Put your workouts under the magnifying glass of this training protocol, and your picture instantly becomes as focussed as a Carl Zeiss lens. Indeed, time under tension can show you:

  • The first early warning signs of over-training
  • Detailed progress made from workout to workout
  • The optimal time you should spend performing each exercise for maximal results.

Counting reps alone won't provide you with this kind of feedback. Or knowing how many reps to build muscle. Or performing your exercises with the optimal rep speed.

To see things THIS clearly, and in high-definition, you must measure results to the second.

And what's the best way of doing this?

It isn't singles for strength or 10s for size. It is time under tension.

Time Under Tension

We all know what a tradition is. A tradition is a ritual or belief that has been passed down through history.

A common training tradition that has been passed down through the ages, is that you count repetitions to monitor progress. Does this type of record-keeping work? Yes. To a point. But counting reps doesn't give you a precise record of what is happening.

Doug McGuff writes about this in Body by Science, explaining how strength increases can easily be overlooked by simply counting repetitions.

    For example, if you average ten seconds up and ten seconds down, that would be twenty seconds during which your muscles are under tension each repetition. Now, if you reached failure at six reps in an exercise during one workout and six reps the next, you could be forgiven for thinking you had failed to make any progress.

    And if solely counting reps to assess progress, this would be true.

    Yet what if your time under tension was a minute thirty seconds for the first workout and a minute forty for the next workout? You would have entirely missed a ten second display of increased strength - an increase which is equal to 7%.

Now can you see why time under tension provides you with a fine-tuned, high-definition picture of your training?

In Summary

Knowing how many reps to build muscle gives you a snapshot of your training.

Learn why time under tension completes the picture.

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