Transform Your Physique: Does High Rep Bodyweight Training Build A Lot Of Muscle?
High rep weight training has always been a topic of contention among fitness enthusiasts and professionals. The age-old debate revolves around its efficacy in muscle building.
A common belief that has permeated the fitness community is that only lifting heavy weights can lead to significant muscle growth.
This notion has overshadowed the potential benefits of high rep training, leading many to dismiss it as merely a tool for endurance and not for hypertrophy. But is there more to high rep training than meets the eye?
Does high rep bodyweight training build a lot of muscle?
Bodyweight training is a great way to build muscle, but it isn’t the only way. If you’re looking to build a lot of muscle, you’ll need to focus on other types of training as well. However, bodyweight training can be a great addition to your routine if you’re looking to improve your overall strength and muscularity. If you are looking to only build muscle with bodyweight exercises, you can but you must realise you won’t get that bodybuilder look. You can build great strength with callisthenics, but as you will know, the majority of these people are leaner and ridiculously strong! The other thing to consider when building a lot of muscle is that your genetics play a key role too, so don’t get too discouraged if you’re not seeing the results you want right away. After the initial “shock to the body” doing something new, gains will be difficult unless you train more advanced variations of bodyweight exercises to make them harder. Just keep working hard and be patient!
The Misconception About High Rep Training
The world of fitness is rife with stereotypes, and high rep training is no exception. It’s often pigeonholed as a regimen suited only for those aiming to enhance their muscular endurance, rather than for those looking to bulk up.
This stereotype has been perpetuated by the traditional breakdown of rep ranges, where low reps with heavy weights are associated with strength and muscle building, while high reps with lighter weights are linked to endurance.
However, real-world observations challenge this stereotype. Take, for instance, the ’empty bar challenge’ that has gained popularity in many gyms. Participants are tasked with performing as many reps as they can using just an empty 20kg bar.
Exercises range from squats to bench presses, and the results are often astonishing. Many of those who excel in these challenges boast impressive physiques, suggesting that there’s more to high rep training than just endurance.
Furthermore, a look at the CrossFit community offers more insights. CrossFit athletes, while not primarily bodybuilders, are known for their high rep workouts. Despite the massive volume and cardio, many of these athletes have muscular builds that rival those of traditional weightlifters. Their physiques stand as testament to the potential of high rep training in muscle building.
In light of these observations, it becomes evident that the conventional wisdom surrounding high rep training needs a reevaluation. It’s not just about endurance; it’s a tool that, when used correctly, can contribute significantly to muscle growth.
Defining ‘High Rep’ Workouts
When diving into the realm of weight training, one of the first things you’ll encounter is the concept of rep ranges. Repetitions, or “reps” for short, refer to the number of times you perform a specific exercise without a break. Different rep ranges target different fitness goals. Let’s break them down:
- 1-5 reps: This range is primarily associated with building strength and power. When lifting in this range, the weights used are typically heavier, pushing the body to its limits in a short span. It’s all about maximizing force output in minimal repetitions.
- 6-12 reps: Falling into this range is the sweet spot for hypertrophy, which is a fancy term for muscle growth. The weights used here are moderate, allowing for more repetitions while still providing enough resistance to cause muscle fatigue by the end of the set.
- 12+ reps: This range targets muscular endurance. Here, the weights are lighter, allowing for a higher number of repetitions. The focus is on increasing the muscle’s ability to sustain activity over extended periods.
Evidence Supporting High Rep Training
The fitness community has long debated the efficacy of high rep training for muscle building. However, recent scientific evidence suggests that lighter weight, high rep workouts can indeed contribute to muscle growth.
Firstly, it’s essential to understand that muscle growth or hypertrophy is triggered by muscle fatigue and subsequent recovery. While lifting heavy weights for fewer reps can cause this fatigue, so can lifting lighter weights for more reps, provided you push your muscles to the point of exhaustion.
Moreover, high rep weight training has shown potential in improving both strength and power. This might seem counterintuitive, but studies have indicated that high rep training, when done with the right intensity and speed, can be as effective as low rep, heavy weight training in enhancing strength. The key lies in the muscle’s time under tension and the total volume of work done.
Several studies back these claims. For instance, research comparing the effects of low rep and high rep training found negligible differences in strength gains between the two groups. Another study highlighted that when subjects trained to failure, even with lighter weights, they experienced significant muscle growth.
While traditional weightlifting wisdom might favor heavy weights for muscle building, it’s clear that high rep training has its place. When done correctly, it can be a potent tool for both muscle growth and strength development.
Muscle Fiber Types and Their Role
Muscles are complex structures, and their fibers play a pivotal role in determining how they respond to different training stimuli. Broadly, muscle fibers can be categorized into two types:
- Slow Twitch (Type I) Fibers: These fibers are endurance-oriented. They are more efficient at using oxygen to generate fuel for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time. They are less suited for power and strength but are more resistant to fatigue.
- Fast Twitch (Type II) Fibers: These fibers are less efficient at using oxygen and thus fatigue more quickly. However, they are larger and more powerful, making them ideal for short bursts of strength, power, and speed.
High rep training predominantly targets the slow twitch fibers. Since these fibers are designed for endurance, they respond well to extended periods of activity, which is a hallmark of high rep training. By pushing these fibers to their limit, you’re effectively stimulating them for growth.
Training to failure, especially with lighter weights, is crucial for muscle growth. When you train to the point where you cannot perform another rep, you’re ensuring that you’ve fully activated the targeted muscle fibers, leading to optimal growth stimulation. This principle is especially true for slow twitch fibers, which require prolonged activity to reach their fatigue point.
Benefits of High Rep Training
High rep training, when incorporated correctly, offers a plethora of benefits:
Connective Tissue Adaptation and Injury Prevention: High rep training with lighter weights allows the connective tissues (like tendons and ligaments) to adapt without being overly stressed. This gradual adaptation reduces the risk of injuries, especially for beginners or those returning after a break.
Power Development Using Low Weights: Contrary to popular belief, you can develop power using lighter weights. The key is the speed and intensity of the lift. High rep training, with its focus on lighter weights, can be used to enhance power by emphasizing the speed of each repetition.
Programming Volume Effectively for Muscle Growth: Volume (sets x reps x weight) is a critical component for muscle growth. High rep training allows for a significant volume without the need for extremely heavy weights. This approach ensures that the muscles are adequately stimulated for growth while also reducing the risk of overtraining or injury.
Incorporating high rep training into your routine can provide a balanced approach, ensuring that all muscle fiber types are targeted, leading to comprehensive muscle development.
How to Incorporate High Rep Training for Muscle Building
Incorporating high rep training into your muscle-building regimen requires a strategic approach. Here’s how you can effectively integrate it:
Training to Failure with Lighter Loads: One of the foundational principles of high rep training is pushing your muscles to their limit. Using lighter weights doesn’t mean taking it easy. Instead, it’s about performing more repetitions until you can’t do another one with proper form. This ensures maximum muscle fiber activation, especially the endurance-oriented slow twitch fibers.
Targeting Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers: As mentioned earlier, high rep training primarily stimulates slow twitch fibers. These fibers, while not as powerful as their fast twitch counterparts, play a crucial role in muscle endurance and can contribute to muscle size when trained appropriately.
Programming for Intensity and Volume: While the weights might be lighter, the intensity shouldn’t drop. Ensure that each set is challenging, pushing you close to your limit. Additionally, focus on the total volume (sets x reps x weight) to ensure that you’re providing enough stimulus for muscle growth. Balancing intensity and volume is key to reaping the benefits of high rep training.
High Rep Training and Grip Strength
Grip strength plays a pivotal role in high rep bodyweight training and its efficacy in muscle building. A strong grip not only enhances the ability to perform exercises like pull-ups, chin-ups, and dead hangs for more extended periods but also ensures stability and control during these movements. This stability is crucial for maximizing muscle engagement and optimizing the benefits of high rep training.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found a positive correlation between grip strength and overall muscle mass and function.
Does high rep training only benefit beginners?
No, high rep training can benefit individuals at all fitness levels. While beginners might see pronounced effects due to the novelty of the stimulus, even seasoned athletes can benefit from the endurance and muscle endurance aspects of high rep training.
Can high rep training replace traditional strength training?
High rep training shouldn’t entirely replace traditional strength training but can complement it. Both approaches target different muscle fiber types and serve different purposes. A balanced routine that incorporates both methods can lead to comprehensive muscle development and strength gains.
How often should one incorporate high rep training in their routine?
The frequency depends on individual goals and the overall training program. However, integrating high rep sessions 1-2 times a week can be a good starting point for most individuals, allowing for recovery and other training modalities.
Can you build muscle with high rep bodyweight?
Yes, you can build muscle with high rep bodyweight exercises. When you perform bodyweight exercises with high repetitions, you challenge your muscles, leading to muscle fatigue and subsequent growth during the recovery phase. The key is to ensure that the exercises are challenging enough to bring the muscles close to failure by the end of the set.
How many reps to build muscle bodyweight?
The number of reps required to build muscle with bodyweight exercises varies based on the individual’s fitness level and the specific exercise. However, for hypertrophy, aiming for a rep range of 6-12 is generally recommended. For endurance and some muscle growth, you can go for higher reps, like 15-20 or even more, as long as you’re pushing your muscles to their limit.
Can you build muscle with bodyweight workouts only?
Absolutely! Bodyweight workouts, when done with the right intensity and volume, can be highly effective for muscle building. Exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and lunges are staples in bodyweight training that can lead to significant muscle growth. The key is to progressively increase the challenge, either by adding more reps, sets, or variations to the exercises.
Do high rep calisthenics build muscle?
Yes, high rep calisthenics can build muscle. Calisthenics, which is essentially bodyweight training, can be very effective for muscle growth when performed with high repetitions. As with any training modality, the principle of progressive overload applies. As you get stronger, you should aim to increase the reps, sets, or difficulty of the exercises to continue seeing muscle growth.
High rep weight training has often been overshadowed by the allure of heavy lifting. However, as we’ve delved into its intricacies, the benefits of this training modality are undeniable. From targeting slow twitch muscle fibers to enhancing muscular endurance and even contributing to hypertrophy, high rep training holds its ground firmly in the realm of fitness.
Every individual’s body responds differently, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach in training. So, while the evidence in favor of high rep training is compelling, it’s essential to experiment, listen to your body, and find the right balance that works for you. Embrace the journey of discovery and optimization in your fitness regimen.
Do you think high rep bodyweight training builds a lot of muscle? Have our tips been beneficial to your training? We’d love to hear your feedback, so please share your thoughts in the comments section below.