It appears that in the last year or two high repetition training has really gathered momentum, more so than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t revolutionary – there have been Gods that have existed in the art of bodybuilding way before I was even born who preached about the value of going beyond that magic number 12th rep! Never be naïve or ignorant to the fact that we are standing on the shoulders of giants and that almost all of the best theories today are tweaked, modified or inspired applications of the work these guys put out there decades ago. Vince Gironda for example is a complete legend of our art and someone who was WAY ahead of his time.
Getting back to the story, high reps – do they have a place and to they count for anything or are they merely another training tool which fall short of low rep training? In a sentence, high repetition training is a must use tool for overall body recomposition (there are several compelling reasons for this) and I would encourage almost everyone to utilise them as long as your approach is systemised.
Slow Twitch Muscle Fibre Stimulation
Probably the most obvious, overused reason to sell the use of high repetitions is that fact that you are able to tap into new muscle fibre populations. Yet you have to accept the point with an open mind, it is a very valid reason to torch your muscles with sickeningly high reps. When you consider we are different and certain muscle groups have more slow twitch muscle fibres than others it is logical to train according to this, and not blindly sticking to ‘’low rep’’ training. The deltoids and quadriceps are a fine example of two muscle groups which respond exceptionally well (most of the time) to a rep range which surpasses the much hailed 12 mark by 3 or 4 times. However, all muscle groups can benefit from high rep training for this reason, slow twitch muscle fibre stimulation.
In my opinion, with no bias attached the Y3T training system which was created by globally recognised trainer Neil Hill, is the most applicable and diverse training system around today. Possibly the main stimulus for Neil’s creation was injuries and the fact that as a competitive bodybuilder (amateur and pro) he would always pick up new injuries. This was often down to connective tissue injuries which were a result of heavy poundages constantly weighing down on his joints, and this story reoccurs on a mass scale across bodybuilders and avid gym goers worldwide. In response to this Y3T was created to allow for maximised muscle stimulation (total muscle fibre training) and to help the athlete avoid injuries.
But how? When you are using high repetitions, often 20+ reps per working set the weight you are using dramatically decrease compared to 6 reps for example. In many instances the rep ranges are as high as 30-40 and up to 80 on a leg training day. Although the sheer intensity is still there and the tension on the muscle is extreme the actual load travelling through the joint is significantly less leading to less stress on the connective tissues. Nine times out of ten it will be these which become affected opposed to the muscles due to the lack of blood flow into these areas. High repetition is a superb way to train with intensity, hit new muscle fibre groups and improve your longevity as an athlete in the gym.
This is potentially a more controversial subject yet it is one which seems to constantly prove itself, time and time again in reality. Training with high reps has a notorious reputation for causing skin bursting pumps due to the volume of blood it flushes into the working muscle group. Any lad looking to impress in the mirror at his local training facility will love this, but the fact it makes you look jacked isn’t the reason we love it – OK we love it a bit for this reason, right? Joking aside extreme blood volumisation helps stretch out the fascia, a sheath which is fibre dense with the job of housing our muscles (and organs). This can be a very stubborn tissue and although it is elastic it is extremely stubborn therefore it takes time to benefit from this. What reality has shown us is that many top athletes with stubborn body parts have been able to improve dramatically once they focussed on flushing the area with blood.
Intensity is key in almost anyone’s quest to serious size unless you were sprinkled with the very sort after ‘’Mr O Blueprint’’ genetics, unfortunately most of us were not! This isn’t to say that pro bodybuilders don’t train hard because they do, however there have been a few who had the luxury of ‘’going through the motions’’ and building arms the size of a ladies waistline with average eating habits! In a battle between intensity vs. weight lifted the former will win, the training has to be challenging. For somebody who is yet to delve into the world of high rep training putting yourself through such a torturous experience will certainly be ‘’intense’’ in the true sense. There is no workout variety which carries as much ‘’shock’’ value as a leg workout with prescribed repetition ranges which resemble that of our national speed limit. Done properly, this kind of workout will redefine your opinion on what the word intensity means to you.
Whilst we are on the topic of training legs it would be rude to not share with you a leg workout which will act as an introduction to high rep training. During the workout you will curse, swear, complain and shout and by the end you will have learnt to never look forward to a workout like this again. In contrast, after a few weeks you will also learn and witness the benefits. In terms of time used, aim to get a week like this in every 3 weeks!
Leg Press X 5 40-60 repetitions
Leg Extensions X 3 triple drop set (8-10 reps per drop)
Single legged split squats X 3 20+
Lying leg curls X 3 15-20
There are many more elements of high rep training which makes it a winner, cardiac stimulation is of course a main point to consider here. For now, I shall leave you with this.