Variety is always needed when life turns into a routine and become monotonous. The same applies to training. In fact, it can be one of the key precursors to building muscle mass. Variety in this context doesn’t necessarily mean selection of different exercises. You may have tried switching exercises before when working a specific muscle area, but have you ever tried to dramatically decrease the repetitions in one set?
The high-to-low reps training method is one for rep number combining, alternating between low and high rep ranges, from one workout to another, from one exercise to the next and sometimes from one set to the next.
Getting out of the usual rep range
Endless studies have proven that the now-famous so-called “bodybuilding rep range” of 8-12 reps is optimal for eliciting optimal muscle gains, but is far from the only method for muscle growth. As a matter of a fact, if you keep doing it for a prolonged period of time, muscle gains will slowly reach a plateau. Your muscle will eventually stop responding to the same stimulus over and over again. Plus, alternating high and low reps has its advantages as well. High reps increase blood vessels’ size and overall stamina.
Low reps are excellent for building strength. Both types can elicit muscle growth. The best tactic you can employ is to do a mix of both. High-low training will ditch the middle rep range, only temporarily and will only focus on the high rep range of 12-20 reps and the low range of 1 -6 reps. Now, let’s delve into the three different ways in which you can include the high-low training method in your workout program.
1. High to low reps from one workout to another
Of the three different ways, this is the easiest to incorporate if you are first starting out with this type of training. Do one body part workout consisting of high rep exercises and then in the next one do all exercises in the low rep ranges for the same body part. If you train more body parts in the same workout, you can also try training each with alternating rep ranges.
As an example, if you train your chest before training triceps, do the chest exercises in the low rep range and the triceps exercises in the high rep range and in the next workout switch them up. Incorporating the high-low training in this manner will deny the concept of “muscle confusion” to take effect, which is what you get when you train your muscles with different rep ranges in the same workout session. But, it will allow you to focus on one rep range at a time a lot better.
2. High to low reps from one exercise to the next
The second way to incorporate high-low training is to do all the sets of one exercise in the high rep range and then do the sets of the next exercise in the low rep range. Do the same switching between each pair of exercises within the same workout, going from a powered state to a pumped state.
It is better if you do the low reps on big compound movements that will allow you to put the most plates like a deadlift and high reps on the isolation/assistance exercise, which won’t have much an effect if done with low reps, like biceps curls. It is almost always better to start the workout with high-rep sets because this will serve as a warm-up. You can start low as well provided that you got warmed up properly first.
3. High to low repetitions from one set to the next
Finally, the third way is the hardest when it comes to incorporating high-low training. It is actually the one that distinguishes it the best from other types of training. This means switching from high to low rep ranges for the same exercise. This will force you to go back and forth from a pump to a power set. Before you start doing this, you need to ensure that you have some plates or dumbbells ready so that you can increase or decrease the weight easily in periods of rest between sets. You can also do this on a machine for certain exercises.
If you train alone, some exercises that are usually trained with heavy weights will not be suitable for this type of training since you would spend a big amount of time and energy taking off and putting on plates. Whereas, changing the load between sets on a machine exercise like lat pulldowns is quite easy since you are only adjusting the pin to a lower or higher slot.
One method combining one set to the next and one exercise to the next is high to low rep supersets, like low rep set of incline bench barbell presses with a high rep set of incline bench dumbbell flyes. When done in this manner, the high rep sets complement and reinforces muscle growth in the muscles trained.
One downside of applying the high-low training method is that lifters tend to lose their focus after a while. It can be rather hard to remember the goal at hand when you just did a high-rep light set previously and then all of a sudden you’ve started training with a heavier load. Try to keep your focus and be dedicated to each set at all times, trying to reach the target of prescribed reps.
A training journal can be very helpful in this situation. The benefit is that you will always keep your muscles guessing what comes next. Is it going to be a heavy triple or some high-rep set with a light weight? It is always going to change. You will alternate between being pumped to being powered up as you keep on training and confusing the muscles with high and low rep ranges over and over again.
HIGH-LOW REPS BASIC METHODS
- The high-rep range is from 12-20 reps. The low-rep range is from 1-6 reps.
- Switch high-rep and low-rep ranges on the same movement.
- Alternatively, you can do high reps with one movement and then low reps on the next movement, going back and forth during the workout.
- Alternatively, you can do high reps in one workout session and then low reps in the next same workout session. Switch at least 8 workout sessions.
LIST OF TIPS
- It is always better to do high-low rep switching with movements like lat pulldowns that will enable you to change the load more easily.
- Whereas, big compound movements like the squat or leg presses would too much of your time loading and taking off plates between each set.
- When you do this type of training, do not train in the middle rep range of 8-12 reps.
- High-low training can also be applied to ab and calf training, muscles not usually trained in low rep ranges.
SAMPLE BACK TRAINING ROUTINE
- Front Lat Pulldowns – 4 sets x 20, 5, 20, 5
- T-bar Rows – 3 sets x 5 – 8 reps
o Supersetted with
- Low cable Rows – 3 sets x 20 reps
- Bent over Barbell Rows – 3 sets x 3-6 reps
- Straight Arm Pulldown – 3 sets x 20 reps