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This question has been the source of much confusion to say the least. Why is it such a hard question to answer? As a generalisation, from what I can see every single person wants the same thing, more muscle and less fat. Now guys and girls may want this muscle in different places and different people may want much more muscle than others but essentially the goal is the same. If people’s goals are similar, then where does all the confusion come from?
This is the normal philosophy on rep ranges:
1 – 6 reps = Strength
8 – 12 reps = Hypertrophy
20+ reps = Muscle Definition
To clarify, 1-6 reps training will help you improve your one rep max on the exercises that you are doing. Hypertrophy means an increase in muscle size with 8-12 reps thought of as being optimal to emphasise this. The 20+ rep range means the emphasis is on muscle definition and fat burning rather than size or strength.
But here is where people go wrong…
Often people think that because their goal is to emphasise muscle size or muscle definition and because they are training in the respective rep range that all of a sudden strength isn’t important. They stop thinking about strength and stop thinking about increasing their weights week to week because they are already in the ideal range for achieving their goal?
It doesn’t work like that. Strength and increasing weights is just as important when training hypertrophy or for muscle definition as when training in the 1-6 rep range for strength.
The reality is that when it comes to training rep ranges for strength, hypertrophy or muscle definition, despite the images that come to mind, there really isn’t any great difference between them. The differences in the resulting physique are going to be much more a function of the persons diet and the exercises emphasised in their training rather than their preferred rep range.
So it doesn’t matter if in your mind you are setting out to emphasise strength, hypertrophy or muscle definition with your rep range of choice. Just be sure to always push towards increasing your weights and energy output in the gym, rep ranges are not short cuts.
Author Danny Tesch Australian Arm Wrestling Champion and Muscle Coach Supplement’s Owner.