Eight to twelve repetitions

This is the classic bodybuilding configuration, meaning that over time these medium-duration sets have become the gold standard for muscle-focused workouts. And it's easy to see why. Way back in 1945, an Army physician named Thomas De-Lorme used strength training to help soldiers recover from injuries and wounds. Eventually, through trial and error, he came up with the most famous strength-training protocol ever: three sets of ten repetitions per exercise, otherwise known as 3 X 10.

DeLorme also came up with the idea of a strength-endurance continuum that's been mostly unchallenged in the sixty years since. He believed that heavy-weight, low-repetition training produced the best strength gains, while moderate-weight, medium-repetition work (i.e., 3 X 10) produced the best gains in muscle size. And light-weight, high-rep sets induced improvements in muscular endurance without doing much to boost strength and size.

I'll quibble with some of that in a moment. But for now, let's say DeLorme was mostly right, and that medium-rep, medium-weight training is at least one of the best protocols for inducing the mechanical stimulus needed to gain muscular size.

When I say "mechanical," I mean the physical act of moving bones from one spot to another with heavy objects attached. But there's more to building muscle than simple mechanics. Your hormones play a significant role, and multiple studies by William Kraemer,**, show that medium-rep, medium-weight sets with short rest periods in between are best for stimulating growth hormone and as good as anything else for getting your testosterone into action.

Growth hormone and testosterone are your body's most important muscle-building hormones, and growth hormone also stimulates the fat-burning process. So you have a lot of things going right, physiologically, when you crank out sets of eight to twelve reps with little rest in between. You have a good mechanical stimulus for muscle gain, you have your hormones cooperating to build muscle and burn fat, and you're also working with weights that your body can handle with little risk of injury.

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