Three to six repetitions

Many still believe that DeLorme got it right back in 1945: Heavy weights and low reps will increase strength, but to increase muscle mass you need to do more repetitions with lighter weights.

I, too, used to believe that, until I shifted to heavy weights and lower repetitions in my own training. That's when I made what may be the most important discovery of my thirty-five years of training: I could build much more muscle, and build it much faster, with heavy weights and low reps.

A 2002 study in the European Journal of Exercise Physiology backs me up (kind of): It shows that, when novice lifters were put on low-rep, heavy-weight programs, they gained at least as much muscle as novice lifters on medium-rep, medium-weight programs, and quite a bit more than the beginners doing high reps with plastic Barbie weights.

I think the fact that someone as experienced as I am made sudden gains on low-rep, heavy-weight programs shows two things:

1. The longer you lift, the heavier you have to go to see gains.

2. You'll almost always see results when you do something you haven't done before.

There's also a pretty good testosterone response to low-rep training, which should help build bigger muscles. Another benefit: If you're doing a technically complex lift, something that takes a lot of practice, it makes more sense to do low-rep sets, since your form will start to break down as you get into higher reps. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

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