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Muscle Growth: Reps And Muscle Size

Updated on July 18, 2011

Weight Lifting

A lot of people wonder how many repetitions they should do. The weight you use, the number of reps and the number of sets all determine how your muscles look, feel and function. If you do a lot of reps you can increase your endurance. Doing a small number of reps with heavy weights can increase your strength. Before you make an exercise plan you should know what you are trying to accomplish.

There are lot of people that build muscle for looks. The quickest way to increase the size of the muscle is to focus on strength. Your muscles have two types fibers called fast-twitch and slow-twitch. The fast-twitch are associated with strength. They give out quickly but are bigger than slow-twitch fibers. The slow-twitch fibers are associated with endurance.

Doing a small number of repetitions with heavy weights will focus on the fast-twitch fibers. You could do 5 or 6 reps, rest then do 3 or 4 more sets.

Your body adapts to your exercises. Big muscles are not always better. If you plan on using your muscles for more than a few minutes at a time you might want to focus on increasing your endurance. When working on your endurance your muscles will not change a lot in size but they will become stronger and harder. Do one or two sets with a lot repetitions. When lifting weights you would probably want to stop at 30.

Doing 8 to 12 reps for 3 or 4 sets is good for strength and endurance. To continue to make progress you should keep increasing the weight or number of repetitions. There is no need to wait. Try to increase the number of repetitions you can do every day you exercise. Once you have reached the maximum number of repetitions you want to do you can increase the weight. It helps if you keep a log and compete with yourself.

The best way to measure your progress is to pay attention to your performance. As long as you are increasing the amount of weight or the number of reps you are making progress. Your muscles require time to recover. They heal when you are sleeping. If you can not perform as well as the last time you exercised or you are sore try resting more.


Cardio exercises like running, biking, jumping rope, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and boxing are good for building muscle. It also strengthens your heart and is better for burning calories. Most people focus on weight lifting to build muscle but biking long distances gives me rock hard leg muscles a strong heart and a lean body.

It can focus on speed or endurance. If you want bigger muscles focus on increasing your speed. For lean hard muscles work on increasing your endurance. Weight lifting usually focuses on your arms while cardio usually focuses on your legs. To develop strong arms doing cardio I recommend getting a boat or a punching bag. Shadow boxing can work well if you put enough effort into it.

Weight lifting is usually done for short periods of time. Cardio can last for hours. If doing cardio at home you can do it while you watch TV. For a more interesting workout get outside and go somewhere like a park or beach.


My Results

Biking long distance once a week in late spring and throughout the summer is enough to give me rock hard leg muscles. The muscle is not huge but noticeably bigger than most. My legs muscles stay hard for most of the year. Biking once a week was also enough to significantly increase the distance I could bike.

This year I used an elliptical machine for a month to get in shape for summer. Each time I used it I was able to increase the distance even if I used it 3 days in a row. The first time I used it I was able to go around 5 miles. Within a month and a half I was able to go close to 12 miles. I can go over 12 miles on it now.


For an experiment I started lifting the same amount of weight the same number of times but using a different number of sets. I wanted to see how it affected muscle growth. I lifted a dumbbell 20 times with my right hand. Then I lifted the dumbbell 20 times with my left hand but broke it up into 4 sets of 5.

Breaking it up into sets made it a lot easier. My right arm felt weak when I was done and required more time to recover. While my left arm felt good after working out. Some days I had to wait for my right arm to recover but my left arm felt fine. So breaking it into multiple sets with only a few repetitions at a time allows me to exercise more often. Since it is easier I could have lifted lifted more weight.

The muscles on my left arm are bigger than the ones on my right arm now. I can feel and see the difference. I am going to continue the experiment for a while longer.

Experiment Results

Lifting the same amount of weight and doing the same number of repetitions you will have better results if you do a few repetitions at a time. It is easier, feels better, requires less recover time and gives you bigger muscles. I recommend 3 or 4 sets of 5 and gradually increasing the weight.

I could have easily done more with my left arm than my right but I wanted the weight and total repetitions to be the same for this experiment.


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