What is the Best Rep Range for Hypertrophy?
Individualizing Training through Neurotransmitter Testing
“Learn it all, then forget it all.”
This quote from Bruce Lee confused me quite a bit when I first heard it, but anyone who has achieved even an adept level in a craft can relate.
Master the fundamental concepts, the basic guidelines. Then, through direct experience, you learn which rules do not apply under certain circumstances.
How can this apply to physiology? Aren’t there hard fast rules?
No. There is a continuum, and there is also context.
That is why when you ask someone who has a true depth of expertise in a subject, they will often respond with “It depends.”
Let me explain what this has to do with the best rep range for hypertrophy.
The Best Rep Range for Hypertrophy
Many papers now agree that if volume is equated for there does not seem to be significant differences in hypertrophy when the exercises are performed properly, muscles are taken to failure, and the resistance is progressively increased each week.
To increase maximal strength however, you must train with an intensity higher than 85% - which means the rep range must be 5 reps or lower. This style of training places a higher demand on the nervous system and thus produces neurological adaptations.
Now, there is more to this story and much to discuss here, but the purpose of this article is to share with you a critical point:
When you look at raw data for studies of virtually any physiologic variable, there is what is called a “normal distribution”.
In a normal distribution, roughly 68% of the subjects studied are within 1 standard deviation from the median. Another 30% are 2 standard deviations in either extreme, and another 2% are 3 standard deviations in either extreme.
So actually, some athletes see better strength gains when they train with higher repetitions, and some athletes see better size gains when they train with lower repetitions.
As a clinician, my priority for your training program is to determine where you fall on the distribution curve - this is why clinicians are always “ahead of the curve”.
If I simply followed the consensus, I would only be right 68% of the time - and even within that 68% there may be considerable variance.
Ultimately, you will have to keep a careful record of your training progress and adjust your program based on how you respond.
However, there is one tool I learned from Charles Poliquin that dramatically accelerates your ability to individualize your training program.
Charles had a unique advantage in that he trained world class Olympic and professional athletes who had very high budgets and were willing and able to thoroughly execute any protocol he could come up with.
Charles wrote detailed programs and kept careful records of how his athletes responded, in terms of training and lab work. This lead to many breakthroughs, often controversial, in the world of training and nutrition.
One such breakthrough was what Charles called neural profiling.
He found that each athlete would respond differently to training volume, intensity, and variation, and each athlete had a unique combination of the three they would respond best to.
The test he found to correlate best to their optimal training response is called the Braverman test.
The Braverman test is a personality test based on neurotransmitter dominances.
It is interesting because when you look at athletes who select particular sports or styles of training, they have unique personalities. Powerlifters, bodybuilders, and long-distance runners all have a “normal distribution” of personalities.
In order to lift at the intensity of a powerlifter, your personality is often quite intense. Bodybuilders are hard workers and extremely persistent in order to train with adequate volume and commit to rigorous nutrition interventions. Long-distance runners do not tend to have the intensity of a powerlifter, but they are often extremely meticulous with their training.
Even among these sports, there is variation in how these athletes train and which style of training they respond best to.
The principle is that, while there is certainly a normal distribution and general rules when it comes to determining the optimal rep range for hypertrophy, determining where you fall on the normal distribution curve is how you maximize your progress.
Neurotransmitter testing is one breakthrough for accelerating that individualization process.
Go to bravermantest.com and you can take the test for yourself.
If you send me your scores, I was certified in neural profiling by Charles before he passed and I can tell you what they mean.
At the very least, realize that you are unique - you must carefully monitor your response to training and adjust if you are to ever maximize your progress.
Daniel J. Furtado, CPT, LMT, Owner of Honor Strength
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