Muscle for life

The Definitive (and Practical) Guide to Muscle Hypertrophy

The Definitive (and Practical) Guide to Muscle Hypertrophy

If you want to know what muscle hypertrophy is, how it works, and how to stimulate it best, then you want to read this article.


You’ve probably heard a lot of things about muscle hypertrophy (the technical term for muscle growth).

  • You’ve probably heard that there are different types of muscle fibers.

And you’ve that these fibers are made for different types of activities and respond differently to training.

  • You’ve probably heard that there are two distinctive types of muscle growth.

One is “sarcoplasmic” growth and the other is “myofibrillar” growth.

Many people claim that you can program your training to emphasize one more than the other (and that you should, according to your goals).

  • You’ve probably heard that how you train your muscles determines how they grow.

If you want bigger muscles, you’re told, you want to maximize sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and you do that by training primarily in higher rep ranges.

And if you want stronger muscles, you want to maximize myofibrillar hypertrophy, which means emphasizing lower rep ranges.

And to make matters even worse,  you’ve probably also heard that much of this is pseudoscientific nonsense.

You’re only a Google search away from a number of evidence-based arguments that you can’t selectively train for one type of muscle growth and even that the growth classifications themselves have no basis in good science.

That is, some people claim that muscles can only grow in one fundamental way and that all rep ranges and weight loads are equally effective at stimulating it.

So if you’ve had trouble connecting all the dots and incorporating your newfound knowledge into your training…I understand.

Well, in this article, I want to give you a simple, science-based crash course in muscle hypertrophy and show what we know, what we don’t, and what you can do to build muscle and strength faster than ever before.

By the end of this article, you won’t have the “final word” on the physiology of muscle growth, but you’ll know enough about how and why muscles grow to build the type of physique you really want.

So let’s get to it.

The Two Types of Muscle Fibers

muscle hypertrophy reps

Let’s start this review with what we know for certain.

Muscle tissue is a complex structure, with bundles of long strands of muscle cells (known as fibers) sheathed in a thick band of connective tissue known as a perimysium.

Here’s how it looks:

muscle hypertrophy physiology

There are two types of muscle fibers:

  • Type I

Type I muscle fibers, also known as “slow-twitch” muscle fibers, are dense with capillaries and rich in mitochondria and myoglobin, which makes them very resistant to fatigue.

They also, however, have the least potential for growth and power output.

  • Type II

Type II fibers, also known as “fast-twitch” muscle fibers, grow faster than type I fibers and contract faster as well, which gives them a higher strength and power potential.

The “downside,” however, is they fatigue much faster, making them less suited to endurance activities.

Now, various muscles in your body have varying amounts of Type I and Type II fibers, and there’s an ongoing debate about what determines this distribution.

The question is why do some people’s bodies have more Type I muscle fibers than Type II, and vice versa?

Well, genetics are the most likely culprit because studies suggest it’s unlikely that we can convert one type of muscle fiber into another through training.

That is, there’s no significant difference in the proportions of type I and II muscle fibers between untrained and resistance trained individuals.

That said, there is evidence that weightlifting can change the physiology of type II muscle fibers, causing it to shift from what’s know as type x to type a fiber.

There’s also evidence that muscle fiber types are affected differently by different types of resistance training:

High-rep, low-load training appears to preferentially stimulate type I muscle fiber and low-rep, high-load type II.

This would help explain why research shows that emphasizing heavy weights (80%+ of 1RM) in your training is superior to lighter weights for muscle building purposes.

For example, one well-designed study published earlier this year separated 33 physically active, resistance-trained men into two groups:

  1. A high-volume, moderate-intensity group that did 4 workouts per week consisting of 4 sets per exercise in the 10 to 12 rep range (70% of 1RM).
  2. A moderate-volume, high-intensity group that did 4 workouts per week consisting of 4 sets per exercise in the 3 to 5 rep range (90% of 1RM).

Both groups did the same exercises (which included the bench press, back squat, deadlift, and seated shoulder press), and both were instructed to maintain their normal eating habits (which was monitored with food diaries).

And the result?

After 8 weeks of training, scientists found that the high-intensity group gained significantly more muscle and strength than the high-volume group.

It’s no surprise that the high-intensity group gained more strength, but many people wouldn’t have expected them to gain more muscle as well.

Researchers cite two main reasons for why the heavier training beat out the lighter:

1. Higher amounts of mechanical stress imposed on the muscles.

The high-volume training, on the other hand, caused higher amounts of metabolic stress.

2. Greater activation of muscle fibers.

And this, in turn, results in a greater adaptation across a larger percentage of the muscle tissue.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How to Best Stimulate Muscle Hypertrophy

muscle hypertrophy training

There are three primary ways to stimulate muscle growth:

  • Progressive tension overload

 Progressive tension overload refers to increasing tension levels in the muscle fibers over time.

The most effective way to do this is to progressively increase the amount of weight you’re lifting over time.

  • Muscle damage

Muscle damage refers to just that—actual damage caused to the muscle fibers by high levels of tension.

This damage necessitates repair, and if the body is provided with proper nutrition and rest, it will adapt the muscle fibers to better deal with future stimuli.

  • Cellular fatigue

Cellular fatigue refers to pushing muscle fibers to their metabolic limits through the repetition of actions to muscular failure.

You can think of these factors as separate growth “pathways,” and they can be emphasized differently in your training.

For example, low-volume, high-weight training emphasizes progressive overload and muscle damage, and high-rep, “pump” training emphasizes cellular fatigue.

Now, out of the three pathways, progressive tension overload is the most important, and is the one you have to emphasize most if you want to build large amounts of muscle as quickly as possible.

This takes us back to a point I made in the previous section of this article:

Your primary goal as a natural weightlifter is to get stronger, and especially on key compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, and bench and overhead press.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb:

The more weight you can push, pull, and squat, the more muscular you’re going to be.

I learned this lesson several years ago.

For my first seven years of weightlifting, I more or less trained exclusively in the 10 to 12 rep range (70 to 75% of one-rep max) and did a lot of traditional (isolation) “bodybuilding” exercises.

I also spent about 10 hours per week in the gym.

Here’s what it got me:

muscle hypertrophy training

As you can imagine, I wasn’t thrilled.

I didn’t look horrible but that’s not exactly what you’d expect for seven years of consistent weightlifting.

Soon after that picture was taken, I dramatically changed my training regimen.

I started focusing on the 4 to 6 rep range (80 to 85% of 1RM) and centered my training around progressing on the big, compound movements.

Here’s a shot of me about 2.5 years later:

muscle hypertrophy training program

I learned how to diet as well, but as you can see, every aspect of my physique markedly improved.

My strength went through the roof, too. In those 2.5 years, I added close to 100 pounds to my bench and overhead presses and doubled my squat and deadlift.

And better still, I did it in just 4 to 6 hours in the gym each week.

Now, I was baffled by my results because I had thought, like most people, that heavy weightlifting is good for building strength but not muscle.

Well, it turns out that’s one of the worst weightlifting myths out there.

And that’s why my Bigger Leaner Stronger (men) and Thinner Leaner Stronger (women) programs focus on heavy, compound weightlifting.

The Two Types of Muscle Hypertrophy

muscle hypertrophy causes

A discussion of muscle hypertrophy isn’t complete without addressing the two ways for muscles to grow:

  • Myofibrillar hypertrophy

Myo means “muscle” and a fibril is a threadlike cellular structure.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy, then, refers to an actual increase in size and number of the individual muscle fibers, which are made up of proteins that can contract.

  • Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

Sarco means “flesh” and plasmic refers to plasma, which is a gel-like material in a cell containing various important particles for life.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy would be an increase in the volume of the fluid, non-contractile components of the muscle (glycogen, collagen, water, minerals, etc.).

Here’s a simple visual of how it works:

muscle hypertrophy causes

Now, I mentioned earlier in this article that this is a “controversial” aspect of muscle building.

While it’s obvious that the sarcoplasmic elements of muscle cells (necessarily) expand as myofibrillar growth occurs, and it’s equally obvious that you can temporarily increase sarcoplasmic volume by loading creatine or carbs or damaging muscle tissue, the unanswered question is twofold:

  • Can the sarcoplasm expand at a rate significantly faster than the myofibrils expand?
  • And can this expansion result in long-lasting increases in muscle size?

That is, can sarcoplasmic hypertrophy contribute significantly to the overall long-term increase in muscle size, or is it more a “byproduct” of myofibrillar hypertrophy?

Well, this is where things get muddy and complex.

Some people like to point to the differences in muscle size and strength between bodybuilders and strength athletes as evidence of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

“How can a 170-pound powerlifter out-squat a 250-pound bodybuilder?” they ask.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy would seem to answer this question. The bodybuilder, in his pursuit of building the biggest muscles possible, has (apparently) accumulated more non-contractile proteins than the powerlifter.

The problem with this is it relies on an unproven theory (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) over a more plausible one:

Strength athletes squat, deadlift, and press far more frequently than bodybuilders, and the more you do something, the better you get at it.

This is why you can find many examples of bodybuilders that switch to powerlifting and rapidly increase their strength.

That said, just because sarcoplasmic hypertrophy isn’t the likely reason for “big but (relatively) weak” bodybuilders doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

The good news, though, you don’t need a conclusive answer on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy to effectively program workouts and build muscle.

So long as you train with heavy loads and a moderate volume, and you will have no trouble building muscle and strength.


The Bottom Line on Muscle Hypertrophy

muscle growth

Muscle hypertrophy is an extremely complex process that involves scores of physiological functions and adaptations.

You can spend hundreds of hours studying it and barely scratch the surface.

Fortunately, however, actually building muscle isn’t nearly as complicated. You don’t need to be a scientist to build a fantastic physique.

You just need to have a good basic understanding of muscle hypertrophy and of how to properly create workout and diet plans, and then you just need to put in the work and stay patient.


What’s your take on muscle hypertrophy? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
LIKE MUSCLE FOR LIFE? Let Google know!
Leave a Comment!
  • Nate

    Thank you mike for all of the articles that you write. I bought your Bigger Leaner Stronger book and Cardio Sucks and so far have lost 45 pounds in 6 months. I cant wait for your new book.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Nate! Wow great job, that’s really exciting! Keep up the good work!

  • Guest


    definitely a significant difference between your before and after pictures. Do
    you use pyramid or reverse pyramid as you progress through your sets, or do you
    maintain a constant weight for each set? I do own your Bigger, Leaner, Stronger
    book for Kindle BTW, I just can’t recall if you wrote that in there or not

    • Michael Matthews


      No, I hate pyramid training. Reverse pyramid is better than pyramid, but again I don’t like that type of periodization.

      In BLS, you maintain constant weight for 4-6 reps per set.

      • Christian

        Hey Mike – I have always trained each set to failure, usually meaning I need to drop weight each subsequent set to stay in a 4-6 rep range. This sounds like I would be hitting the “muscle damage” style a lot, but I am still doing progressive overload as well by continually pushing to get to 6 reps so I can go up a weight.
        I found bigger leaner stronger a bit unclear on this matter. Is there inherently anything wrong with this style? I have been doing it for years and havent had any issues.

        • Michael Matthews

          Good question.

          You actually don’t have to train to absolute failure every set. I usually push until I struggle for a rep and know that I won’t be able to get another. Sometimes I’ll go for it if I think maybe I can, otherwise I rack the weight.

          This way you should be able to stick with the same weight for each set. Make sure you’re resting 2-3 min in between sets too.

      • Dan Strohschein

        What about your warm up sets – do those start at a lighter weight and progressively get heavier until you reach your working set?

        • Michael Matthews

          Yup, I follow the exact warm-up routine laid out in BLS.

      • mark

        yeah i find this as well, plus you seem to spend most of your time messing around adding/taking weights off the barbell. More so than the actual exercise. Sometimes if i am really knackered on set 3 i might drop it a little. i try not to.

  • Tricia Gotcha

    I always tell my friends who workout about this kinda topic lol but they never believe me. Probably cuz im a woman. But their loss right? Haha

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha yeah totally.

  • Stace

    Hi Mike, what do you think of DTP and 4X etc that is being instructed by some? I like training with heavy weights, 4-6 rep range but also like the philosophy of higher reps with regards to injury, especially for older trainees? What’s your take, thanks, Stace

    • Manish Arya

      Yes MIke, i also want to know why people like Kris Gethin and few others recommend so many Sets and super sets to natural weightlifters when it is worthless. i mean DTP is the mother and father or supersets.

      • Michael Matthews

        Good question. He’s a troll.

    • Michael Matthews

      DTP style training is great if you’re on drugs–just pound away set after set after set and grow. Real simple. It’s not for natural weightlifters though.

      Higher rep ranges for avoiding injury is completely valid, and this depends on the individual. I know guys in their 50s and 60s that outlift me with perfect form (they’ve been lifting for 25+ years).

      • Murilo

        I’ve tried DTP before and I totally agree… It gave me a ridiculous pump, but not actual gains in my opinion…

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah, commonplace for natty lifters.

      • Mike

        I did the whole DTP program..near 3 months..felt like shit and finished looking smaller..accomplished nothing in terms of growth..even eating didnt help..once ur done pumping..u lose ur perceived gains..waste unless you are on drugs..most importantly..that program is a job..not a healthy lifestlyle..what good is something if its not able to be carried into a lifestyle..and furthermore just doesnt work..that guy Gethin is furthering the agenda of magazine and supplement companies. Worst combo.

        • Michael Matthews

          I’m not surprised Mike. It’s a program for druggers.

  • Pete LaSalle

    Another interesting article, I just bought your book “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger” after reading the first 30 pages (smart move on your part to let people read a portion of it) and I’m incredibly excited to read about your personal findings in the world of fitness, and am even more excited to try them out for myself!
    So thank you, and keep up the awesome articles man!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Pete! I hope you like the book. Let me know!

  • Ben Hunt

    Another great article. I appreciate you no nonsense approach. No one needs a degree to understand you and its never like you are talking down to the reader.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Ben. 🙂

  • Gabe

    Great article as always, Mike. I always appreciate your concise style and use of integrated citations.
    I’m definitely looking forward to your upcoming sequel to BLS. I feel your current model (which clearly works for you and many folks!) is a great, accessible way to get into strength training but may prove too restrictive in focus for continual gains in some lifters.
    I feel the rep range prescription and training modalities made plateauing extremely common-place and that the 4-6 range was also ill-suited to some accessory exercises and smaller muscle groups such as the shoulders, biceps and calves.
    I feel that maximal hypertrophy may be better realized for many with a more periodized approach where various parameters are leveraged over time. Not for some gimmicky “muscle confusion” purpose but due to the unique stresses and subsequent adaptations that different rep ranges, rest periods, volume etc. provide rather than choosing one “most bang for your buck” approach.

    I think that Brad Schoenfeld probably has the best meta-analysis of the current data and his paper is def worth a read imo:

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Gabe! I’ll definitely check out the paper.

      I agree that a periodized approach is worthwhile but ONLY for advanced lifters. I’ll be talking about this in the follow-up book to BLS, which I’m working on.

      We also need to remember the limitations of natural muscle building:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /how-much-muscle-can-you-build-naturally/

      If a newbie can gain 20 – 25 pounds of muscle in his first year of BLS, that’s all the can expect to gain with ANY program. In my case, I can only gain 3-5 pounds of muscle per year, regardless of what routine I do.

      4-6 reps can be tricky on certain exercises, yes.

      • Gabe

        I definitely agree that a foundational program that keeps things accessible and focuses on developing proficiency in a lot of the big lifts is a perfect way to kick off a lifting career and can be of value for someone more advanced who might not be doing a lot of heavy compound work.
        I feel that the prescription for maximal muscle gain is pretty individual though, especially when you consider compliance.

        It’s very understandable that our ability to pack on mass declines with experience pretty steadily as a general rule However you’ve proven yourself that hypertrophy isn’t always a linear progression as you made great gains after having a lot of time spent under the bar when you found a new training modality that worked for you.

        In essence I feel that the models proposed by Aragon or McDonald help us manage our expectations and can certainly reflect real world outcomes but I think we have a lot more influence on the end points than a linear model may suggest.

        • Michael Matthews

          I totally agree on all points. Nice to run into someone so well educated in this field!

          • Gabe

            🙂 I’m flattered, Mike, thank you. I appreciate you posting well researched articles that generate good discussion.

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks man, I appreciate it. 🙂

  • Christian Finn

    I enjoy the site Mike, and have a quick question about the studies you linked to in this sentence:

    “Heavier weightlifting preferentially induces myofibrillar hypretrophy, and lighter weightlifting sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.”

    The first link is a review of several studies, where the authors point out the following:

    “It was demonstrated, in resistance-trained young men, that lower intensity (30% of 1RM) and higher volume (24 ± 3 repetitions) resistance exercise performed until failure was equally effective in stimulating myofibrillar protein synthesis rates during 0–4 h recovery as heavy intensity (90% of 1RM) and lower volume (5 ± 1 repetitions) resistance exercise.”

    The second study you linked to shows that lighter weights and higher repetitions stimulated mitochondrial, myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis. But it didn’t actually compare lighter weights and higher repetitions with higher weights and lower repetitions.

    Neither study seems to offer any support for the idea that lighter weights preferentially stimulate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and the latter one suggests that both ligher weights/higher reps are just as effective as heavier weights/lower reps for myofibrillar hypertrophy. So I’m wondering if I’ve missed something?

    I’ve been trying for some time to find research backing the idea that heavier lifting preferentially stimulates myofibrillar hypertrophy, but keep coming up empty handed.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for commenting Christian! I’m a fan of your writing as well–you know your shit and do a great job communicating complex ideas simply.

      Here’s what I’m looking at on the relationship between intensity and MPS:

      The study I cited discusses findings from this study (which, in hindsight, is what I should have directly cited):


      Which contains the following:


      “An illustration representing the relationship between resistance exercise intensity (x axis) and myofibrillar protein synthesis (left y axis). The bold line represents the reported dose-dependent relationship between resistance exercise intensity and myofibrillar protein synthesis rates that rises to a plateau at 60%–90% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM) after external work-equated exercise (Kumar et al. 2009). During lower intensity work-matched conditions, less muscle fibre activation (right y axis) is required to maintain muscle tension and thus results in less stimulation of a myofibrillar protein synthesis. However, based on the orderly recruitment of muscle fibres (Henneman et al. 1965) performance of resistance exercise, even at lower intensities, until volitional fatigue (i.e., failure) will necessitate maximal fibre recruitment and culminate in a similar fibre recruitment resulting in the stimulatory threshold being surpassed. The end result is the maximal stimulation of myofibrillar protein synthesis rates (dashed line).”

      Would love to hear your thoughts on the subject in general as you’re a smart dude.

      As you know, some of the highly respected thinkers in this field like McDonald, Berkhan, and Aragon acknowledge that although the science is a bit hazy, the anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that heavy weightlifting is necessary for natural lifters to build big, strong muscles, as opposed to the smaller, puffy, weak types of physiques that high-rep training produces (in the absence of drugs, that is–with the right drugs, 15+ reps per set does wonders).

      Also, let me know if you’re interested in working together in any way. I’d love to feature an article from you, as my crowd would really like what you have to say.

      Hope you’re having a nice weekend.

      EDIT: I don’t know what the hell happened with the image, but can’t see to fix it. Oh well.

      • christianfinn

        Thanks for the kind words Mike, I appreciate it!

        From what I can tell, the main reason for the low rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis seen with the lower intensity loads in the study you’ve posted is that they didn’t lead to fatigue/failure.

        For example, subjects in the study did 3 sets x 9 reps at 60% of their 1-RM, resting for 2 minutes between sets. But you can normally get 15-20 reps with 60% of your 1-RM. So it wasn’t a particularly challenging protocol.

        The little dashed line across the top represents what happens to myofibrillar synthesis with lighter loads performed to muscular fatigue/failure.

        Plus, they didn’t actually measure sarcoplasmic protein synthesis, so we can only speculate as to what was going on.

        Interestingly enough, this study actually shows high reps and light weights (4 sets of 24 reps with 30% of 1-RM) elevate myofibrillar protein synthesis in the quads for 24 hours after exercise to a far greater extent than low reps and heavy weights (4 sets of 5 reps with 90% of 1-RM):

        Would love to contribute to the site, will drop you a note on Facebook with some article ideas.

        Thanks, Christian

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks for the reply, and for the clarifications.

          Yeah I’m familiar with that study, but IMO it just doesn’t pan out in the real world. I suppose a single session of leg extensions just can’t be extrapolated to long-term training involving compound lifts.

          In the 10+ years I’ve been kicking around in fitness circles, the ONLY people I’ve known that had great physiques and that did 15+ rep burnout training were on drugs. Always, without fail.

          On the flip side, every 100% natural lifter I’ve known (close enough friends to know if natty) with a great physique ALWAYS spent at least 50% of their time lifting focusing on heavy, compound lifting.

          I had the same experience with my body. 8 years of high-rep, always-to-failure, training got me maaaaybe 25-30 pounds of lean mass, with at least half of that coming in the first 1.5 years. From there, I slow sunk into a complete and utter plateau.

          I was able to break out of it by focusing on heavy, compound weightlifting (and I was able to get lean by just regulating calories, of course).

          Not sure about you, but I’m a big fan of Lyle McDonald’s work, and what he has to say on this subject in particular. You might like these articles of his:




          BTW I don’t think high-rep work has no place in a natural weightlifter’s routine–I just don’t think it should ever be the focus.

          Awesome I look forward to hearing from you! Talk soon.

          • CDK

            Thanks for the conversations!
            I had the same questions and it was confusing to me to when I looked at the chart and the results.

            I’ll look int Finn’s stuff too!

  • Pingback: 5 Huge Fitness Mistakes That Nearly Made Me Quit | Muscle For Life()

  • Av

    Hi Michael, this seems like a perfect solution to all my years of wanting change… Actual muscluar change! I was a proper fat-kid growing up, and now, after 6 years of effort, trial, prep, and research It’s come… The blubber. But now, we enter the tricky business: Muscle Building, Hypertrophy. I’ve got a castle to build, and i’m sitting on skinny-fat foundations. What’s the BEST diet you can think of, for proper lean-gains?

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool, I’m excited for you! Check out this article of mine:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      If you like it, then you should really check out my book Bigger Leaner Stronger:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /books/bigger-leaner-stronger/

      It lays out EVERYTHING you need to know about diet and training to build muscle and lose fat effectively…

  • Av

    Mike… Sir!! Thank you; just about to order your book and stick with the muscle-building programme. I truly love your work. Excited I am! One topic I thought I should mention.. Man boobs! Or the stubborn layer of fat around the pecs, and of course the lower abs/love handles. How could I melt these forever and ever?! Are there specific foods and/or excercises I ought to incorporate? Limitless thanks Bro,
    Av 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Av! I really appreciate it!

      That’s just a matter of getting lean enough. Once you start getting below 10%, stuff like that completely disappears. 🙂

  • Andrew

    When you say 3 sets of 4-6 and gradually increase weight over time, do you mean you don’t go up in weight until you can hit all 3 sets at 6 reps?

    • Michael Matthews

      No, I like to increase when I hit one set of the top of my rep range (first set 6 reps, up in weight, then usually 4, 4 on next two sets).

  • Pete

    Hey Mike, I was wondering what are your personal bests on the four compound lifts that you mention in BLS (squat, deadlift, bench and military press)?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Pete!

      My PRs are currently:

      Squat: 335 x 4-5 (not very good, but I’ve only been properly squatting for a couple years)

      Dead: 405 x 4 (ditto)

      Bench: 275 x 4 (decent, I have long arms, haha)

      MP: 225 x 4 (ditto)

      • Pete

        These are really good and I’m so jealous of your military press. My stats after one year of following your BLS programme are:
        Squat: 245 x 4
        Deadlift: 285 x 4
        Bench: 175 x4 (which I think is decent considering the fact that I started with like 3 reps of 85)
        Military press: 130 x 3
        In general I’m quite happy with my deadlift and squat considering the fact that I’m 19 and weight around 170 right now.
        I just want to say thank you for writing BLS cause it allowed me to gain probably around 18 pounds of muscle in a year and significantly increase my strength.

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha thanks man. My MP goes up and down based on my chest workouts, but that’s the best I’ve put up. Was a good day, haha.

          Your stats are awesome for year one. That’s right on track. Your MP will improve–it’s a bitch of an exercise.

          Amazing on your gains. Shoot me an email if you’d like to be featured as a success story on the site! I’d love to put you up!

  • Pingback: The No-BS (And Only) Way to Get “Six Pack Abs” | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Chest Workout: Chest Exercises for Bigger, Stronger Pecs | Muscle For Life()

  • crazzy

    I got sent to this article from your previous comment on another article which one reader had asked why people can lift so heavy and look super slim at the same time. They aren’t doing endurance training, and were lifting heavy weights in the 4-6 rep range. They were deadlifting roughly 350 pounds, and could bench about 250, but they didn’t look “big” by any means. Neither were they fat, so I’m not sure what the issue is. I see that you recommend 3 sets of 4-6 reps. My current trainer is having me on a 4-6 rep and 5 set routine. Is that too much? I am new to lifting. My current trainer says that doing deadlifts 3x a week is completely fine due to the nature of the exercise and that it is a full body exercise, and that it will lead me to gain muscle size quickly and increase my strength. I am trying to gain muscle size as I have a skinny fat body type. Is this trainer teaching me the right ways? He focuses his training on technique and is a pro at technique, but im not sure about his actual workout plan. I just started with him two weeks ago. Thanks Mike great article as always.

    • crazzy

      I dont want to get extremely strong but have no size, aesthetics is what I’m going for, and strength will come along with that. but I definitely want size.

      • Michael Matthews

        Yeah definitely. That’s a matter of training enough and eating right.

      • Blankito

        More strength equals more muscle. Its not more muscle equals more strength.

        • Michael Matthews

          There’s SOME truth in this but if you’re natural, more muscle will inevitably result in more strength.

    • Michael Matthews

      Muscles can get stronger without getting bigger. Both how you train and how you eat play a role in this.

      I recommend 9-12 heavy sets per workout. 3 sets per exercise is how my program is laid out.

      5 sets per workout is too little.

      Yes, you can deadlift 3x per week but the overall workout volume needs to be correct. It can be very easy to overtrain if you’re doing this wrong.

      It sounds like he knows something if he’s having you lift heavy and perform compound lifts.

      • crazzy

        Hey mike, I meant he does 5 sets per exercise, not the entire workout. he aims me for 12-15 sets per workout, for instance he’ll have me do deadlifts for 5 sets, squats for 5 sets, and kettlebell related exercises (such as swings, or turkish get ups, or goblet squats etc) for the rest of the sets. He strictly likes compound movements for his workouts He says he’s trying to build my form first before he works more into the muscle gaining routine. Seems that he might have a good plan for me then, thanks a ton for the advice mike greatly appreciated.

        • Michael Matthews

          Oh okay cool, that sounds pretty good. Personally I wouldn’t bother with KB exercises when I’m trying to build muscle and strength, as there are much better choices.

  • Jordan

    Mike, I just finished reading your BLS book and really enjoyed it. I’m excited to implement all of it. Quick question on Deadlifts and Squats… I’m 30 years old, but have been diagnosed with really bad back at 25. Doctor said running, jumping, and lifting were probably out of the question for the rest of my life. I’ve been lifting for a few years now, but have always avoided the deadlift and squat as I’m worried that may cause too much strain. Most other lifts aren’t a problem. I’m competing in the Spartan Beast this year and have been able to run and carefully jump with limited pain. I’m ready to carefully try squats and deadlifts, but thought I’d just do lighter weight… is that pointless since I’d probably be hitting sarco vs myohypertrophy? Should I stick in the 4-6 rep range with alternate exerices? Also, they only have a smith machine in my community gym… how do you feel about squats and deadlifts using that? Would Dumbbells work?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jordan! Definitely let me know how it goes.

      Hmm if there is a structural issue with your back, or something related to injury, it will be smart to stay away from deads. Squats may be okay. Have you run this by your doc?

      Working in a higher rep range definitely wouldn’t be worthless. It WILL result in growth to some degree. But if the doc advises against it, we should follow his advice.

      Squatting on the Smith is okay if you move your feet 12-16 in in front of you, but deadlifting on it sucks. You don’t want to bother.

      Dumbbell deadlifts suck. We will just have you do something else, like barbell rows, in place of deads.

      • Jordan

        I haven’t talked to the doc in a while since I haven’t been in pain in a few years. I’ll give him a call. I do barbell rows, but feel like I’m not going to get as much benefit as deadlifts would provide.
        Clarification on the smith machine for squats… smith machines are angled slightly. Should I be squatting on the outside or inside of the angle?

        • Michael Matthews

          I think that’s a good idea, and yeah BB rows aren’t deads but they’re a decent replacement.

          I’ve never seen an angled Smith–they’re always straight up and down?

          • Jordan

            The smith at our gym is angled slightly maybe only a degree or two. I thought all smith machines were like that.

          • Michael Matthews

            Weird, maybe all are and I’ve never noticed, haha.

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Back Workout: The Best Back Exercises for a Thick, Wide Back | Muscle For Life()

  • Mario

    Excellent article. So your BLS book says that 4-6 is optimal for hypertrophy and here you actually include 5-7. So would you say the range is 4-7? 8 repetitions is just borderline between right or wrong? I notice guys at the gym who are in your physique doing 8-10 reps. I know it’s a hot debate and you speak from your experience, but what made you add this 5-7 now?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Mario! Yeah I mean practically speaking 4-6 and 5-7 are essentially identical.

      I could MAINTAIN my physique on 8-10 but I would have never built it that way. It takes a lot of drugs to do that…

  • jacob

    I don’t get much of a pump on heavy weight training with lower Reps and longer rest between sets but I do incorporate lighter days as well are my workout still productive my Instagram is Jacob1318 and I commented on one of your pictures about my history if you could Message me on Instagram I appreciate it so much

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah pumps don’t really matter though. If you want do some 10-12 rep stuff AFTER your heavy lifting but don’t focus on it. Sorry IG comment management is basically impossible unless you sit on it all day.

  • Pingback: MFL Podcast #6: Best rep ranges for muscle growth, boosting testosterone naturally, and more… | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: How to Speed Up Your Metabolism for Easier Weight Loss | Muscle For Life()

  • Eduin Zavala

    Do you recommend the 5/3/1 routine to build muscle?

    • Michael Matthews

      If your goal is to build muscle as quickly as possible, no. But if you want to increase strength with some muscle growth, yes.

      I talk about it here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /get-strong-strength-training/

      • Eduin Zavala

        How much muscle can I build by doing the 5/3/1? Do you have any muscle building routine you can recommend ? I’m on the fence about how much muscle I want to build. Being in the military, I believe one must be balanced. Not having to much that it weights you down and slows you down .

        • Michael Matthews

          Hard to say but if you do the Big But Boring routine, you can make good gains.

          Have you checked out my routine?

          https://www.muscleforlife.com /books/bigger-leaner-stronger/

          • Eduin Zavala

            I just got done reading your BLS book actually. Good read! I plan on utilizing your routine to bulk and the 5/3/1 with assistance for cutting. What are your thoughts on that? Would that work for cutting?

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks Eduin! That sounds like a good plan. Let me know how it goes!

  • Hannah

    Hey Mike I really love reading your articles and you seem very knowledgable about what you’re doing. I am a female been lifting for over a year usually doing very long weightlifting sessions and going heavy but not as heavy as 4-6 reps more around 8-10 but i’m still looking to build muscle and lose a little bit of fat and i was wondering if such a short session with 4-6 rep range would work just as well for women? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Hannah! 8-10 reps is a good rep range for women. If you feel comfortable with it, you can include some 4-6 work. Specifically. you can start your workouts with 3 sets of 4-6 rep work, focusing on big compounds for what you’re training (deadlift, squat, bench press, military press, etc.).

      What do you think?

      • Hannah

        Yeah that sounds like a very good idea but how come you recommend a diff rep range for women even if they intend to add more muscle/size? I mean wouldn’t it be more effective to also go for 4-6 for more muscle? Also in terms of load wud u recommend the same for women or more because of lower testosterone and metabolism? It just feels like its too little of a load to permit growth for women especially as it’s harder for us or what do u think? Thanks for the reply and it would be awesome if you would share your knowledge and experience about the issue!

        • Michael Matthews

          The reason why I recommend 8-10 reps for women is simply because the majority I’ve worked with were already quite intimidated by the weight necessary to work in the 8-10 rep range. The 4-6 rep range was REALLY uncomfortable for them (generally speaking).

          The reality is 4-6 reps does work fine for women, but they can do great with the 8-10 rep range as well. There’s also the issue of overtraining to consider–women’s bodies can’t repair nearly as much muscular damage as guys’.

          So, if you’d like to work in some 4-6 training, I recommend doing no more than 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range, and using it on the following exercises:


          Military Press

          Bench Press


  • Pingback: How to Build Muscle and Lose Fat…at the Same Time | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The 3-Step Skinny Fat Solution | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Leg Workout: The Best Leg Exercises for Big Wheels | Muscle For Life()

  • Guest

    has anyone noticed this ‘before’ pic has newer iPhone. could NOT be at least 2.5 years old.

    • Michael Matthews

      Huh? The before is an older generation iPhone and I now have a Galaxy S4.

  • Matthew Hubner

    Hey Mike,
    I was wondering how you feel about incorporating a mix of the two types of training (high rep and low rep).
    I’m currently on a split that has me hit each muscle group twice a week, once focusing on heavy compound lifts in the 4-6 rep range and the second time lower weight in the 8-10 rep range.

    • Michael Matthews

      Periodization is great for advanced lifters. The thing is you need to be strong enough to move heavier weights in the 8-10 range to make it worth including.

      The program in my next book will be strictly for advanced lfiters and will include periodization. I’ll be talking a lot about why in the book…

      • Matthew Hubner

        Awesome. Can’t wait!

        • Michael Matthews


  • Pingback: The Ultimate Arms Workout: The Best Arm Exercises for Big Guns | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Shoulder Workout: The Best Shoulder Exercises for Big Delts | Muscle For Life()

  • vince4rmCali

    Hello Mike,
    Great article and physique.
    I had a plan to do a bulk and cut late last year. After 3 months of good training, things went south ( i was laid off, cancelled my gym pass, depression, etc)
    But im back now and im “not so skinny fat” im at around 16-17% body fat… you say lift 5-7 reps and atleast 5 sets on compound exercises. I want to shed some fat so im cutting my caloric intake, implementing “flexible dieting” iifym..my question is, should I still lift in the 4-6 rep range even if Im cutting? Being in a caloric deficit doesnt give you gains so should I stay in the 10-12 range and go heavy when I’m ready to bulk? Any insight is appreciated. Thank You!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Vince!

      Arg, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m glad to hear you’re back though.

      Yeah stick to the heavy weights while cutting. It will not only help you burn more calories, it will help you preserve muscle. Try to make strength gains. Many people do.

  • Pingback: 11 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Bench Press | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 8 Proven Ways to Increase Your Deadlift | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide to Pre-Workout Nutrition | Muscle For Life()

  • D6

    I just stumbled upon your articles and find them to be highly informative and backed by good science. I was sick for about 4 years, and before that I was in amazing shape. I gained a lot of weight and somehow I am still strong; 250lbs hand grippers, I am 220 and I can still do 10 pull ups and curl 100lbs twice with perfect form on all exercises executes.
    I keeps develop extreme muscle tension, and fatigue – do you have any suggestions? Also, do you have any overall advice for me in my venture to get my body back? Thank you for your advice!

  • D6

    I just stumbled upon your articles and find them to be highly informative and backed by good science. I was sick for about 4 years, and before that I was in amazing shape. I gained a lot of weight and somehow I am still strong; 250lbs hand grippers, I am 220 and I can still do 10 pull ups and curl 100lbs twice with perfect form on all exercises executes.
    I keeps develop extreme muscle tension, and fatigue – do you have any suggestions? Also, do you have any overall advice for me in my venture to get my body back? Thank you for your advice!

    • Michael Matthews


      Wow, that’s impressive. What kind of sickness were/are you dealing with?

      • D6

        It’s a LONG story, but I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which caused my to have hypothyroidism; it was over treated by doctor and caused heart problems for a while. On top of that, I have GERD and Barrette’s Esophagus. I was very ill for a long time, and I’m only 26 years old. So, second I got my strength back I immediately pushed myself to get back in shape; I won’t let me body ever wither again. Do you have any advice? Thanks for the excellent articles, and the personable approach you take to everything.

        • Michael Matthews

          Wow I’ve never heard of any of that. I have to Google now.

          I’m really not sure what to advise because I’m not familiar with these conditions, you know?

  • Pingback: 7 Powerful Ways to Increase Your Squat | Muscle For Life()

  • Derrick

    Straight sets or pyramid/ramping up sets?

    • Michael Matthews

      Straight sets if you’re focusing on one rep range, like 4 – 6, and reverse-pyramid style if you’re periodizing in your workouts (starting with 2 – 3 rep work, moving to 4 – 6, finishing with 8 – 10).

  • Lisa Riley

    Hi Mike, I’ve made a note of all the weights I should be doing in the Thinner Leaner Stronger book, but I wondered how much weight I should be aiming for?

    • Michael Matthews


      You want to start in the 8-10 rep range and build your strength there. Then, as you get stronger, you can start incorporating 4-6 rep work if you’d like. Some women prefer not to though because they’re able to achieve the level of muscle growth/definition they want from 8-10 rep work…

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Lisa Riley

        Thanks Mike! What weight though, or do I need to experiment as to how much I can lift? Is there a starting weight that you would recommend, ie 10kgs? Previously, I have only been lifting light weights and only dumbbells, the heaviest dumbbell I’ve curled with has been 5kg. I’ve never done weights with barbells before.

        • Michael Matthews

          Honestly it’s just trial and error for your first week or two. As a general rule, for every 5 lbs you add to a dumbbell exercise, you’ll lose 2 reps. The same for every 10 lbs added to a barbell exercise. So if you put 100 lbs on the squat bar and do 10 reps, you should be able to get about 6 reps with 140 lbs.

          Just work with light weights at first and learn the form, and then increase. You’ll get your numbers within a week or two. 🙂

  • Pingback: Does Carb Backloading Work? A Scientific Review | Muscle For Life()

  • Rick

    I am 6’1″ in height and I was wondering if there are any techniques to help with my squat form?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah just check out my squat articles. Especially the mobility one.

      • Rick

        When I squat my torso tends to lean forward. possibly due to my long legs. Should widen my stance or should I use the low bar? Also how tall are you? I was just wondering if you had the same problems as I did when it comes to squats.

  • Pingback: Why “Clean Eating” Isn’t the Key to Weight Loss or Muscle Growth | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 5 Ways to Know if a Fitness Guru is Full of Sh… | Muscle For Life()

  • Cameron

    Hey Mike I really like your philosophy on training and nutrition it’s easy and straight forward but I’m just confused about one thing. You say in your articles and books how a 4-7 rep range is ideal for hypertrophy but according to many other experts and you even referenced a study from the journal of strength and conditioning research in which the authors state that a 6-12 or “moderate” rep range is better than a “low” 4-6 rep range for optimal muscle growth. I really agree with 99% of what you are putting out but I just find this conflicting and it bothers me because I’m trying to tune my variables to be the best and all this is doing is confusing me so if you could please let me know your thoughts I would greatly appreciate it man, thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man!

      Honestly how the 10-12 rep range became known as the “hypertrophy” range is beyond me, and many other smart people in this space. It works great for druggers, but not for natties.

      If you read that paper, it advises an eventual emphasis on heavy loading.

      What I recommend is just give my heavy lifting advice a go and see how your body responds. Check out my “ultimate” workout articles and give those 2 months…

  • Julien

    Hi Mike,

    The physique I most aspire to is David Beckham’s because it has that very athletic lean look which I prefer. Now i’m guessing that for his upper body you don’t have to lift very heavy weights to get that physique. Do you think that you could get away with those standard home dumbbell sets of 20kg, instead of going to the gym? Obviously the lower body is much more muscular due to the nature of the sport he played and would require heavy squats etc. The reason why I ask is because i don’t want to renew my gym membership haha!

    • Michael Matthews

      Nope that’s an easy look to get and maintain. You could probably do it with a bodyweight routine:


      • Julien

        thanks for the link! Realistically do you think you could get the beckham look without having to buy weighted vest, weight belt etc?

        And secondly, do you think you can get a good level of muscularity in the legs just by doing uphill sprints?

        • Michael Matthews

          YW. Yeah probably. He has no chest so…

          No on the legs. It takes lifting.

          • Julien

            Thanks. The reason why I am aiming to scale back to that sort of physique in the long term is because i’ve developed tendonosis in my shoulders which is apparently beyond the point of healing itself.

            I am really annoyed with my gym because when I had my induction this is how they taught me the bench press: ‘put your hands slightly wider then shoulder width apart on the barbell and then push it up’. That’s it! Nothing about pinch shoulder blades back to take stress off the shoulder, angling elbows to 45 degrees, pushing bar above or slightly below nipple line…I didn’t think to thoroughly research online the actual technique because I assumed they knew what they were doing! So for months I did the technique wrongly! This negligence on their part has potentially ended my career in the gym for a lifetime and i’m only 22! If I was really rich i’d probably attempt to sue them for negligence but would most likely lose anyway!

          • Michael Matthews

            Shit, that really sucks. Honestly I highly doubt you couldn’t rehab it though. Powerlifters rehab some REALLY nasty stuff all the time. WAY worse than that…

          • Julien

            Hopefully! What is ridiculous is that both personal trainers at my university gym and the gym where I live did not even mention to me the important details regarding the proper bench press technique. They are certified personal trainers yet clearly their course hasn’t even taught them to tell clients how to bench press properly, I was rolling my shoulders forward the whole time, f*cking up my joints. At a guess, would you say this is a common issue, where new gym goers aren’t showed how to do exercises properly? Do PT’s even know themselves?! Thank god for your website actually informing me on how to do shit right!

          • Michael Matthews

            Being a certified PT means nothing. Some are great, many don’t know shit.

  • Bryan

    Hey Mike,

    What’s your opinion of Big Beyond Belief? I’ll finish a long term cut (8 months) in a month and will be in the lower single digits for body fat % so I’ll be in good shape to start a long prolonged “responsible” bulk. My ending weight will be under 140lbs and am 5’7 so I think I have a decent amount of room left to make n00b gains.

    I have the time (and appetite haha) so I wanted to try out Big Beyond Belief’s 6 day split, but recently Jason Blaha has said that as a drug free lifter, anything beyond 3-4 days a week won’t give you any extra gains in hypertrophy and will just delay your recovery/put you at greater risk of injury. Do you tend to agree? Should I just do the 4 day version of Big Beyond Belief? or is it a not so good program to begin with? My goal is almost exclusively hypertrophy. Thanks in advance and sorry for the long question.

    • Michael Matthews

      I’ve heard of BBB but actually don’t know the routine. Can you fill me in?

      IMO you can lift 6 x per week but you need to watch volume and intensity closely. You can squeeze a bit more than 3 – 4 x per week if your volume and intensity is right…

      And BTW you won’t get any real amount of hypertrophy without getting stronger.

  • Pingback: Mike Matthews: Becoming Bigger, Leaner, Stronger While Still Living the Life You Want | moonfitness.net()

  • Ry Guy

    So glad I found your book and your site as I am on a recent quest to get in the best shape of my life and don’t want to screw about. Also found leangains.com and stronglifts.com and find that their info correlates well with yours. Martin Berkhan from leangains describes a gym disease he dubs ‘fuckarounditis’ which I see so many people falling victim to in the gym. I’ve only been at it for three weeks and already seeing huge improvements in strength and in muscle mass. Have to put my fist in my mouth to not comment when someone is benching on a Smith machine or when they’re cranking 20 reps on the pec deck and wondering why they’re not seeing gains. Also, the powerlifting area of the gym where I do my deadlifts, squats, and bent-over rows…it’s always empty. Great for me, but detrimental to those folks wishing they were making progress. Keep up the good work señor Mike !
    Also, quick side note…trying out the Intermittent Fasting on a 16/8 and LOVING IT. I feel so clear and focused in the gym and afterwards when I go in there on an empty stomach. It’s kinda crazy…feel really strong too.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! Those are definitely good resources.

      Lol I know what you mean. I just keep my headphones in, do my workout, and leave.

      Nice on the IF! I prefer pre-workout carbs because they make you stronger, but I don’t mind fasted training.

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide to Why Low-Carb Dieting Sucks | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Calves Workouts for Quickly Adding Size and Strength | Muscle For Life()

  • FHK

    Hey Mike, this site is absolutely amazing! You reveal the science of weightlifting through the use of lucid writing and cogent fact – the culminating fact for me, however, is that all of your information is geared toward NATRUAL weightlifters like myself.

    Reading through this site has been a ‘back to basics’ lesson for me! That is to say that since I’ve been back into lifting over the last 2 years (stopped for over 10, but I was a bit of a power house back in the day – all natural, of course) I’ve tried various weightlifting regiments, some more successful than others, but it has been this site, because of the science behind the success, that has spurred me to use the routines you have so masterfully constructed here.

    An amazing point of fact for me is that your workouts that I have now incorporated into my weekly routines (myofibrillar hypertrophy via progressive overload) are, in fact very similar to how I was taught to lift by a friend of mine who was not only a bodybuilder but in Med School at the time. Again, the science behind the success as I was benching 315 just to warm up and squatting 405 in about the 5-6 range. Then as now, I am making great gains and feeling GREAT!

    Thank you so much, stay blessed in all you do.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.

      That’s awesome you’re putting everything into use and making gains. Let’s get you back to those numbers! That’s impressive!

  • CDK

    Thanks Mike for the link to this page. I learned a lot reading this article. I applaud you for using references. A few simple clicks and searches, I can easily find what you’re saying and read full tests and analysis.

    I notice you change some wording and simplify everything- basically cut out all the scientific wording to give a clear picture to the average joe. Reading some of these tests, makes me want to learn more about the body.

    One step at a time though for now!

    Again, thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yeah I’m big on reviewing papers myself so it only makes sense to include them in my work.

      Yes exactly–I want to make the scientific research accessible to the layperson so I avoid as much jargon as possible.

  • Kelvin Guzmán

    Hey Mike, what do you think of the 6-8 rep range. It’s what i see Lyle Mcdonald and Martin Berkhan advocating. You still work around the 80% range, and i’m also thinking the heavy lifting is harder on your joints, then again i guess that’s what periodization is about.

    • Michael Matthews

      Both Berkhan and McDonald actually recommend periodization, which I talk about in my book for advanced lifters, which is coming out very soon.

      McDonald said if he had to choose ONE rep range to train in, it would be the 5-7 rep range.

      • Kelvin Guzmán

        i just read lyle’s article, he said 6-8 =P

        • Michael Matthews
          • Kelvin Guzmán

            Yeah, i’ll be keeping it anywhere from 4-8 and maybe do some periodization from time to time.

          • Michael Matthews

            Cool man you can’t go wrong doing that.

            Yes as an individual range 4-6 seems to be best but my training is periodized ATM.

          • Kelvin Guzmán

            Your favorite rep range is still 4-6 right 🙂

  • jack

    hey mike got a little question here

    I have been stuck with my Flat BP weight for a month now but I make gains on my incline BP and dips. I do flat bp 1st. I tried focusing on my flat bp but still stuck haha. Is this normal?

    actually I really want to increase in flat bp. Any tips????

    thousand thanks 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Interesting! Slow chest growth is probably the issue I’m most often emailed about, haha. This is definitely the most common genetic weak point, and really just takes time and hard work to get through. In my opinion, it takes 1-2 years to build what we would consider a solid chest, and 3-4 to build an awesome chest.

      Don’t be discouraged by that though. As long as your diet is right and you’re getting stronger each month, your chest WILL grow. It just grows slower than most people prefer.

      Here’s one little trick you can do:

      On the 3rd day after chest day, start your workout with a chest warm-up and 3 heavy sets of incline barbell press. Then move on to your normal workout. This won’t be enough to interfere with your next chest day, and can give you a little boost.

      • jack

        thanks mike, will do that next workout. So my mind set will be as long as I get stronger that’s ok whether flat or incline BP? Is this correct?

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! Yes exactly.

          • jack

            I did it my last work out.. I was surprised that it felt great.. my follow is that can I also do that with other muscle group like bi’s. and is it ok to sneak extra work for 2 muscle groups(chest &bis) in the same week??


          • Michael Matthews

            Yup that’s totally fine. Just don’t add more than 3 sets for anything.

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide to the “Fat Burner” Supplement: What Works and What Doesn’t and Why | Muscle For Life()

  • alpha1

    “I used to train in the 10 – 12 rep range with a lot of supersets, drop
    sets, and giant sets, and I always hated the inflation-deflation cycle. I
    would train my chest on Monday and look good for a few days, but then
    wonder where it went come Saturday.”

    Spot on.

    But my experience has been even more drastic.
    Even when training with ~6 rep range I experience the same.
    In fact in my case – upper body compound exercises work the best at reps 1-4.

    Any idea what’s going on? Perhaps I have huge deficit of Type 2 fibres?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s really interesting. Although I don’t have science I can cite I know from working with a LOT of people that some bodies just respond best to more or less volume/weight in their training.

      Most people do best with reps under 8 and 4 to 6 does great for the majority, but I do come across guys like you that respond absolutely best to really heavy lifting or something closer to 6 to 8 reps.


      • Christian

        Great article. Been seeking information regarding this topic and something I can relate to. I’ve been a life time drug free bodybuilder and it’s hard to find info and inspiration as being a natty we simply can’t relate to the steroid users at all. 99.9% of guys who are impressive are on something or previously been on something you never know what to believe. You have achieved fantastic aesthetic look and strong through patience and trial and error which many can’t claim

        • Glad you liked it brother. 🙂

          It ain’t easy being a natty out there!

          Thanks for your support and always feel free to ask any questions along the way. I’m happy to help.

  • stdez

    How long does it take for your muscles to rebuild after a workout? If you have 1 or 2 days off or you are on a rest week do you take the same amount of protien and carbs?

    • Michael Matthews

      Generally speaking 3-6 days to recover depending on what you’ve done.

      Yes keep your protein high on your rest days. Carbs depend on what you’re doing on those days and overall with your diet.

      • stdez

        thanks mike

        2 more questions. How important is the download week? Do you have to rest for a week, or is a couple of days good, or do you need to do it at all? when is your new book coming out?

        • Michael Matthews

          You can deload instead of rest. I prefer that personally.

          BBLS is next week 100%. Everything is ready to rock.

  • sBaro

    Hello Mike,
    Me and my little bro are following BLS for at least 6 months now, we are making all kinds of gains but there is something that need to be clarify : how muscle strength & size are related? For a same muscle can it be stronger without gaining size? (like some “small” powerlifter)
    I’m asking because I’m getting bigger than him (following the same BLS workout) but our progression in terms of strenght are quielty the same (he’s even better on some exercices). The only difference is that I’m eating more than him because he doesn’t have my appetite (we are also about the same body fat %age). Is this just a calorie surplus problem (not enough protein)? Or genetics play also a role (I’m more like mesomorphe type and he’s more like an ectomorphe)? For example my forearms are like twice bigger than his, same for the legs…
    Note: I’m 23, he’s 20.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great man I’m glad to hear it!

      Yup muscles can get stronger without getting bigger, but this only goes so far. The fibers we have can only contract so forcefully before the body needs to add more.

      You’re making better gains because you’re eating better. Diet is a HUGE part of it…

  • Pingback: 8 Proven Ways to Break Through Weightlifting Plateaus | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: How Training Frequency Can Help or Hurt Your Muscle Growth | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: How to Stimulate Muscle Growth so That You Never Plateau Again()

  • victoria

    I stick in the 4-6 rep range for all my compound lifts, does this apply to all other auxiliary lifts as well?

    • Michael Matthews

      For the most part, yes. In some cases you need to go a bit higher to maintain proper form, such as with side delt raises.

      That said, if you’re a girl, I recommend you limit your 4-6 rep sets to 3 per workout and do the rest in the 8-10 rep range.

      • Jessica

        Mike, I’m glad you posted this comment as I have a question as well. I’ve been doing TLS since July now but have modified the rep range to 4-6 instead of 8-10 because I’m now in a bulking stage. I’m doing this on all the exercises in your year-long plan. Can you explain why you would recommend some in 8-10 range? I’m trying to add as much muscle as possible, hopefully gaining a pound or two a month until May when I begin cutting. Thanks in advance!

        • Michael Matthews

          Hey Jessica!

          The reason I don’t recommend women do as much 4-6 rep work as guys is your bodies aren’t able to repair the muscle tissues nearly as well as ours can.

          That said, some women are able to get away with more heavy lifting than others.

          How is your body responding so far?

          • Jessica

            I am definitely seeing strength gains in lower body; I can add approximately 10lbs a week to my barbell lifts on anything lower body. Upper body is struggling to make that kind of progression but it’s still there. But I’ve only really been bulking for a total of 6 weeks (previously, I was following TLS with 8-10 reps while cutting). What do you think if I keep doing all 4-6 reps until at least end of the year and reassess? After that I’ll have at least another 4 months of bulking before moving into cutting again…

          • Michael Matthews

            Great. Lower body always progresses faster, so that’s normal.

            I think it’s a good plan. Let’s see how your body responds.

  • Samuel Sander

    Hey man! :)) How do you feel about high-reps, lighter weight burn sets after a heavy weights, low-reps workout? So far I’ve been doing a few sets of static holds in end of my workouts that have shown great results. Today popped in a few burn sets after my heavy 4-6 stuff. Felt quite good, but does it actually translate to more gains? If so, how many burn sets would you recommend per workout/muscle group? Eg. would 2,3 burn sets and static holds be an overkill after a heavy workout? Also, are there muscle groups where I should avoid this kind of an approach?

    P.S. Just ordered your new book. Looking forward to reading it!! :))

    All the best!

    • Michael Matthews


      Periodized training like that is good but it’s more suited to advanced lifters. I talk about it in my latest book, Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, which you’ll be reading soon! 🙂 LMK how you like it.

  • Pingback: Why Rapid Weight Loss Is Superior to “Slow Cutting” (And How to Do It Right) | Muscle For Life()

  • Ray

    Hi Mike. I’ve read with great interest your blog, esp. your 4-6 rep range. I will try this out. A couple of questions, though:

    1) Would 4-6 reps be okay for older folks? I’m 40 now, but would lifting in the 4-6 range be a good idea on joints and tendons once I hit 50 and beyond?

    2) How come you recommend 3 sets per exercise? Aren’t 4 sets per exercise better (i.e., lead to more muscle damage and therefore growth)?

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man!

      I’ve emailed with hundreds of guys in their 50s and 60s and many were surprised at how well they could do the program as laid out in the book. We did make a few tweaks, however:

      1. No heavy deadlifting or squatting unless the person was an experienced weightlifter. If you have any lower back issues, don’t deadlift at all unless instructed to do so by a PT. If you have any knee issues, no squatting unless instructed to do so by a PT. If you have no such issues, start your deadlifting and squatting in the 8 – 10 rep range and stay there until the exercises feel very comfortable. You can then move into 6 – 8 rep range and work with that until it feels completely stable and comfortable. You can then move into the 4 – 6 rep range, but it’s not mandatory. You have to see how your body feels.

      2. No heavy bench pressing or military pressing if you have shoulder issues. If you don’t have any, start these exercises in the 6 – 8 rep range and work there until they feel very comfortable and stable. You can then move into the 4 – 6 rep range.

      That’s it. Some guys had very particular circumstances that required further tweaks, but that was it for most.

      Nothing needs to be changed on the diet. The metabolism doesn’t slow down due to age nearly as much as most people think. My metabolism is, at best, only a few hundred calories per day more efficient than yours. (Ultimately your progress will dictate if anything needs changing, and I can help you tweak things if necessary.)

      I recommend 9 to 12 heavy sets per workout. You can get there by doing 3 x 3/4 or 4 x 3 if you’re doing 12–up to you!

    • mark

      cheeky bugger…i am 44. Thought you was talking about 70+ year olds :-).

      • Michael Matthews


  • Pingback: MFL Podcast 23: Big mistakes that intermediate lifters make and finding the right “work-life balance” | Muscle For Life()


    I was wondering something Mike , what happen when you reach a plateau ? I’m assuming sooner or later your weight won’t go up anymore ?
    do you fallow this program all years long ? do you change routine ? do you change exercises ?

    thank you

  • Pingback: How Training to Failure Can Help You Build More Muscle (And How It Can Hinder It Too) | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 6 “Everyday” Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, Weak, and Frustrated | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: Why You Probably Shouldn’t Do Full-Body Workouts | Muscle For Life()

  • Jimbo

    5 sets of 10 you’ll be suprised by how quick your squat goes and deadlift goes up. I just started deadlifting 2 months ago and I can already do 350. This guy might have his program work for him, but everyone is different. For some reason for me, I only feel a burn/pump in my legs if I do alot of reps.

    • Michael Matthews

      You can definitely make gains working in the 8-10 rep range but you might be surprised how well your body responds if you reduced volume and included some heavier 2-3 or 4-6 rep work too.

  • Alex

    Thanks man , great article . For me it is reinforcing all this new muscle knowledge I am learning. And like someone else had stated : easy to understand the way you write.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Glad to hear it!

  • maya

    Thank you so much for all the knowledge you share. I am subscribed to your emails and I have read your books and I can honestly say I have yet to come across anyone who explains the things they teach in as much detail as you do. I love how you always find and show research to back up what you say. I’m also in the midst if working towards getting my PTC and there are times I get so confused about what I am being taught and then I find one of your articles (this one for example) and it clears everything up for me. Thank you so much!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate the support!

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Chest Workout: Chest Exercises for Awesome Pecs | Muscle For Life()

  • Alejandro Rosetsky


    In the past year I have tried out a couple different programs with both of them focusing on hi-reps and drop-sets. I’ve made some progress but probably couldn’t lift much more today than I was able to a year ago. The whole “deflation” thing is exactly what I’ve been experiencing. I just did a 3 month bulk and decided to switch it up and do a cut since I was gaining quite a bit of fat. My calories were about 300 or so more than I would have been doing had I followed your formula from BLS and went up even higher after the six week mark. So the cutting program has a bunch of hi-rep drop-set’s in it and I just don’t feel like wasting another 10 weeks. I guess my question is even while cutting am I to understand that the 4-6 rep range is the best way to go? I currently don’t meet the criteria for your Beyond BLS program as I’m off by about 20 lbs or so in each department. I’m pretty sure I know how you’re going to answer that question but I had to ask. Thanks in advance!

    • Michael Matthews

      Trust me I know how you feel–I did those types of workouts for 7 years, lol.

      You’ll get SO much more out of the BLS approach. Give it 8 weeks and you’ll be sold…

      20lbs is actually pretty close. I bet you can get the lifts to within 10 lbs with 8-10 weeks of BLS and then you could make the jump?

      • Alejandro Rosetsky

        Let’s see I’ll check back with you in a couple months. I dropped the high rep business and I just started my second week of BLS. I’m currently cutting to lean out and I’m going to want to stay pretty lean when I transition into a bulk. I remember one of your articles where you talked about reverse dieting but I can’t find it. Would you mind sharing the link or the name of the article. Thanks again and I’m loving the program!

        • Michael Matthews

          Sounds good! Definitely let me know how it goes.



          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

          • Alejandro Rosetsky

            I’m mid way through my fourth week of BLS. I’m currently cutting and I’m not sure if I’m losing fat but my weight seems to be going up. I’d like to think it’s me gaining muscle since I’ve been doing hi rep drop set programs for the last six months. What’s frustrating is I was eating more and dropping weight pretty fast doing high rep program so naturally I’m conflicted since now it seems like I’ll have to drop my calories even more. Just wondering what your take is on this. Thanks again!

          • Michael Matthews

            You can definitely gain muscle while in a deficit if you’re new to this style of weightlifting. Is your waist getting smaller?

          • Alejandro Rosetsky

            I’m definitely looking leaner. I have a body fat caliper but it’s hard to get an accurate reading with that contraption. I’m at about 15% according to my calculations. Thanks I will keep on it and see how I do after another 4 weeks.

          • Michael Matthews

            Looking leaner is a good sign. Are the caliper readings going down in mm?

  • Pingback: 5 Post-Workout Meals That Blow Protein Shakes Away | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide to the "Fat Burner" Supplement: What Works and What Doesn't and Why | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 7 Diet Mistakes That Make It Damn Hard to Lose Weight, Build Muscle, and Feel Good | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: Confused About Muscle Confusion Workouts? Here Are the Straight Facts | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: Let Them Eat Wheat: Scientific Holes in the Wheat-Free Diet Craze | Muscle For Life()

  • LifeForMuscle

    im not complementing you or anything. im quite the honest guy!

    i dont know if you guys find this weird or you may think that im half blind…

    but i find mikes body better than Zyzz body… and he doesnt use steroid 🙂

    well done mike , nicely laid article easy to read and understand

    sincerely , your biggest fan!

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha thanks man. If I’m going to be honest with myself, Zyzz had better abs, a better waist-to-shoulder ratio, and better chest genetics.

  • William

    When you say 80-85% and 4-6 reps, which is more accurate in terms of maximum hypertrophy? In my case, I can do 6-8 reps with 80-85%, so would you recommend I stick with that rep range, or lower it to 4-6 (which for me is more like 85-90%)?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s impressive. Most guys can’t get more than 6 reps at 80-85% of 1RM.

      It sounds like you’re an advanced lifter? If so I would actually recommend a periodized program like I give here:


  • rkline27

    Mike, I’m a police officer and need to stay strong and fit. I want to build my dream body. I weigh 200 lbs and I’m 5’9″. I have a decent upper body but no abs. What ab workout do you recommend? I don’t want to lose any size only in my mid section.

  • Pingback: The 3 Exercises That Build a “Godlike” Male Physique | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Absolute Best and Worst Ways to Build Muscle | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: MFL Podcast #6: Best rep ranges for muscle growth, boosting testosterone naturally, and more... | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: Think.Eat.Lift. | Exerciții Compuse cu Greutăți Libere: Cheia pentru un Corp Musculos()

  • Dan

    Hey Mike, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it but I’ve been doing Stronglifts 5×5 for about 2 months now and wanted to see what you think of it. Here are the two workouts–

    Workout A: 5×5 Squat, 5×5 Bench, 5×5 Barbell Rows.
    Workout B: 5×5 Squat, 5×5 Shoulder Press, 1×5 Deadlift.

    I lift every other day and alternate between workouts. I’m seeing really good progress with squats and my legs are definitely growing, but the progress seems a little slow with everything else. I’m wondering if this might be because I’m doing the non-squat exercises once every 4 days. I would appreciate any tips on how to make this workout better for me. Just to give you an idea of where I am, I’m 6’2″ weighing 190 lbs doing 5×5 squats with 225 and 5×5 bench with 150. Thanks for your great articles!

    • Michael Matthews

      Programs like Stronglifts and Starting Strength are good. Much better than a lot of the crap out there. They will get you bigger and stronger, no doubt about it.

      That said, they have one big drawback: certain parts of your physique lag in terms of development. The look you often see in guys that only do SL or SS is a really big lower body, and a disproportionately small upper body. This is often seen very clearly in the arms, shoulders, lats, and chest. Middle back development is usually decent due to all the deadlifting.

      I’ve had many guys come from SL/SS to BLS and really like how their upper body began to fill out and match their lower body development. This is because BLS is kind of a hybrid between the SL/SS approach, and the traditional bodybuilding approach.

      So in short, you can’t go wrong doing SL or SS, but there will be a point when you’ll want to focus more on lagging body parts to balance out your physique.

  • Pingback: Cool Stuff of the Week: Microsoft HoloLens, BBQ Crock Pot, Unbroken, and More… | Muscle For Life()

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Charmaine

    Hi Mike. First let me say how interesting and informative all your articles are. I am in the process of reading thinner leaner stronger and bigger leaner stronger, both are great. I have a question, you advocate that the rep range for a muscle building program fall between 4 -7 reps in BLS AND 8 – 10 reps in TLS. Can I ask why you recommend higher reps for women? I have been training in the 4-7 rep range and getting great results. Many thanks

    • Thanks Charmaine! I really appreciate it!

      The reason why I recommend 8-10 reps for women is simply because the majority I’ve worked with were already quite intimidated by the weight necessary to work in the 8-10 rep range. The 4-6 rep range was REALLY uncomfortable for them (generally speaking).

      The reality is 4-6 reps does work fine for women, but they can do great with the 8-10 rep range as well. There’s also the issue of overtraining to consider–women’s bodies can’t repair nearly as much muscular damage as guys’.

      So, if you’d like to work in some 4-6 training, I recommend doing no more than 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range, and using it on the following exercises:


      Military Press

      Bench Press


      • Uwrong

        Care to explain the science behind Women not being able to repair as much muscular damage as men?

        I’m pretty sure you’re 1000% wrong, estrogen lends itself to muscular repair very nicely and because of this women tend to have better recovery abilities (and so can benefit from more volume).

  • James winne

    Hi there Mike, this article is fantastic thanks so much! I have a question that I really need to get to the bottom of! I looked at many of your replies but I was slightly confused so if you could just clarify a bit I would be so happy! Alright, so basically what I’m doing right now is a 3 day split push/pull/legs and I need to know how many excercises I should be doing each day. For instance, on pull day I usually do about 8-10 excercises of 3-4 sets each in the correct rep range. While this has been working great for me and I’ve seen great size gains over six months, I feel very fatigued by my later workouts for each muscle group (bis and back in this case) and I was wondering if I need to lower the number of excercises I do so that I can truly train at 80-85% of my 1RM. So just to reiterate I’m doing 4 excercises for each major muscle group like tris shoulders chest and bis..etc. (I don’t do 4 per leg muscle group, though… usually 2.) Thanks in advance!

    • Thank you!

      I would recommend a different PPL setup. Honestly I’d recommend you just pick up my Bigger Leaner Stronger book and follow that program:


      But if you want to give programming a go, check this out:



      • James Winne

        Ok, I understand now! I’ve been hitting each group with 3 good compound exercises per workout for the past month and it’s completely changed my training in a good way! I only have 2 more simple questions that i hope you can answer! So basically, I start every exercise trying to hit 6 reps and if I can’t I stick with the same weight for the next 2 sets… but what happens if you are almost positive that you can’t lift that higher weight for 4 when you DO hit 6 reps? Is it a good idea to finish the last 2 sets of the excercise hitting 6 reps with the same weight and trying to hit 4 the next workout? My only other question would be time training! If i take 3 minute rests between exercises, I find myself unable to leave the gym before 1 and a half hours have passed and I realize that it probably isn’t a huge deal, but is it really bad if I end up with about 2 hours lifting with only 6 excercises? My university gym is really crowded and in order to use a bench or squat rack it takes almost 15 minutes most of the time. Do you think the extra time spent in the gym will hinder mass gains a lot considering my volume is within your specified range? Thanks so much in advance these questions have been killing me, ugh!

        • Yoyo I get a LOT of emails, comments, etc. and have to move through them fairly quickly.

          Can you break your comment down into paragraphed text with the questions clearly delineated? That way I can get through it quickly you know?

          • James Winne

            Sorry about that 😛

            my questions are:

            1.basically, I start every exercise trying to hit 6 reps and if I can’t I stick with the same weight for the next 2 sets… but what happens if you are almost positive that you can’t lift that higher weight for 4 when you DO hit 6 reps? Is it a good idea to finish the last 2 sets of the excercise hitting 6 reps with the same weight and trying to hit 4 the next workout?

            2.If i take 3 minute rests between exercises, I find myself unable to leave the gym before 1 and a half hours have passed and I realize that it probably isn’t a huge deal, but is it really bad if I end up with about 2 hours lifting with only 6 excercises? My university gym is really crowded and in order to use a bench or squat rack it takes almost 15 minutes most of the time. Do you think the extra time spent in the gym will hinder mass gains a lot considering my volume is within your specified range?

            3.why do you recommend higher rep ranges for abs and obliques? Is using 80-85% on the oblique swivel machine for 3 sets of 4-6, using the weighted incline ab crunch machine for the same rep range and load, and maybe doing some heavy hanging leg raises a good workout a couple times a week?

          • NP.

            1. If you can’t go 6, up, 4, 4, then work to 6, 6, up, and you should be able to get 4 on the final set and stick with that new weight.

            2. It sounds like you’re wasting a lot of time. Warm-up: 10 minutes. 12 heavy sets: 6 minutes. 3 minutes of rest in between each: 36 minutes.

            3. Heavy weights on these exercises can piss off your back. I wouldn’t recommend.

          • James Winne

            Thank you! I actually switched to another gym and I’ve cut all my workouts to an hour since I don’t have to wait for any equipment. I agree about the abs and calves thanks! You’re so helpful man I will definitely send before and after pictures in a year or so thanks so much!!!

          • That’s great! Sounds good!

  • Pingback: How to Use Reverse Pyramid Training to Supercharge Your Workouts | Muscle For Life()

  • Adel-Alexander

    Is it alright to build my strength up with lower weights before focusing on the 80-85% of my rep range? I’ve kinda been training with bad form for a long time now, (I just got a personal trainer to help me correct my forms) so I’m still trying to get used to the new correct forms, but I still want to train in the 4-6 rep range.

    Also, is 2-3 minutes the optimal waiting time? It kinda gets awkward when you’re doing nothing for 3 minutes.. haha

    • Yeah you can definitely do that to get form down. Haha yeah it is when you’re going heavy because it allows you to keep the weight on the bar.

      • Adel-Alexander

        Also, any reason why it’s 80-85% of the one rep range and not the 90-95%? Just curious.

  • OKD

    does this 4-6 training relate to abdominal training too ? because I’ve heard that higher rep ranges suit them better

  • Pingback: The Top 5 Things All Women Need to Know About Working Out | Muscle For Life()

  • sherrie

    Is this article based for women also?

    • Yes although I do recommend women new to lifting start in the 8-10 rep range as it’s a bit more “forgiving” in terms of form and such.

  • Fabio Esteves

    Hi Mike. A lot of what you say makes sense. And I have experienced the deflation that you talk about. I have tried a lot of programs out there. Beginner full body workouts, upper/lower, German volume training, 5 day bodybuilder splits, and currently I’m doing fst 7 style training. I definitely agree with the 4-6 or 5-7 rep range method, but what about German volume training? I’ve had the biggest gains with that program and its recommended to work in the 55%-60% of your 1RM. 10 sets of 10, one exercise per muscle group. I’ve gained almost 8 pounds of muscle in 6 weeks.And I’m 5’9 with 165lbs, 12% bf. How can that be explained?
    Thanks a lot.

    • Thanks Fabio! I think you can do some GVT now and then to just “mix things up” but I don’t think it’s optimal for long-term training.

  • Pingback: Why Time Under Tension is Overrated for Building Muscle (And What Matters More) | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: Supersets: Bench Press and T-Bar Row | Buddha Fit Blog()

  • Rouge Surreah

    Mike, do you do intermittent fasting? If so how long do you personally recommend going for? Do you do it after a high carb day? (I have read your article on IF already, still wrapping my head around how to make it flow with my schedule). Do you train on your IF day?
    Also, when you started lifting heavier, were you still doing 3 sets? Or more sets? I love lifting heavier for example with deadlifts… but the problem is actually getting the barbell OFF the bar when its that heavy… Or doing glute bridges – actually getting the bar using my biceps… My legs are so much stronger than my arms 🙁 WAH! #tinypeopleproblems

    • I believe you asked this elsewhere and I answered?

      • Rouge Surreah

        Nope… lol maybe someone else! Youre so patient with all these questions though. I commend you

        • Doh sorry.

          Anyway, IF is okay. Nothing all that special. If you like to eat on that schedule do it. If not, don’t.

          I’m not into carb cycling.

          I do 9 to 12 heavy sets per workout.

          Deads are a bitch. No way around it. 🙂

          • shop4sport

            Mike, I have to jump in.. When you say 4-6 Reps Heavy! You’re doing 9-12 sets per muscle group????

          • Yep, that’s right.

  • Shadow

    Hey Mike I started working out like this about two or three months ago. I typically work out five days a week using compound workouts for each muscle group-arms, shoulders, chest, back, and legs-and I emphasize each group just once a week in an effort to keep from overdoing myself and causing an injury. Would I be safe to bump up the number of times I work out each group a week or is this alright?

    • I wouldn’t recommend training each muscle group more than once a week. Any more than that can easily lead to over-training.

  • Michael Cummings

    Hey Michael, Im 17 and have been doing routine gym days and eating and sleeping right for about 4 months and using a scheduele of:
    Day 1: Upper body
    Day 2: legs and arms
    Day 3: rest
    Day 4: upper body
    Day 5: legs and arms
    And day 6 and 7 rest

    I’ve been reading a lot on 5 day splits and basically Doing weekly routines very different from what I do now (exercising every muscle group only once a week, and also combining backs with biceps and chest with triceps).

    I’m just wondering your opinion on the split of resistance exercises into a weekly routine.
    My specific questions are:
    • is working each muscle once a week (eg. five day split, one day for each muscle group eg. Day 1: chest, day 2: back, day 3 legs…) with, for example, 14 sets per day, better or worse than doing each muscle group 2 days a week, with 7 sets each day (adding up to 14 a week) in terms of muscle gain
    • should biceps by combined with back training in one day with triceps and chest on another day, or the opposite

    Any answer would be very helpful as I am currently sat here trying to make the best weekly routine and have so many contradicting factors, thank you!

    • Cool on what you’ve been doing!

      There are pros and cons to both approaches–upper/lowers and body part splits. That said, in the long run I think a well-programmed body part split is best for building overall size and proportions.

      Check this out:


      • Michael Cummings

        Thank you! That link was very helpful, I’m going to start training like this but a just have a couple questions first about the guide (the link):
        • when you say 4-6 reps is the best range for building muscle, is that for every single exercise (compound and isolation)? And is it for every body part like even abs?
        • is the 2.5 minute rest between sets for every exercise or just ones using a low rep range (4-6) and high weights?

        • and a separate question is do you think takings rest week of doing no weight or just doing half the weight you usually do is beneficial? And if so how often?

        Thank you! I very much enjoy your articles and find them really helpful, much more logical than many things I read about weightlifting…

        • YW!

          I recommend 4-6 reps for all lifts except for abs and some calves.

          You want to rest that much between all sets except the calves and abs you can go faster.

          I definitely recommend taking rest weeks or deload weeks. You can do it once every 8-12 weeks.

          Thanks for the support! LMK if you have any questions!

  • Michael Cummings

    Comments working?

  • Mitchell

    What type of weightlifting just usual weight Training, power lifting or Olympic weightlifting?

  • Steve

    Hi Mike, bought BLS and loved it. Conclusive, concise and honest.

    One thing id love to see added though, in the book you give actual exercise movements for a few of the main ones and the rest have video links to bodybuilding.com(FOUND in bonus report for those who don’t know). The videos are OFTEN rushed and lazy and don’t give you the info you need.

    So what are the odds of a ‘Mike Matthews’ form and exercise Series, showing us how to do all the exercises in BLS as concisely and clearly as I know you do? You know, short videos showing us how to lift the right way.



    • Thanks Steve!

      Yessir this is on the list. It will happen. 🙂

      Let me know how you do on the program!

  • Gary

    Hi Mike, I was thinking if I use lighter weight for 10-12 reps, as long as I progressive increased the weight and the weight will eventually go up in the future to 4-6 reps weight range of now, so stimutate the muscle growth. Am I correct?

    • You can progressively overload still in the higher rep range, but it’s easier to do with the 4-6 rep range, and you’ll get better results in the lower range…

  • jerrycollie

    Hi Mike, great weightlifting article for strength; but a body also needs endurance.
    Endurance comes from stimulating those tiny little mitochondria, by doing cardio such as jogging. It won’t do any good to build a world class body, and then eventually drop dead of a heart attack; because of skipping the cardio.

    • Thanks! Ironically weightlifting has been shown to improve endurance as well.

  • davidf

    Hi Mike,
    I LOVE this website and it truly is a treasure trove of information that is incredibly helpful for newbies like me. My question: what are your thoughts on Max/Static Contraction? Hold at 1RM and squeeze like hell for 10 seconds? Does this stuff work? Or will it make me stronger but not necessarily bigger? Thanks.

  • Simon

    Hi Mike, you are saying that the 4-6 rep range is best for hypertrophy, but most times I read that 10-12 is for hypertrophy and below that is for strength. What is true?

    • There’s no good scientific evidence for the claim that to 10 to 12 rep range is best for hypertrophy.

      You can build muscle with various rep ranges but when you factor in the exercises you need to be doing (compounds), the need for progressive overload, and time efficiency, I think heavier lifting has the edge.

  • Kevin Bejar

    Yo mike Ive been following your rep schemes for about 3 weeks now and I have been gaining strength. However Im a ectomorph and find it hard to pack on a lot of muscle. Im really confused as Ive been reading articles that high volume is the way to go, please help me man. Should I keep following your rep schemes for longer and hope that i’ll gain some real size?

  • Hakeem

    Hey Mike! I have been researching and trying so many different things, from P90 to Insanity to a combination of the two to Athlean-X, etc., and I like all those programs but I think I want to stick to simple stuff like what you mention in your books and various articles I’m reading. 4-6 or 5-7 rep range 80-85% of 1 Rep max is where I’m taking it. I love the way your body looks (no I’m not gay!) and this is exactly where I want to be… strong, lean and thick but not HUGE and unattractive where I can’t move athletically anymore during my sports activities (basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc.). My question is:
    1. How long should one stay in the gym? I’m reading 30-45 min and some others say 1-2 hours (G-flux emphasis – cals in and out should be higher than say 2000).
    2. my girlfriend wants to start training with me, should I keep her in the 4-6 range as well?
    Thanks a lot and all your hard work and dedication to education is much appreciated!

  • Ahmad

    Hey Mike, i read tons of ur article and such great info. I have a few questions concerning the rep range and hypertrophy even though u mentioned it already. Im studying to be a PT, and ive learned that a working set phase should be 20-40seconds to complete. Thats usually around the 8-12 rep range depending on the tempo. Ive been doing this for a long time and my results arent that great because ive been cutting but now im “bulking” and wondering whats the best effective way.

    Ive been lifting for 3 years, my first two were on and off because of basketball season. Im around 180 and 5’10. My nutrition is “clean” while i did have a bad 2 weeks binging, im learning my lesson now lol. Ive been the same size since maybe for a year now because of cutting but i realized i need to build more size now.

    I tried ur workout for legs, the example u gave, and kept my rest 2-3 mins and reps 4-6 reps. The workout lasted around 40 mins. I wasnt that pumped or sore. But today i felt it, my whole lower body is sore, as i would do 15+sets for legs when i worked out before. However im not use to this with only 3-4 exercises and 3-4 sets for each one. My time is shortened, i use to workout 1 hour to an hour an a half. I just did your shoulder routine and i am quite sore but i still have energy left, as i didnt beat the muscle as i used to before with many sets.

    So im wondering, working out like this, would it cause only strength gains, not muscle, because TUT is less than 20 seconds and only 4-6 reps?
    Thanks for all this info. 🙂

    • Ahmad

      Also, i would like to add that it seems easier than my workouts previously, feels to easy to be honest. Ofcourse i’m going heavy on my lifts for the 4-6 rep range, but the effort is less as i would do 1min rest and 8-10 reps in other workouts.

      • Yup that’s normal. Remember though we’re lifting weights primarily to get STRONGER, not to elevate our heart rates or sweat a lot.

        • Ahmad

          Alright, sounds good thanks for the response!

          • My pleasure!

          • Ahmad

            Hey mike, my arms are really a lagging body part for me. I tried high reps, low reps, but now i am doing what you recommended, and my strength isn’t gaining as much as my other parts are(getting stronger every week), so any recommendations on what to do? I follow your Maximum Muscle book workouts.

          • Arms can be a real bitch. How long have you been lifting for?

          • Ahmad

            Ive been lifting for around 4 years but my first 2 and ahalf years were on and off. So basically almost 1 year and a half of being consistent. Everything is growing, but my arms refuse lol.

          • Okay and how long have you been following Max Muscle and are you taking regular measurements or just going by the mirror?

          • Ahmad

            This is my 3rd week on it. Im taking measurements and my arms barely progress(forearms too). Just my arms lol

          • Oh okay haha gotta stay patient. Let’s give it 10 to 12 weeks and see how it’s going…

            Keep this in mind too:


          • Ahmad

            Alright will do. Thanks

          • Cool. YW.

          • Ahmad

            Hey mike. Just a quick thought. What about having hyperrophy rep week and strength week? Or hypertrophy days switched with strength days. Is this good or just sticking to 4-6 rep range is best?

          • Nah. I recommend just sticking to the 4-6 rep range. If you want, you can save some higher rep work each day for the last 3 sets of each workout.

          • Ahmad

            Ok. So basically, for example, i do 3 exercises for chest, the ones on Max Muscle, so i can add an exercise which will probably be flys and do 6-12 reps for 3 sets. I would do this to other muscle groups as well. So adding 1 exercise 3 sets is fine? Or you were saying something different?

          • Yep exactly. If you want, your last exercise you can do higher rep work on for 3 sets.

            I’m not a fan of flies TBH.

          • Ahmad

            Ok, yea i havent used flies and it has no effect. I was just wondering on when do to the higher rep work. Thanks for the answer. So i would probably do higher rep dips after the heavy sets of dips since that will be my last exercise(for chest day).

          • Cool. Yup, good idea on the dips.

            LMK how it goes.

          • Ahmad

            Hey Mike, just letting you know, im getting stronger and bigger. seeing great results, however this week everything just got bad. I had to reduce weight by 10-15 on barbell and dumbbell weight. I feel weaker in everything, im resting for 3 days instead of 2 but i feel like i need more. Any suggestions? Should i do a rest week or do something else? Thanks a lot.


    hey Mike , what your opinion on Periodization ? I mean it seem to be the go to thing , every athletes in the world is using it and some fitness guru or coach swear by it , claiming that the only to train if not you will hit plateau

    so what do you think ? in comparison of your training style , what happen after 10 years of the same lifting principals ?

    thank you

    • I recommend you stick to the routine in BLS for 1-3 years until you hit certain bench marks. Then you can move to BBLS which involves periodization. Check this out:


      • INOSSEP

        make sense and then after ? do you recommend going back to BLS ?
        because it’s been 15 year for me of natural training and never use a thing ( drug ) but my progress don’t go any where right now

        • After BLS, you move on to BBLS.

          That’s what I’d recommend you stick to.

          What’s up with your progress?

          • INOSSEP

            so you stick into BBLS for good and not changing anything ? is that correct ?
            progress wise ? so so , I have hard time with meal preparation schedule but I’m sticking into my macros as much as I can , week end are the hardest

          • For now yeah unless you want to try some other things like powerlifting, squat or bench press programs, etc.

            Yeah you HAVE to keep weekends under control or it can really derail you.

          • INOSSEP

            and my progress muscle/progress in weight etc ….well I hit a plateau I think ….I never though it will happen but I guess that where I am .
            weight can’t go much up now I think
            incline Press : 2×3 295 aiming for 315 soon
            barbells shoulder press sitting : 3×6 195 lbs
            dead lift 3×6 345 and that with no belt and no strap
            and so on and on

          • Good numbers. Calorie cycling really helped me push my numbers up without gaining much fat.

          • INOSSEP

            thank you , my only problem now is reducing my body fat such it seem to be a battle for me ….
            and squat , hoping to get back into squat soon , but I have a lot of pain in my hip such it’s too bad cause it use to be my best lift , now I can hardly do 225 and that in a good day 185 is what i can do 🙁 …my best 405 for 5
            oh well…..one day will get back there who know .

          • It all comes down to diet!

            I hear you on the hip pain. 405 is strong as shit! Take care of the hip, and you’ll be back there soon. 🙂

          • INOSSEP

            don’t think I will ever go back there lol that was at my prime ……I was 25 when I got there now at 37 ….Nahhhh I doubt lol ….but I’m working on hip for sure , but it’s soo annoying and frustrating ….can’t seem to win

          • With proper training, dieting and fully recovered hip there’s a chance you can!

            Be patient and take care of that hip.

  • Hdhd

    This just shows how much dieting can help, most of his gains were made from his eating not from his training in this article, after all dieting is 80% of your progress.


    I have another question to completely outside of the topic here , what your opinion on couple of other internet sensation ? like for example
    Dave Ruel :
    Elliott Husle :
    what do you think about those guys ? doesn’t seem very legit to me but I can be wrong

    • Not a fan of either.

      • INOSSEP

        thank you for that honest answer , it seem like a scam to me but I’m not sure that why I was wondering about your opinion or anyone ells here in that blog

  • Matt

    Hi Michael, great article. I have one question. When training in the higher rep ranges (10-15) incorporating techniques like drop sets, supersets, etc, I notice I gain some amazing size, almost looking like a whole new person. That being said, it does not last long and I am back to my usual size, sometimes even smaller in a couple of hours. So my question is, could the higher reps be causing a negative, almost canabalization effect of the muscles? Can that happen to a natural lifter.

  • Lawrence

    Hey Mike,

    I know that a lot of the gains are down to diet, and obviously the amounts you should eat relate to what exercises you do and the weight etc. But do you have any general dietary guidelines?

    Somehow I’ve become allergic to sugar and milk so all I can really eat is meat, veg and fruit. I don’t think I’m eating enough though?


  • Josh Kleeberg

    Hey there im just wondering you said you did about 80% of your 1RM for 4/6 reps but how long were your rests and how many sets did you do.
    Plus how many compound and isolation exercises did you do you look like you had some great success with it let me know your secrets

  • Connor

    Hey Mike! I can’t find anywhere else recommending 4 – 6 reps. The most reoccurring recommendation I can find is 6-12 reps for muscle hypertrophy. You’re very convincing in your debate as to why, but so are the other sites I’ve visited. What are your thoughts on the 6-12 rep range?

    • I’m okay with that higher rep work towards the end of a workout, but the workout should never be built around that rep range. Check this out:


      LMK what you think!

      • CMB

        “A simple, but not incorrect, way to look at it is training in the 4 – 6 rep range mainly hits Type IIx fibers, 10 – 12 reps hits Type IIa, and 30 – 40+ reps hits Type I fibers.”
        Earlier in the article you said both llx and lla fiber types have a high potential for growth. By that logic, shouldn’t 10 – 12 reps be fine for growth? Also, what about the 6 – 10 range.. would that just hit both?

        • Yup 10 to 12 will build muscle but there are problems as you get more advanced. Namely, you have to fucking murder yourself to match the results of the high-weight training.

          Case in point:


          Several people in the high-rep group PUKED several times. No thanks.

          • CMB

            So you’re pretty much saying that up to 12 reps is fine for gaining size aside from it being harder to achieve progressive overload on it?

            I wonder, could between the 6 – 10 range be best for achieving growth as you’ll be hitting both of the main fibers that grow; the 11x and 11a fibers?

            Thanks Mike!

          • Yeah and I think there’s also something to be said for lifting heavy over longer periods of time, which we can’t see in any studies.

            I think periodization is the best approach for experienced lifters:


          • CMB

            For muscle size, I don’t get why the 6-10 range isn’t the best assuming it hits both the llx and lla fibers?

          • Because heavier weights builds more strength which then allows you to lift heavier weights in the higher rep ranges.

          • CMB

            For strictly aesthetic purposes / muscle size, which rep range would you recommend? Is it still 4 – 6? I can’t find anywhere else with all my research recommending that range for muscle hypertrophy

          • Yup, 4-6. That’s the range you want to stick to as a natural lifter.

  • CMB

    So sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is pretty much ‘the pump’?

    • Yeah, basically. It’s the higher rep range sets (10-12) that result in more puffy muscles. The puffiness normally last a couple days.

  • John Doe

    How’d you figure that “4 – 6 rep range” is “80-85%” of your 1RM?

    Using 1RM formulas and the “-10lbs = about 2 more reps rule”, the 4 – 6 rep range is more like 88 – 93% of 1RM.

    80 – 85% of 1RM is about the 7 – 9 rep range.

    • These estimates are flexible and change from person to person. In my experience, 4 to 6 is generally between 80 and 90% and tends to be on the lower end.

      It’s like 1RM calculators. Your predicted 1RMs are never exactly your real ones.

  • Luke

    I’ve witnessed this myself personally. I used to routinely do 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps at lighter weight and do pyramids etc and got noticeable pump in my biceps, legs, back etc. I wasn’t overly strong and I didn’t add much weight over time – however – people would comment on my biceps etc but once I stopped working out my muscles basically ‘deflated’.

    I started focussing on a compound routine in the past few months and have gotten noticeably stronger (PBs on all my major compounds) but my size hasn’t increased as much as I hoped — hence how I ended up here.

    I’ll continue adding weight and sticking with compound exercises but am also considering adding in some of the higher rep sets every couple of weeks or after a heavy session on compounds.

    Thanks for the article. And your progress is amazing by the way.

    • I use to be that guy doing a bunch of high-rep sets and “chasing” the pump so I know exactly what you mean. I’d look huge one day and deflated a few days later, haha.

      Cool you’re making strength gains. Keep getting stronger and gaining weight. The size will come.

      I’m not opposed to some high rep sets at all. Just make sure the focus of each workout is heavy compound lifts. Then at the end you can do some higher rep sets if you like.

      YW. Thanks for the support!

      • Adel-Alexander

        I actually wanted to ask you about this. Basically, I made a deal with a professional bodybuilder here where I live, that he would train me etc. I’ve made some pretty good strength gains with his program – Which includes high rep training, but also high set – low rep training like your program.

        I tried to do your program last year but for some reason I was too weak to really advance any further without cheating myself. (turns out I ate too little. :P)

        But I’m actually stronger now, and basically my ‘trainer’ told me that I should focus on inducing both kind of hypertrophies – I’ve been doing this for 2 months and it’s been going great, I’ve been making some pretty good results over the last 2 months (Even my parents noticed! :D) and I’m definitely stronger. I just wanted to ask, if you think that I should continue this way? I mean sure, I’ve made some pretty good progress with this program, but after reading your articles again, and seeing some of the awesome success stories, I kinda want to get back into your training program again and try again. I dunno, I feel kinda conflicted to be honest haha. I wanted to ask, what do you think I should do? 😛

        Not sure if that’s a weird question though haha

        • Yup that type of periodization works well. It’s just better suited to experienced lifters, that’s all.

          If you’re making progress just keep it up man. Glad to hear you’re doing well.

          • Adel-Alexander

            I think I’ll mix your program with his. So during the days where I lift heavy sets with few reps, instead of going beyond 6 reps and up to 9-12 reps as my trainer outlines in his plan, I’ll just train in the 4-6 rep range. 🙂 And then work everything else that involves high rep as outlined. 🙂 Then I’ll hopefully get the best of both worlds.

          • Sounds like a plan! LMK how it goes.

            Make sure you’re going heavy enough on the 4-6 rep sets that you can’t get more than 6 reps.

          • Adel-Alexander

            Sure thing! – You wrote in another comment that 10-12 rep is fine for muscle growth. What about anything that goes beyond that? Should I just stay within 12 reps so I don’t kill myself? 😛

          • If you’re going to go higher I would do maybe just one set as a “finisher.” No need to do a lot of really high-rep sets.

  • Tom

    I’m in the first week of following a routine I built based on your recommendations — 5-day split, lifting heavy, about 12 total single sets, keeping the reps low.

    After having done a higher-rep, multi-set routine the last 6 months, I’m trying to get used to not feeling that “pump” after a workout. It’s a little different. Have you heard this from others, or maybe experienced this yourself back when you learned the need to change things up?


    • Glad you’re rolling on the program.

      Yep, that’s normal. It can be funny for people that are used to the higher rep, “pump” workouts.

      The big “secret” behind the high-rep, high-volume workouts espoused by the big fitness models and bodybuilders is…drugs. It’s really that simple. Working in the 12 – 15 rep range for 2 – 3 hours per day is GREAT if you’re drugged up because your body can actually repair all that damage. It can’t if you’re natural though (unless you have crazy, Olympian genetics).

      Ironically, even the vast majority of druggers that know what they’re doing (professional bodybuilders mainly) lift REALLY HEAVY. I’m talking about 25 sets per workout in the 3-5 rep range, lol. Talk about getting crushed…

      You’ll get used the low rep, higher weight workouts though. 🙂

  • radiotrib

    So I’m 66, about 100-110 lb overweight and just at the very beginning of a serious diet/lifestyle change program. I have begun an intermittent fast regime to control weekly calorie intake, and I do Pilates on the Reformer one hour per week, plus active stretching every morning. I know this will not be enough because I need to build as well as lose if I am to get into shape. I have been told by several people who know far more than I do, that I should take up a fairly rigorous muscle mass building, weight training regime if I want to achieve my goals.

    I was planning on still doing my one hour Pilates per week, plus 2×1 hour week of heavy reps (big lifts as you describe) and 3×1 hour per week localised (upper body) heavy dumbell work. Would this be a good mix if my goal were to “fill up the space” vacated by the fat, tighten up my overstretched abs, and give me a decent shape ? .. I don’t want to get finely sculpted or ripped .. I think that is beyond a man of my age … bit I do want to cast a more shapely shadow once I can see my feet again …

    And to avoid disappointment, if you can say realistically, what could I expect to achieve in 6 months, 12 months, etc … I don’t want to set unrealistic targets and then become disillusioned.

    Thanks for the blog .. it really is great to read.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      Yeah I like this plan. A low-carb approach will probably work best for you too.

      Check this out:


      • radiotrib

        Thanks for the quick response Mike. I just bought the Kindle version of the book and I’ll be getting started as soon as I can put together a schedule on paper and get down to the gym. It’s been a long, long time since I lifted anything, so I’ll get a PT to give me a quick run through the movements before I go it alone.

        Thanks again


        • NP! Cool you picked up the book.

          Sounds good. Set up your schedule, get the form down, and you’ll be ready to rock.

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • From this article and others I have read. It would seem that there is a definite link between fast twitch fibres, low reps and ATP fuel source and slow twitch fibres, high reps and CV derived energy (hence the lack of pump with low reps). Discuss!

  • MomoReus

    Hey Mike

    I’m a soccer player and i’m looking to gain strength and size in my thighs. I don’t need to train my calves because I am doing a lot of Plyometrics and sprinting right now. Anyway I have been doing a lot of research and I came out with these four workouts.
    * Full Squats
    * Bulgarian Split Squats
    * Barbell Deadlift –
    * Snatch Deadlift –

    The only problem is that I don’t know how many sets and reps to do or how much weight to put on. I have read your article and many others but I am still confused.

    • Hey!

      Good choices. Front squats could be rotated in as well.

      You could start simple:

      Workout A – Warm up and 4 sets of each squat 4 to 6 rep range

      Workout B – Warm up and 4 sets of each deadlift 4 to 6 reps

      A, rest, rest, B, repeat.


    • jerrycollie

      Listen to your body. If a weight feels too light, add weight. If you are exhausted. You have done enough.

  • Kevin

    Hi Mike, I tried a high rep program last couple weeks and my elbow is really bothering me, I’m guessing ‘Tennis elbow’….should I stop lifting completely for awhile or what??

    • Yeah rest is going to be key. You don’t want to keep aggravating it.

      Check this out:


      • Kevin

        Thanks, I have been. I did do legs yesterday. But should I stop lifting upper completely?? I mean anything short of 10lb weights aggravates it…but it’s been almost 2 weeks.

        • I would stop doing any exercises that cause pain or aggravate it.

          It’s probably a good idea to check with the doc too.

    • jerrycollie

      Yes, if your other elbow does not hurt, you can work it. Don’t work any part of your body that hurts. If you feel a sharp pain, stop right then and there. Get a tube of Cortizone over-the-counter from a drugstore. Rub it on anything that hurts, and again when you go to bed. Also, if you can use aspirin, take an aspirin or 2 before you go to bed. Don’t use aspirin if you tend to bleed easily.

  • melike

    hey mike!

    I totally agree with you about the rep ranges. But there is an article bothering me. Could you please check this out ;


    • This is fine for what it is but you can’t extrapolate those findings into long-term muscle growth.

      Check out Schoenfeld’s latest study on rep ranges. It lends better insight.

  • zoheb

    i am doing heavy workout for past 2 months with proper diest that included 2 gm per body weight with a 4 day per week schedule
    i do 45 mins of intense training followed by a scoop of protein shake post workout..
    but i dont see any difference in my body can u please assist where am i going wrong.

  • Bobby Juncosa

    Mike, do you ramp up your 4-6 sets? For instance, doing your first work set at 80% for 6 reps (knowing you can do more), so you can save your energy / break a PR for the later sets? Thanks in advance.

    • Nope. You should go as heavy as you can on each set. No sets should be easy. 🙂

      • Bobby Juncosa

        So is a fall-off on strength throughout the sets to be expected? For instance, if my first two sets are 225×5, is it normal to lose a rep on my last set (225×4)? Or should I be resting long enough to regain full strength?

        • Losing a rep by the last set is totally normal. As long as you’re resting 3-4 minutes on the main compound lifts and 2-3 minutes on the other 4-6 rep sets, you’re fine.

          • Bobby Juncosa

            Gotcha, thanks. By the way, I’ve read quite a few books on nutrition / strength training and I really like the simplicity / cleverness of BLS. While I can see why something like Rippetoe’s SS and/or TM programs (or a tweak to them for more myofibrillar) would be faster / more efficient, I really don’t have the time for full body workouts multiple times a week, and I have other things I need to do that I need to be 100% for (like, running my business!). The fact that you put the best information for nutrition AND strength into one book (well, and BBLS) is really impressive. Your books are the first books I recommend to anyone looking to learn how to lose fat, and/or build muscle.

          • Thanks Bobby. Really glad to hear it.

            There are other downsides to full-body workouts as well:


            Again, thanks for the kind words and support. You rock. 🙂

          • jerrycollie

            You will make gains if you work out at least once a week. It takes about a week to fully recover anyway.

        • jerrycollie

          Yes, rest enough to get your heart rate down.

  • Connor o’neill

    Hey mike,how are you?well I bought your bigger leaner stronger book it’s great so far good job.i work-out when I can as I work a lot sum my shifts are twelve hours,I’m twelve stone and want too get up too thirteen stone.i eat good and when I do my long shifts would u recommend I take protein shakes too keep my protein up?

    • I’m good. Thanks for picking up my book!

      Understood on the shifts. Glad you’re finding time to workout.

      Yep, totally fine to supplement with protein powder. Just make sure you’re getting the majority of your protein from whole foods.

  • SaintOfOrigin

    Hey Mike, I have a question for you. I’m a 22 year old male, and recently started hitting the gym again. I’m not looking to tone up much, never really cared how shaped my muscles were. I’m looking to build strength rather than form. Is this possible with a diet that’s “average” and not necessarily geared towards being healthy? I ask because I often have to eat out at lunch during the week due to my job. I usually eat homecooked meals for dinner, and typical breakfast fare in the mornings. Will the fast food lunches severely impact my ability to get stronger?

    • No, not necessarily. Depends what you’re eating though. Personally I would stick to higher quality fast food like Chipotle.

    • jerrycollie

      Food is food. Just make sure you get some protein (animal) in your fast food, not just cookies and cream.

  • Derek O.

    Hey Mike, I am a cancer survivor and through the treatment for this, I developed man boobs. I’ve had them for years. On top of that, I was in a car wreck where I broke my right collar bone. So on chest day, I do lighter-weight, more reps cuz of the obvious lack of strength on the right side. Reading up on the

    Myofibrillar hypertrophy, I wonder if I am a candidate for this and can achieve what we all desire?

    • I’m sorry to hear that Derek.

      Yes that’s fine. We definitely need to work WITH your body and not against it.

  • Jawad

    Hey Mike, I really liked your article, simple and clear! Having started thai boxing, I need to gain some weight as soon as possible because I only weight 68 KG for 185 CM, so I need to gain at least 8 to 10 KG. I wanted to ask you If the 4 – 6 rep range was the best for providing both strength and hypertrophy ?
    Thank you

  • Jo

    Hi Mike,
    I have been on a program that uses GVT for 1 month 10 x 10 reps with some HIIT cardio and then DTP for 1 month with HIIT cardio. As I am new to weights will this continue to get me lean? My ability to lift heavier has increased, but at a very slow rate. And when I say heavier, I don’t mean heavy weights. For example an increase from 2kg to 5kg biceps curls and an increase from 6kg to 22kg squats/lunges. I am female btw.



  • Johnny

    Mike, you say going for higher reps (10-12 range) you’ll end up with ‘puffy’ muscles that won’t last. Equally couldn’t you say if you exclusively work with lower reps eg 4-6 range you may get stronger but not necessarily bigger. These ‘strongmen’ types don’t often look very muscular.

    Another thing, what’s your view on ‘reverse pryramid’ training ie starting with the heaviest load in the first set? If you do say 3 sets should all be of the same weight/rep?

    The more information I come across the more difficult to make decisions!!!

  • Felipe Ramos

    Hi Mike, I have being reading your articles and found all of them very informative and interesting. Learned here a lot about muscle fiber types and best approach for muscle hypertrophy..Though everything you mention here makes a lot of sense to me in regards of the 4-6 rep range for building muscle I have come into a confusion of ideal rep ranges when it comes to training lower body (legs) for size. As you know, there are other many other articles and literature recommending high reps for leg training if the target is size..Take for example the famous 20 rep squat routine, which is supposed to build leg mass quickly. What are your thoughs regarding such approach?


    • Thanks Felipe!

      Periodization is definitely valid but I think it’s better suited to advanced lifters.

      People new to lifting or new to strength training should focus on building a foundation of strength and size before periodizing.

  • Reuben Schreiber

    Hey Mike !I love your content and bought your two Books BLS ans BBLS,i just want to ask you something about the periodization method you use in BBLS.You said in your book that this method you use is the most ‘optimal’ way to periodize your training.I was just wondering if you have links to studies that support this ?Also,within the training program the amount of sets performed in a given w/o stays constant and weights go up…can one add a set or two in conjunction with adding weight?Or what would you suggest ?Thx Mike

    • Thanks man!

      Periodization is a very complicated subject but I think the RPT style best suits our needs of both strength and hypertrophy.

      You can dive into a ton of research on the matter and be no better for it. Anecdotal counts for quite a bit here and you see this style of periodization in quite a few popular strength programs.

  • jerrycollie

    I agree with you. I just want to say it is not just for young studs. I am 74 years old. I do heavy lifting once a week for about an hour, and jog twice a week. I continue to see an increase in my strength every week or two. I tried being a vegetarian for a few months; but I found it interfered with my strength gains; so I went back to my carnivore diet. For those who do running, I recommend Niagen. It activates the mitochondria; so that you can run for hours without tiring.

  • daley

    Hi you seem to be pushing “training heavy” but not everyone can do that. As you get older i personally dont think you should be lifting heavy especially to the point where you go red in the face to squeeze out the last rep. Im a firm believer of “muscle under tension ” or “time under tension ” so you have control on negative reps and gravity doesnt take over. I also believe in high reps .Volume is the key in my opinion and variety

  • Rashaud Crosby

    I do P90x3! I was going to do the Mass schedule do build muscle, but as i was listening to you podcast, i am worried that it may be over training my muscles because of the amount of reps they have you to do in some of the workouts.

    • Thanks for listening to my podcast. 🙂

      I understand the convenience of staying home. However, for best results, I recommend stopping, setting up your own routine and heading to a gym with the proper equipment. You can set up the routine here:


      What do you think?

      • Rashaud Crosby

        Thx! How do I determine my 1RM? Do i just grab the largest weight and tone down the weight until i can curl at least 1 rep? Or is there another way to find out?

  • John

    Hey mike, 30 degree or 45 degree bench for incline?

  • Kamal

    Hi Mike, I’ve been working on and off for the past 10 years and am now keen to build muscle and get lean in the comfort of my own home. I’ve recently kitted my garage out with a squat rack, barbells and dumbblells and wanted to know if your book would be suitable for me?

    • I like your goal. Let’s make it happen! Awesome on the garage set up too!

      Yep, BLS will be great for you. It lays out everything you need to know about training and dieting to build muscle and lose fat effectively.

  • John Doe

    Mike – got an interesting one for you:

    Arnold’s Encyclopedia has a ‘power training’ principle called the Stripping Method (aka ‘running the rack’) that can be incorporated at the end of a heavy (4-6 rep) set. Basically, once done with your last set, you grab slightly lighter dumbbells/reduce barbell weight without rest and do some more reps… then reduce weight again, and pump out some more reps… the whole ‘stripping’ portion lasts 2-4 sets.

    You’re doing maybe 3-6 reps with the lighter weights, but working at reduced %1RM ranges (maybe down to 65-70%) when done.

    While the 4-6 main set targets myofibrillar growth / tension / muscle damage, how about the ‘stripping’ set? On the one hand, it’s working in a low rep range, but with low %1RM due to exhaustion of your muscles…

  • Bogdan Stefan

    hi mike !
    i want to start by saying that I’m sure now that you are my new role model.
    I think , even if i know close to nothing on the subject , that you make a lot of sense.

    I am 34 and I’m new to the whole gym and all i do i learn from YouTube and some articles.

    I want to ask you , because i find the bench press to be uncomfortable, if i can replace it with dumbbell press.

    i have studies , as best i could, the movies , and i think my form is OK , but i can bench very little, I’m talking about maybe 200 max !!.

    Plus there is the problem that i don’t have a spotter , and it seems that in Denmark , that is not a common practice.

    Any ideas on how i can push my self , and be safe.
    the gym doesn’t have the power rack…

    Another problem is that , in Denmark , the law says that gyms have a limit of 26 kg at dumbbells , i can dumbbell press that already . how do i progress , overload ?

    another topic would be abs , obliques especially , any idea on weighted exercises on that ? i cant seam to get any form on the cables machine that would activate them.

    Thank you , for your advice and thank you for giving me a goal !

    • Thanks man! Happy to be here to help.

      Totally okay to do dumbbell pressing. I’m a big fan of it!

      Sorry to hear about the unavailability of heavy dumbbells though. That’s annoying! Looks like we’ll just have to barbell bench.

      To help with the bench, check these out:



      Regarding the spotting issue, what you want to do is end your bench sets, with one rep still in the tank–that is, end your sets when you struggle for a rep and aren’t sure you can get another.

      For the core muscles, check this out:


      My pleasure for everything! Hope this helps. Talk soon.

      • Bogdan Stefan

        Thank you for your reply !

        I hope you got what you wanted for x mas 🙂

        Is it ok if i focus on dumbbells and do not do any barbells for chest routine?
        Especially until i get really strong?

        When i asked you about abs , or core muscle , in my mind i was thinking more of ” If you have any advanced tips (breathing , preparation , mentality , for each exercise).

        Same thing for biceps. Looks like , personally , its really hard to keep the will, the drive for these small muscles, since they give out so easily .

        I actually would like it if you would start a v/log series with your routines in the gym. Real routine , with your working weights , not demo weights.

        I think , that for people trying to have you as an example , it would give an extra incentive and some measurable goals.

        I understand that strength is individually unique, but still, knowing and seeing what weights you lift and how , would give better guidance and motivation.

        Let me know what you think.

        Thank you again and i hope i can keep motivated to improve.

        • Haha I got new golf clubs so that’s cool. 🙂

          Yeah you can do that. DBs work great for building the chest.

          I will definitely start making more training videos this year. Just have to wrap a few other projects before I dive into it…

  • Filippo Bonadonna

    Hi Mike, you say the best rep range for muscle building is 4-6 or 5-7. I am currently following your one year challenge and when I was doing the Alt. dumbbell Curls today, I am normally able to do 4 reps with 40lbs DB’s. However, someone else had those db’s, I had the choice to take the 35lbs one or the 45lbs, I took the 45lbs. I was able to pull off 2 reps. I figure that at least with those 2 reps, I would increase my strength for next week. Was I wrong to think that way and should have I gone for the 35lbs instead, although i would of pulled off an easy 6-7 reps??? Like I said my way of thinking is by going heavier, it would help me gain strenght for next week when I do my alt. db curls with the 40lbs DB’s.

    • In the case of an isolation movement I would personally go in the other direction and go up to 6 to 8 or even 8 to 10 reps.

  • Wilson

    Since you emphasize compound lifts and progressive overload for muscle growth, would powerlifting programs with good assistance exercises basically be the ideal?

    • The main issue with good strength programs is the volume is much higher for the lower body than the upper body, which creates the strength physique: massive ass and legs and (relatively) underwhelming upper body.

      That’s why my program for men, Bigger Leaner Stronger, is built around a “base” of strength/powerlifting but has quite a bit more upper body volume than a pure strength program.

      The result is your lower and upper body develop at a relatively equal pace, and you avoid the bottom-heavy look.

      • Wilson

        Ah, thanks for the insight.

        I’m currently 16 years old, 5’8, 162lb, 12% bf, and am cutting (have been lifting for 3 years). For a couple months now, I’ve been running the Candito 6 week program, which is a periodized powerlifting program. As you’ve alluded, my lower body is doing much better than my upper body. However, my physical proportions are not as terribly out of balance as they are strength-wise: my bench has been stuck at 170lb(?), while I’ve increased my high bar squat to 300lb x 4 reps and my deadlift to 405lb. Thing is, this program has seemingly equal upper/lower body volume already. Could genetics be to blame? I ultimately hope to have a physique similar to yours, yet after achieving an excellent physique, I plan on running at maintenance and focusing completely on strength (after all, your body doesn’t change during maintenance, so doing this would spare a balanced shape while allowing for the necessary neural conditioning for strength, right?) Then again, due to muscular limits, could there not always be more room for growth in lesser areas in an unbalanced physique? So, you could always “fix” your physique, right? (or maybe genetics will determine your ultimate physique more?)

        Anyhow, my dilemma is this:
        What should I do to achieve my goals (and are they sound in theory)? Will I truly benefit from the BLS program from where I’m at? (If I can’t progress on bench on a periodized program, would I even be able to progressively overload on BLS?) I’m willing to put the lower body on hold to bring up my upper body (strength and muscle-wise). Perhaps I should run an advanced benching program (and bulk during such a cycle to bring more musculature to my upper body)? Or, is timing cuts/bulks based off programs unnecessary altogether? Nonetheless, I’m unsure about an advanced program because I feel as though my bench number and training time don’t warrant one, yet my bench has nonetheless stalled on a periodized program for months (even while bulking properly, too) as my squat and deadlift have increased. After all, progress is essential for hypertrophy, right?

        So, bottom line: are the theories mentioned above correct and where should I go now with my training?

        • Great job on what you’ve accomplished so far. Honestly it sounds like you have outstanding genetics.

          You probably don’t want to hear it but I don’t recommend that you cut at your age. You’re already lean and remaining in a calorie deficit for a long time can interfere with your body’s development.

          You’d be much better served by eating around TDEE. I bet you’d progress on your bench too…

          • Wilson

            Thanks for the feedback. However, this would actually be my third and shortest cut I’ve done thus far (I used to be border-line obese, so this is nothing). In fact, I only recently finished up a bulk that had been going on for half a year, and it was my best one yet (gained mostly muscle), so there isn’t much fat to lose. And of course, I’m keeping at no less than an 80% deficit for daily calories and am using proper macro ratios.

            Anyhow, wouldn’t eating around TDEE halt all progress in physique improvement? You’re always either trying to lose fat or build muscle until satisfied. Perhaps I’m being too ambitious too soon.

            On a side note, does the Candito 6 week program check out, then, for an aesthetic physique?
            For the program, I like doing optional exercises (incline flyes- triceps already tired by the end- along with box jumps for lower body days) and adding ab training, too (circuits of weighted captain’s chair, bicycle, and ab wheel).

            I also noticed you have a book for more advanced lifters, Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger. Do you think it and the routine inside might be suitable for me?

          • In terms of building a physique it’s not ideal to eat at maintenance but again at your age, the less time you can spend in a deficit, the better.

            That’s why I like to see teenagers to eat more intuitively and just focus on training and letting their body develop. At least until 18 or 19.

            So long as his program doesn’t have like DOUBLE the weekly volume for the lower body as the upper body, and as long as it emphasizes heavy lifting, it should be good.

            Given your numbers you shared earlier, yeah you could do BBLS. It would be different than what you’re used to but you might like it…

  • juzme

    I think non-nasal breathing is the cause of cortisol release in high volume training that degrades subsequent muscle growth.

    I therefore also think that nasal breathing permits significant strength and size gains as it greatly retards cortisol release when doing high volume training.

    Therefore, I suspect that cortisol isn’t caused by high volume training, but is rather caused due to improper breathing techniques when doing high volume training.

  • Saif Karbelkar

    Hi mike! Very informative article. I just heard about sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and thought everything that’s been taught to me was half knowledge. Read your article and breathed a sigh of relief, what you said is in sync what we have been taught in class about muscle hypertrophy. Just that they never mentioned anything about sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. I wanna learn more about this. The arguements for and against, observations, experiments,etc. Any links, books, articles you’d suggest so could dive deeper into the subject?

  • Jacob

    If someone like myself is “stuck” in a ridiculously high volume routine with no days off and 2x a week each body part, how does someone “ween off” without regressing and losing possible hypertrophy, I’m scared to reduce my training volume because my body’s “adapted” and if I go any lower it will completely negate any possible hypertrophy. Please i would be willing to pay, I’m just so worked up and depressed about it 😔

    • Yikes. That sounds terrible. If I were you I would just completely change. You’re going to feel much better. Check this out:


      • Jacob

        But still wouldn’t reducing volume significantly from what I’m doing now just make me lose muscle? I’m so lost confused and depressed

        • Nah, it won’t. Just keep your protein intake high and don’t go below a 20-25% deficit, and you’ll be good.

          Try out a different routine based off the last article I sent you and LMK how it goes.


    what your opinion on this ? Dr Brad Schoenfeld , http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/new-bodybuilding-rules

    according to him the best to build muscle is to use all those principal he explain in this article

    • I like Brad’s work and agree that periodization is effective but I think it’s best suited to experienced weightlifters.

      Frequency isn’t that cut-and-dried.

      • INOSSEP

        agree but what would you call and experienced weightlifter ? do you consider yourself one ?
        do you periodize your training your self ?
        are you fallowing up 6-8 week on and change your training again ?
        can you explain more ?

        thank you

        • I would say you’re new up to your first 1.5 to 2 years of proper training.

          I do, yes. I follow the advice I give in my book BBLS.

  • John Michael

    Hi I’m 17 and have been working out for two years now and have seen very little gains. I have been questioning everything i can to learn everything possible.

    How many sets per exercise and how many sets over all per muscle group?
    Is it possible to train with running also and not lose weight or strength?(friends in football are getting fast and more endurance)

    What is a good diet to follow?(I have no money between saving for collage and car.)

    How do you lose weight and have gains other than diet and a good diet for that?
    What is progressive tension overload exactly and how to achieve it.
    How often should somebody find the 1RM?
    What are some good alternate exercises than squat and dead lift?
    Last what are the diffrence between compound and isolation lifts?

    If you could respond to any of these or give advise of any kind.thanks.

    • Hey John! Sorry to hear you haven’t been making much gains in the last 2 years of training. Let’s change that.

      I recommend 3 sets per exercise and 3-4 exercises per workout so 9-12 heavy sets per workout.

      Yes, you can, but you have to make sure you don’t overdo the running. Check this out:


      Regarding diet, I recommend following one with several servings of fruits and vegetables and that hits your target cals and macros. Check this out:


      Progressive tension overload is simply moving heavier weight and/or more reps over time.

      How often you should fine your 1RM depends on the strength program you’re running. Once a month is a good general rule.

      Instead of squat, hack squat and leg press are good. Instead of deadlift, hex bar or sumo deadlift are good. If those aren’t workable, hyperextensions are good.

      Compound lifts incorporate 2 or more joints. Isolation lifts only incorporate 1.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • John Michael

        thanks and only two mere questions.

        What should i do for arms?

        A diet for my dad. He has some of a potbelly and fat everywhere else(no problem he does not look bad) but does not like it so he regularly goes on a no eating diet to lose a lot at one time. He can’t do cardio because he need rotator surgery. Do you have a diet he can use to cut the fat and belly down and allow him can eat good foods?
        thank you for every thing i find all of this to be very informative.

  • Mutungi Cephas

    Hey Mike, love your work. Recently subscribed for a meal plan and it was great. most thing i love is the support you give to improve it and customize to my needs. i always ask questions but you guys have never gotten tired to answer them.

    before i bought the BLS, i was not new to heavy lifting, i used the 5×5 StrongLifts and the gains were evident though slow, due to the fact that i was not eating enough. in the 5×5, it emphasizes squatting 3 times per week while adding 5kg per workout. my question is that, do you think its advisable to squat 3 times a week?

    • Thanks! Awesome you ordered a meal plan. We’re happy to take care of you.

      Cool you were doing the 5×5 program. Squatting 3 times a week is fine on the right program. You could even squat everyday (the Bulgarian Method) given the right program and the volume was low enough.

      • Mutungi Cephas

        noted, thank you so much.

      • Tiip

        For some people, squatting 3 times per week on the 5×5 is fine.

        I had to quit Stronglifts 5×5 because, at age 58 I found I could not recover from the squats quickly enough between sessions. It seemed blindingly obvious: suddenly one day I just couldn’t squat more than 3 reps. I was able to continue adding weight on the other 4 lifts used in that program.

        A little reminder for Mike and his crew here: Age is real. It may affect people differently but it *will* affect everyone in time. And it means caveats when people are writing about strength and weight training.

  • Dickens Cider

    Great read! How about losing fat while adding muscle?

  • Jonne Huizing

    Great article thank you! I train almost every body part twice a week and i was wondering if i could do a heavy load with moderate volume training the first day of training that muscle and the second day a slow rep day. What do i mean with a slow rep day? What i mean is taking 12 kg( instead of 18kg/20kg) for example for hammer curls and do a 5 seconds up en 5 seconds down movement while concentrating and squeezing my muscles.

    Would this be a good program for maximising my muscle growth. I have very little time before my rugby final is there (4 weeks or so) and it is for the dutch championship. I want to pack on as much muscle as humanly possible in 4 weeks.

    Thanks a lot!

    • You could do something like that so long as your weekly volume isn’t out the roof.

      This may help you:


      Also keep in mind you’re not going to gain much muscle in just 4 weeks if you’re natural. Depending on your training history and genetics and such, maybe a pound or two?

    • Anon

      I would ignore the slow repetition approach. This is a great technique for learning the exercise and repetitions act to teach your muscles how and when to contract and do the work. The evidence points largely against extensive TUT being effective for muscle growth, especially when you consider that in order to perform a slower repetition you’re more likely to require a lighter weight – therefore you’re likely lifting less than your max for the rep range and so not actually stressing the muscle in a way to get bigger and stronger – as Mike states above! You could instead play with volume/intensity/frequency such as a day of heavy doubles to boost strength AND get good volume for muscle growth response.
      Apologies for the length of the reply!

  • Bananadrama

    Great information! My question is kind of weird and might be better addressed to a doctor, but as background, I had a spinal cord injury last year (herniated disc at L4/L5, which led to something called Cauda Equina Syndrome. Essentially, I was paraplegic for a while but rehab therapy and time mean I can now walk and do clamshells and yoga moves, and have achieved some improvement in sensation. I can’t run more than a few steps.

    Here’s the question: my calf muscles and quads have become larger/firmer through normal recuperative use post-injury and even useful spasms, even though the backs of my legs, behind, and my feet are still numb. Can you recommend any routines to improve my leg strength (or back and trunk) further? I can’t deadlift or strain my back much because I don’t want to risk injury (my herniated disc was just caused by random posture stuff and age, not an accident/major injury or anything) but I’d like to build strength so I have better muscle stamina.

    • Thanks! Yep, unfortunately, that’s something you’ll have to check with the doc on.

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

  • Ron

    Hey mike!
    Thanks for all the valuable info! I read in one of your articles adding 3-25min HIIT during the week is it okay if I lift in the morning and do cardio at night?
    Or do I have to do the HIIT immediately after my lifts? Any HIIT exercises you recommend? I think I saw you say something similar on another page but can’t recall where.

    Once Again Thanks!

  • Steve

    Hi mike, my name is Steve I read a 9couple of your books and have following your plan from BLS, I’m 57 years old and have been working out for over 30 years. I Kinda hit a wall over the last couple of months so I decided to slow it down a little’ I was working out on your 5 day a week plan from BLS. I’ve decided to stick with it but do it every other day and on some days go consecutive if I feel like it I would like to know your thoughts on that. Thanks

  • yann

    Hi ! Great article
    I have a question though. On the Wikipedia article you linked (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_training#Intensity.2C_volume.2C_and_frequency) it’s said that basically 80% of 1RM should be done by 1 set of 4-6 rep a week ? That seems pretty low, am I missing something?
    Thanks a lot !

    • Shogen Anastos

      Not only do you need to work hard, work smart…

    • Thanks!

      Ah ignore the advice in there. I was just linking so people can understand what the terms mean.

  • Sam

    Hey I was just wondering if you would have any advice for a 16 yr old male regarding sets per exercise exercises per workout diet and whether a upper and lower body split would be good I’ve been going to gym for over a year but have seen limited results and I need help thanks

  • Clayton

    Hey Mike, I just bought beyond bigger leaner stronger and love it. I truly believe in its methodology. Question though, and it might be splitting hairs, but would it make much of a difference substituting the 5-7 rep range for 4-6 in all the main lifts? Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Clayton

      5-7 INSTEAD of 4-6 in the event of any confusion haha

      • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it. Glad you’re enjoying it. 🙂

        Totally fine if you want to work in the 5-7 rep range.


  • Aman

    Hey Mike, my personal trainer makes me do 4 sets of 15, 12, 8, and 6, which I’ve heard is called pyramid reps. Would this be optimal for hyptertrophy, since I’m hitting the lower rep ranges too(with heavier weights ofcourse), or should I stick to 4-6 reps for all the sets?

    • Hey! Ehh. You’ll still get results, but you’ll get better results focusing on the 4-6 rep range and then maybe doing 2-3 higher rep sets at the end of the workout.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Paul Smale

    Is 9 to 12 set ok for biceps

  • Diego Medeiros

    Hey Mike! I have a question about sets and reps, in this link form wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_training#Intensity.2C_volume.2C_and_frequency)) says that for hypertrophy the best rep range would be 6–12, and 4–8 sets per exercise. That goes against to what you recommend in BLS for muscle hypertrophy. What repssets range should i use? (sorry for the poor english)

    • Did you read the article?

      Let’s focus on the 4-6 rep range with 9-12 sets per workout. That’s what I do and recommend. You can see why in this article. 🙂

  • Ryan

    Hey Mike,

    Great article, I have two questions I was hoping you could answer.

    Can you split up the workouts, say you do 4 exercises of compound low reps and then finish with 2 exercises of high volume sarcoplasmic hypertrophy to hit both Type I and Type II muscles?

    My second question is how many sets are you doing per exercise. For example, for a Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy workout most bodybuilders stick to to the 10 reps for 3 sets rule. What would you do for Myofibrillar Hypertrophy?

  • Oliver Johansen

    Is it any good to do a coumpound exercise first, let say squats or bench press for 5-7 sets and for about 4 reps and then go with 2-3 more exercises – like leg press and leg extensions – with higher rep ranges as 8-12? I mean you can overload weight from workout to workout and then do some hypertrophy work? What do you think about that? I know Mike O’Hearn use this method and he’s strong and big? What are your thoughts on this?

    • Hey Oliver! That’s fine. I’d recommend doing more sets in the lower rep range though and then just doing the last 2-3 sets in the higher rep range.

  • Mutungi Cephas

    my left Peck is slightly bigger than my right one. is that due to poor form or its genetic? and how can i try to level them up? thanks

    • Hey Mutungi. With proper training, it’ll even out with time. Give it a few months. Training with dumbbells also helps as well.

      • Mutungi Cephas

        thank you. will do that and will revert.

  • Arafat Sultan

    several hours a day! u r not only a great coach, but also a great human being! Thanks for your efforts for us.

  • Brianna Sierra

    For every 4-5 workouts say, shoulders or legs, can I do the first 2 sets w low reps and the last 2 sets w high reps? or the first 3 low, fourth one high?

  • baker

    What’s the answer to those how claim that strength training isn’t the answer to maximising muscle building but the answer is training according what type of muscle fibers your body has.. a guy that has a high ratio of slow twitch fibers must train with high volume high reps

    • Most of those types of claims are theoretical masturbation, really. Practically speaking, if you follow the advice in this article, you’ll make great gains. Period.

      • David

        What if the heavy and low rep range works great for you because you have a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibres? I’ve heard of loads of people who simply don’t respond to heavy lifting and had to focus on training their slow-twitch muscle fibres. That way they could make gains….

        • That’s a myth, really. Some people just respond better to weightlifting than others period.

  • David

    Many people claim that building muscle and building strength are two different things. You can still get strong without getting bigger and vice verse. This seems to be true. Why else does powerlifter usually tend to be smaller than bodybuilders?

    Powerlifters use really heavy weight and doesn’t necessarily have a lot of muscle compared to bodybuilders. Bodybuilders are known for training in the 10-12 rep range and they seem to make gains.

    • David,
      Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is greater in a bodybuilder, who has more non-contractile proteins than the powerlifter. A powerlifter trains specifically for those movements and have adapted to perform them very well.

      • David

        Okay. But I guess my real question is: to get big long-term like a bodybuilder you could just rely on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy? As mentioned in the article, I guess that is little of the problem. You never know if the one technique is better than the other. That’s why you need to incorporate both heavy loads with low rep ranges as well as light loads with higher rep ranges to optimize your results. I also assume that it’s different from person to person what technique you should be focusing on. Though it all should come down to these two points, either high or low reps. That’s due to the only ways we know how to build muscle is mechanical tension, cellular fatigue, muscle damage and progressive overload. To get all of these, you could simply switch between training with light and heavy loads.

        This is my sight on bodybuilding overall, if you see anything incorrect or misleading, please point that out. I’d be glad to learn more about this topic.

        • You could…but not efficient. Heavy weights with low rep range will deliver greater hypertrophy for practically everyone. But, you’re right. All you list are the stimuli needed for muscle to grow. Advanced lifters can incorporate higher rep training into their low rep training (ie. pyramids, and BBLS program). Still, high intensity low-reps by itself can build significant muscle.

  • Erik Dansereau

    I prefer to mix up my training regiment utilizing microcycles for strength, hypertrophy, and muscle endurance. All the while engaging in progressive overload in those rep ranges. I find it keeps me more engaged and my “gains in strength, performance and aesthetics have been solid.

    • That’s great! Keep it up. Sounds like it’s working well for you.

  • Tomas Jessen

    Excelent article… Greetings from Argentina! Can you detail and explain or just show me the high intensity, low volume/ moderate routine? Its like RPT? Thanks

  • Mateus R. Carvalho

    I’m using BLS workout plan (great book btw), but, since I’m a beginner, I’m going to 10-12 reps on most exercises because I find it easier to do and maintain my a good form. But since it’s better to go low-rep, what should I do? Go for 4-6 in most exercises and go for 8-10 in the ones I find harder to maintain form in more high-intensity exercises (such as bench press)?

    • That’s great you’re enjoying the book and are on the program now. Yes, make sure you have good form first, then start moving to 4-6 on your lifts. What you can do is also lower the weight on the lifts where you are unable to maintain good form to a point where form is good and the weights are challenging at 4-6 reps.

  • Will

    Mike – have you had a chance to look at the study in this article yet? http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/07/20/lifting-lighter-weights-can-be-just-as-effective-as-heavy-ones/?_r=0

    I’m curious what your thoughts are. Thanks always for the great info on this sight. The amount of content is overwhelming.


    • Hey Will! There’s no doubt that you can build muscle and strength with lighter weights working in a higher rep range. I just fine the higher rep range much more grueling and a lot tougher to progressively overload in.

      Feel free to try it out for a period of time and see how you do. I think you’ll find focusing on the lower rep range (4-6 reps) much more enjoyable and easier to progressively overload in.

      • Chris

        What would you consider a good program for a older 56 yr old male that has joint issues and knee replacements when it comes to compound lifts and the rep ranges. I bought two of your books Bigger leaner stronger and beyond bigger leaner stronger. I just know squats are not a good choice for knee replacements as are probably dead lifts which I have done since I was 14. Any feed back would be greatly appreciated…..Thanks Chris

  • Geoff

    Mike, I’d like to echo Will’s question below on the study reported in the NY Times. Can
    you let us know what you think, please. Surprisingly, the study found this:

    “One group was assigned to weights at between 75 – 90% of 1RM. The other volunteers weights were set at between 30 – 50% of 1RM. The results were unequivocal. There were no significant differences between the two groups. All of the men had gained muscle strength and size, and these gains were almost identical, whether they had lifted heavy or light weights.”

    Thanks again for your books, your site, and your products.

    • Check out my response to his comment. 🙂

      My pleasure man!

  • Emily Ammon

    Hey Mike. I’m curious about your thoughts on the differences in hypertrophy training for men and women. I’ve seen some content suggesting that women recover a bit more quickly than men (which I’m thinking is due to the fact that the presence of estrogen is an HGH stimulator) and can actually train similar muscle groups two days in a row with lower weight, higher rep ranges and different movements. I only had time to briefly scan the article (will read in depth later) but I just didn’t notice anything about the differences in sex.

    • Women aren’t able to recover and repair muscle as quickly as men. That’s partly the reason why we recommend 8-10 reps for women.

      If you’d like to work in some 4-6 training, I recommend doing no more than 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range, and using it on the following exercises:

      Military Press
      Bench Press

      • Emily Ammon

        Do you have any sources to back that up? I have found some things myself that are suggesting otherwise, although I have yet to really dive into them.

        • Hey Emily! Mike here. The reason I recommend working in the higher rep ranges for women isn’t really for recovery purposes but because most start out with very low levels of muscle and strength and find that the 8-10 rep range is already quite heavy. 4-6 would be really daunting and possibly even dangerous (due to poor form).

          Once women have put in a good 6 months or so at that rep range, though, they’ll have the strength and experience to comfortably (and safely) include some heavier work in their routines.

          Hope this helps clear it up! LMK what you think.

  • Clay Minnick

    Here is a bit of a head scratcher for me. I have a coworker who during his junior and senior years of highschool did the exact same work out every other day and it consisted of doing a bicep exercise and a tricep exercise starting at a set of 21 reps then 20, 19, 18.. etc. Down to 1 rep. Then 1,2,3 etc. back up to 21. He said he did this for 2 years straight, didn’t workout any other muscle groups except for abs, so just bis and tris every other day doing that same routine. Didn’t work out for about 3 years and now has been lifting for maintenance for a couple years. His upper arms are very disproportionate but they are massive and I thought I had decently big arms. Any thoughts?

    • Sure! That’s sarcoplasmic hypertrophy for ya.

      • Clay Minnick

        I’m aware of the category that it would fall in but I made mention of it because of how big his arms got in two years of training in a way that MFL does not represent and also how he didn’t overtrain or even cause muscle to shrink from causing too many microtears

        • Some people respond really well to weightlifting and you most definitely can build muscle with higher rep work, especially if you push to muscle failure often.

  • Kal-El

    1) Say I were to train in the 8-12 rep range doing the same excercises in BLS, what % of RM should I be using for my working sets?

    2) Is there a way to combine both high and low rep training effectively?

    • 1) Between 75-80%

      You can make estimates here:

      2) Yes, and primarily for more advanced lifters:

      • Kal-El

        Thanks Mike 🙂

        • NP!

          • Kal-El

            Mike, and how many sets per body part should I be doing in the 8-12 rep range?

          • The same 3 sets. Honestly, you’re better of sticking to 4-6 reps unless you’re coming back from an injury or are doing RPT.

          • Kal-El

            I’ve been working out in the 4-6 rep range for the last 20 months. Though I’ve gained an incredible amount of strength, my size gains have not been great. That’s why I thought I’ll try the 8-12 range.

          • If you’re gaining strength and not size, you need to increase cals:


          • Kal-El

            I’m putting on weight too. I’ve put on 10 pounds in the last 5 months but my lean body mass hasn’t increased. Only gaining fat

          • Hmm. How are your macros? Also, how are you tracking your composition? Check this out:


          • Kal-El

            Carbs 350+
            Protein 160+
            Fat 45

            I have an accumeasure calliper but I rely more on your guesstimates.

          • Hmm. With those macros, you gaining strength and gaining weight, you must be building muscle.

            It’s tough to be accurate with BF estimates just off pics. Lighting, time of day and more will affect how you look. Your best bet is to be consistent with the caliper and take measurements.

          • Kal-El

            could it be that strength training can cause CNS adaptation with increase in strength but no increase in muscle mass?

          • That can happen, but it’ll only go so far.

  • Julio Jones

    Hey matty ice. Jus a quick question I’ve been using the landmine at my gym and ive been doing oblique twist w weight. I know ur not a fan of weighted side to side movements but this really fires my whole core at least from the feel I get. Just wondering if u had any thoughts I don’t want to end up with big obliques making me look wide cuz I’m already pretty lean

  • Kal-El

    Hey Mike.
    I’ve been following BLS for 20 months now. My strength gains have been good buy my size gains are not good. I’m getting good sleep. I’m following a diet.

    My current lifts are:
    Deadlift : 315 for 5 reps
    Squat : 215 for 4 reps
    Bench : 160 for 5 reps

    My diet :
    Pre workout
    Large banana
    Whey 20g

    Post workout
    Whey 20g
    Large banana
    Oats 50 g
    Raisins 10g
    Honey 2 tbls

    Mid morning
    Large banana
    Cashews 30g

    Rice 300g
    Egg whites 10

    Large banana
    Milk 200 ml

    Rice 300 g
    Chicken breast 100g
    Whole eggs 2

    Before bed
    Casein 35g

    How does my training and diet look? Is there something I’m doing wrong?

  • Wishywashy

    Hey Mike, so i have a problem with bicep curls. I can lift 25lb 10x with proper form and full range of motion. When i get it to 27.5lb. Yes only 2.5lb heavier i cant even lift it once. I dont know what do i do next i should be able to curl 27.5 5-6 times if i can lift 25lb 10x yet i cant even lift it once.

    • Hmm. That’s odd. I guess just keep up with 25 lbs until you can do them for 12-15 reps and then try 27.5 lbs again.

      You can also try switching to a different bicep exercise. It may be easier to progressively overload for you with a different one.

  • Great article and very informative. I found a split of the 5 rep range and then a few weeks of the 8 rep range whilst progressively over loading works very well for me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Kamal! Progressive overload is the most important point. As long as you’re getting results, keep up what’s working for you. 🙂

  • Sam

    I do a 7 minute core workout 5-6 days/week first thing in the morning (6:00 am). Then I lift 2-4 days usually right before lunch. I want to get back to a leangains IF mealplan but I’m wondering if I should be getting some macros after my 7 min AM core routine. Thoughts?

  • Gary

    Great article. I’ve always viewed sore muscles as a sort of, payoff, when it comes to power and growth. On a scale of 1 to 10 how important is soreness?

    • Awesome. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Bit of an arbitrary metric to rank it like that. Soreness isn’t necessarily an indicator of a good workout. Genetics, nutrition, and conditioning all play a role.

      Check out Mike’s article on this:


      As long as you’re getting in your 9-12 heavy sets per workout with good form, you’re doing it right. And you should see results to prove it–your strength should go up and you should gain muscle. That said, if you’ve been training for quite some time, I recommend bumping the workouts up by 3 more sets. Just add one more exercise, and do 3 sets.

  • Aidan Vosooghi

    Hi Mike! Brilliant article, as always.

    I just finished a very successful cut and am currently reverse dieting with a view to get back to bulking.

    That said, I’m going back to the drawing board, so to speak, to work on movement patterning for the major lifts. Does progressive overload still apply with lighter weights, even if I’m now doing lifts with different/better form?

    Should I hold off on eating in a surplus for hypertrophy until my weights are back where they were?


    • Progressive overload applies with lower weights…if that’s the heaviest you can lift right now. If you’re lifting 100lbs right now, for example, and you drop to 75lbs to work on form, there is no progressive overload if you move to 85lbs because that’s still below 100lbs. 105lbs would be overload.

      Since you’re doing an RD right now, it’s a great time to work on form. You should be ready to rock with a surplus at your usual weights by the time you finish the RD.

      • Aidan Vosooghi

        Thanks for the response Roger!

        That all makes sense, and I’m glad it’s going to be timed pretty optimally with the RD!

        Just a follow-up question: does progressive overload apply to introducing new(er) stimuli for your body? Say, switching deadlift style from conventional to sumo, where there is more emphasis on the glutes, hips, and hamstrings. Or from high to low-bar squatting?

        • NP!

          Oh totally. There is neurological adaptation as well, as your body learns the movement, handling the weight, and signalling your muscles to deal with the new stimuli.

  • Dennis Bruun

    Hi Mike.

    You recommend doing 4-6 reps for the most muscle development. However I just read a studie where they tested the effects of 8-12 reps vs. 25+ reps for muscle and 1RM on trained men and found no significant difference in muscle mass. What’s your take on that?

    Link to the studie: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25853914

    • As long as there’s progressive overload, you can certainly build muscle effectively even working in that higher rep range. However, I have found that over time, it becomes more and more difficult to progressively overload (which is the primary driver of muscle growth) in such a high rep range because you’ll be dealing more and more with fatigue and burning sensations that come with high-rep training versus actual muscular failure.

      With that said, I have personally experienced and seen with thousands of people I’ve worked with that you’ll get better results and continued long-term results with low-rep training.

  • sakib800

    Hey mike i read somewhere that if you weight lift your testosterone increases and that slows down hair growth (since testosterone turns into DHT)

    So if i lift heavy will my hair growth slow??

  • sakib800

    Hey Mike what do you think about a 3 week 500 calorie surplus bulk followed by a 1-1.5 week 500 calorie cut to build muscle while keeping defined abs???

  • Nqobile Vuyiswa Bafo

    Why is the assumption that women want to be thin,I’m a woman and I want to get bigger (well….legs and butt that is)

  • johnB

    This is something that I struggle with used gyms since I can remember but never really got any good advice. I want to bulk muscle and build defenition.

  • RADRaze2KX

    Hey Mike, I’ve finished “BLS” and am now following the macro guidelines fut cutting (20% deficit) and doing the 1-year challenge Phase 1 (5-day split) and I had a few questions:

    1.) Is there a recommended 1RM % for the 8-10 rep range?

    2.) What is the reason for doing 8-10 reps for working sets on Thursday’s Incline bench as opposed to repeating the 4-6 rep range as done on Monday? When I initially did the 1-Year Challenge last year, I didn’t notice I should’ve used a higher rep-range on Thursday and wound up using the same 4-6 @ 80% 1RM set and realized very nice gains for incline bench. Just curious if I could keep the 4-6 range or if there was another reason for going 8-10 reps instead.

    3.) Same question as #2 about Side Lateral Raise.

    4.) Should bench-press exercises be done elbows wide (in line with the collarbone) or elbows back (in line with the diaphragm)? I see it done both ways at the gym but notice that close-grip bench forces elbows back, which in all variations of bench seems more comfortable to me due to pain in my shoulder sockets from old injuries. Does this also apply to Dumbbells?

    I’ve gifted BLS and TLS to over a dozen people via Audible and Kindle apps. I also have The Shredded Chef, and will be diving into your other books as time allows. Thanks for everything!

    • Hey! That’s great you’re on the program.

      1. Roughly 70-80%. Check this out:

      2. It’s to prevent overtraining. As long as there’s progressive overload, rep range isn’t too big of importance.

      3. If you’ve hit 6 reps and 10 reps, increase weight. No need to consider a new 1RM. Just increase your weight the next time you lift so that you drop down to 4-5 reps or 8-9 reps.

      4. Same applies.

      Sweet! That’s really great of you to spread the knowledge and promote BLS/TLS! Awesome how you picked up so many books. Glad you’re enjoying them 🙂

  • Jack Lewis

    Hi, Mike

    I want to maximize my gains. So as i have found out the most important thing in muscle building is getting your macros and micros and heavy compound lifting. Now i have i few questions

    1. You said that the most important thing in muscle buliding is progresive tension overload and muscle damage. Can doing bodyweight exercise (which should increase cellular fatique) give me a small boost in muscle building every day.

    2. Do you have a bodyweight routine that includes most of the muscle groups.

    3. If i got it right there are curently 3 proven supplements thta increase protein synthesis: creatine, beta alanine and fish oil. Could you say how much in percent (%) could at be. I know that its a hard question to answer, but you had many clients and read many reasearches so you sre the only person i could ask.

    4. Does betaine increase protein synthesis (or is it only because it increases the training performance)

    5. Adding postworkout a few grams of leucine and before sleep could i think help with muscle building.

    5. Are there any other supplements that can or maybe can help to build muscle (citrullije and caffein)

    6. Do you train to failure?

    7. Blood restriction can it help ?

    8. Casein protein and egg white protein before sleep. How much percent does it help.

    9. Any other methods?

    Best regards

  • bj

    hi mike one simple question is a stronger muscle a bigger muscle and is muscle size and strength directly related?

  • AmyL

    I am confused as to the correct rest time between sets. Is it 2-3 or 3-4 minutes? I am following TLS so I thought it was 2-3 except for abs. But I have seen elsewhere 3-4.

    • For TLS, 2-3 minutes rest between lifts is fine. For big movements like squats and deadlifts, you can consider 3-4 minutes.

  • Sam

    I have a question. If progressive overload and heavy weights are the most effective ways of building muscle, then why aren’t powerlifters anywhere near as big as bodybuilders and presumably it wouldn’t be because of PEDs because they will both be taking tons of them anyway.

    • Drugs, genetics, training volume, mainly.

      • Sam

        Now, you say training volume. If bodybuilders are using high volume and lighter weight whilst powerlifters are using low volume but heavier weight then surely that means that the powerlifters are making much more use of progressive overload so why are they not as big if progressive overload truly is the granddaddy method of building muscle.

        • Progressive overload is #1, but there’s more in play.

          Also the relationship between muscle size and muscle strength is affected by many things. This article does a great job of breaking it down:


          • brandan

            i read this article and i kinda hate the fact that he said strength and hypertrophy are not related i understand that you cant compare two individuals with strength and mass but what are we really training for? strength to build muscle or can we use light weights to build muscle? and isnt progressive overload putting weight on the bar the gateway to bigger muscles? all this science got me spinning my wheels what happen to just train heavy eat and rest lol

          • Let’s keep it simple:

            For the first couple of years, your primary goal is just increasing whole-body strength. Progressive overload and medium/high weekly volume gets the job done.

            Then, you may have to get fancier because it gets MUCH harder to get stronger.

  • amos

    After doing SS for 6 months, I gained 11lbs of lean body mass and 8lbs of fat (128lbs – 147lbs). During that time, I was also eating 4-5k calories a day. I noticed I was gaining fat very fast and squatting 3x wrecked my knees and hip flexors for a while. It was also very hard to recover from it and had to constantly reset.

    Now I currently finished the first week of 5-day split BLS while following your bulking guidelines. The workouts are really refreshing and made me push harder than ever since I’m only working out one body part a day. I also can’t wait for the next workout cause I really enjoyed it.

    Will adding additional lighter pause squats and deadlifts for 3×4 on seperate days improve the rate of strength gains? It also gives me a chance to work on my technique.

    Really looking forward to the results from BLS!

    • Super! Nice gains, though that sounded like a pretty rough going.

      I recommend just adding one extra day of squats (3 sets, 8-10 reps) and the same for deadlifts if you were to work on form. No need for the pause, just use a light enough weight to perform the exercise with perfect form if you want to work on it.

  • Got your book on Kindle and Audible (BLS). Reading it now (only just starting Section 2 though).

    I’ve skipped ahead to look at the Workout and am looking at the summaries. What is the actual workout? Maybe it’s not that simple. I’ll eventually get it whether I have to re-read it several times but I’d like it now without having to go through all of the explanation.

    I’m looking at the summaries right now for the Chapters “The BLS Training Philosophy,” “The BLS Training Program,” and “The BLS Workout Routine” and I still don’t get exactly what I should do as far as determining what weight I should use and the reps.

    Like I said, I’ll eventually get it as I read through, I just would prefer it to be able to pick up the book and say “OK I’ve got to figure out my 1RM on these lifts. Then when I do that lift, I do X sets of X% of 1RM.” Or whatever it may be.

    Thank you

  • YF

    Hi Mike,

    Over the past year, I’ve been progressing nicely in the 4-6 rep range, as you prescribe- and have been quite satisfied with the results.

    However, research findings by Drs. Brad Schoenfeld, Stu Phillips, and others have been piling up in recent years which strongly suggest that contrary to traditional wisdom, rep range is not an important variable for hypertrophy. For instance, one can achieve similar degrees of hypertrophy in low (4-6) and high (10-15) rep ranges provided that sets in higher rep ranges are taken to failure. I was wondering what your thoughts are on these new results and whether working in higher rep ranges might be safer, especially for older lifters. Thanks!

    • Happy to hear that!

      Yup, that’s technically true. The main driver of muscle growth is progressive overload. As long as you ensure that happens, you can effectively build muscle in almost any rep range.

      I will say though after having worked with thousands of people that the 4-6 rep range is one of the easiest ones to progressively overload in. It isn’t too heavy like the weights used in the 2-3 rep range where the weight can be daunting or tough to maintain proper form (and really risky if you don’t). It also isn’t too light like in the 8-10+ rep range where you’re dealing with fatigue and “the burn” before hitting failure making it tougher to push the limit and progressively overload.

  • Miz Eloise

    hello. im doing tls and it helps me a lot. even the gym bros take notice of the weights im lifting. question pls:
    1) how detrimental is not being explosive on the lift motion is? i am having a hard time following 2-1-2 tempo because i really try give my mqximum effort and full rom. am i missing iut b3cause i dont explode on the way up for example on bench press?

    2) is it super bad to workout major muscle then rest for an hour while eating and post protein then do abs or calves after? i cant do abs or calves in between compound moves. i feel my strength gets sapped if i as much as walk around.

    3) is this bad? majormuscle group (45 mins); rest with post workout carbs and protein for 1 to 1.5 hours; abs or calves or glutes for 15 mins

    • Nice work on TLS!

      1. As long as you’re giving it your all, you’re fine.

      2+3. No problem!

  • Zach

    Awesome article. However, I’ve been following this routine (85% 1RM, 4-6 reps, compound exercises) but I don’t feel like my muscles are completely fatigued after workouts, as in I feel like I could do more. Is this normal? Or is complete fatigue irrelevant to hypertrophy?

    • Irrelevant…in a way. You don’t need to be completely beat up to make good gains. 3-4 exercises a week in the 4-6 rep range per muscle group is all you need. If you’re unable to lift the same weights and reps at the end of the workout VS the beginning, you’re fatigued and doing the workout correctly.

  • YF

    Hi Mike,

    A question about the two pictures of yourself which you posted above (the first from when you trained using high reps and the second from when you trained using low reps). It appears that you have considerably less body fat in the second picture. By no means am I questioning your wisdom regarding the potential benefits of low rep training (I myself have seen good results working in the rep ranges you prescribe), but for additional comparison I would be curious to see a picture with the same (lower) levels of body fat when using the higher rep protocol.

    As you may know, there has recently been a flood of research (by Drs. Brad Schoenfeld, Stu Phillips, and others) showing NO difference in hypertrophy between low and high rep protocols when the latter are taken to failure. Wondering your thoughts on this and whether you might consider returning to higher rep training in light of these findings, particular as they might be better suited for older lifters.


    • No worries! It’s true, as long as you’re progressively overloading, you’ll get results. Regardless of the rep range. That being, from personal experience and having worked with thousands of people, I have found the 4-6 rep range to be the best for long-term and overall results.

      It’s heavy enough where you aren’t dealing with fatigue and the “burn” like you do in higher rep training, and it isn’t too heavy where the weight can be daunting or even dangerous if you aren’t keeping perfect form.

      That being said, I do like doing some higher rep work at the end of my workouts, and I definitely recommend working in a higher rep range for older guys. Check this out:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • YF

    Oh, one more question if I may.

    Given that one works within the 5-7 range (intensity of around 85% of 1RM), the Wiki page you linked to above on Volume suggests that for muscle building purposes one could get away with 1 set per week for each muscle group! From your personal experience, is this indeed the case? If so, that could cut my workouts down to around 30 min…what a difference that would make to my life!

  • Grant Koekemoer

    Hey Mike. Just want to say you got some awesome info on your site. I have read so much stuff over the years and I can relate with your experiences and info the best. I’m a lifetime natural and have been training for 15 years. Luckily from day one my goal was to get stronger and I trained mainly in the 6 rep range. I learnt how to diet and won a natural competition on my 10th year of training. I went from a 57kg teen to 98kg off season to 90kg on stage over a 10 year period. So just to share my experience I can agree with your work and job well done on the work you doing.

    • Thanks, Grant! I really appreciate that. Awesome training background you have there.

  • Adel-Alexander

    Hey Mike, what’s your opinion on this?


    It sorta goes against what you’re saying kinda. Just wanna hear your opinion on it all.

  • Azouri

    Hey Mike great article on muscle hypertrophy, I was wondering isnt the 4-6 rep range actually 85%-90%of 1RM, not 80%-85%?

  • Anthony Haisch

    How about training both?
    Low volume, high intensity AND high volume, low intensity?
    Can it be trained same day?
    Is there a specific order to train them in? Would appreciate an answer to that.. Thanks

  • Matt G

    Hi Mike, great article. I was wondering about the potential CNS stress which could come with continually training in the 4-6 rep range. Would you recommend de-load sessions/weeks, and if so, how often would they be optimal? And, after the de-load, how would you return to training, i.e. would you continue to progressively overload upon the 4-6 rep weight which you used immediately prior to the de-load?
    Many thanks

  • Brian Adamczyk


    I have read your book bigger leaner stronger. I like my size and could cut a little bit more. is heavier lifting what I need to do like your book suggests if I like my size but want my muscles to have the harder more dense look.

    • Hey Brian, once you cut down, you’ll find that you need to pack on more lean muscle to achieve your current size and with the hard, dense look. Lift heavy.

  • YF

    Hi Mike,

    Wondering what are your thoughts on the following essay in t-nation, which essentially claims that, contrary to popular belief (and my own!), progressive overload is not needed to continually build muscle. All that is needed is to go to failure over and over again, irrespective of rep range, from session to session (assuming adequate nutrition of course). What do you think about this hypothesis?


  • Anthony M

    Hey Mike thanks for answering a question on a previous blog post, i’m already seeing better results. I have a question about your macro split in your book bls, is 2g carbs per pound and 1g protein really for maximum hypertrophy? You say you can customize it for yourself and i was thinking of doing 1.5g protein and 1.5g carbs for the same outcome but more protein because excess protein will turn into gluclose or glycogen and then excess carbs are less likely to turn into fat (Though i do supplement with recharge so I hold more glycogen and water in muscle). What’s your reasoning behind 2g and 1g? And second question is what do you consider to be overtraining? If lifting heavy preserves muscle I would do arms every day or whenever im not fatigued in order to preserve muscle on a cut but i dont want to overtrain like I used to think i was doing (arms everyday). Thank you

  • Lily Tran

    Hi Mike

    I am 105 pounds and I think around 27% based on the visual pictures provided on the website.

    My tdee is 1364 calories a day and I want to lose body fat. By the calculator I would have to cut down to

    1091 calories
    109g protein
    109g carbs
    24g fat

    Can I still gain muscle and lose fat or is that calorie intake too low?

    I have also purchased your ebook but wondering if you can provide alternative exercises to the ones listed below as I only have a home gym.

    Leg press calf raise
    Donkey calf raise
    Cable crunch
    Leg press

    Is there anywhere I can privately send my photo?

    • Hey Lily,

      Nice job working out your targets. Here’s what I recommend:

      1. A 4-5 day weight lifting split
      2. 4 25min HIIT cardio sessions a week:


      This brings your TDEE to 1515, and gives you a cutting target of 1212:
      P 126g
      C 116g
      F 27g

      That’s great you picked up my ebook too. In place of those exercises:
      Standing Calf Raise (barbell or dumbbell)
      Seated Calf Raise
      Weighted Situps
      Front Squats

      You can always shoot me an email: Mike at muscleforlife.com

  • Rodolfo Ferreira

    Hi Mike.
    Thanks for your feedback on previous posts.
    I’m having some doubts about 1RM. I’m working on the 4-6 rep range (0.8 of 1RM), with 2 – 3 minute rests between sets. If I just can’t increase weights on a determined week, stuck on the 6 rep range and couldn’t lift more, what do I do? Should I keep on the 6 rep range, until I get able to lift more? If yes, for how many weeks?

    I was thinking about decreasing my goals, putting 0.7 of 1RM, for instance, executing with a more adequate form, considering the rep timing recommended in BLS “2–1–2” or “2–1–1” , with more control of the bar. If I do that, should I keep 0.7 of 1RM, working on 4-6 rep range based on that rep-timing, progressively increasing weights as well or should I still aim for 0.8 of 1RM?

    Does that mean that 0.7 is the way to go, that I should push myself based on my recent workout performances, or that I still should still aim for more, working on 0.8, or 0.9 of 1RM? I’m telling you this because I use a workout app, and there, I can put the 1RM goal. By the way, I’ve been waiting an android version of your app!

    I express these concerns because there are some exercises that I find myself lowering the weights slower, always being mindfull of my form, of course. In those ones, in particular, there comes a time when I find it hard to work in 0.8 of 1RM without compromising my form at some point, so, I end up reaching plateau.

    I know that we should always focus on lifting heavier, with PROPER FORM, with adequate technique. We should be in control of the bar, not the other way around, lol. So between getting stuck ( temporarily) on the 6 rep range until I am able to lift more with proper form, and reducing the weights to keep making progress with the same rep ranges (4-6) with a lower 1RM goal… Which option is better? I’d really appreciate to see what’s your take on this.

    • Good questions, Rodolfo. Let’s simplify it all: Lift in the 4-6 rep range where you can perform your reps with good form and where the 4-6 reps are the most you can do with that weight. If hitting once set of 6 and increasing the weight means you aren’t able to get 4 reps the next set, then bump it back down and get 2 sets of 6 before trying it again, or 3 sets of 6. And, that you still can’t go up after 3 sets of 6, read this:


      • Rodolfo Ferreira

        I will definitely use the techniques described in the article! Besides, I’m 6.2 feet tall. Right now, I look exactly like in the picture:
        I’ve increased the calories consumed, because my weight had also plateaued. I was concerned that, because of my height, and my weight situation, I needed to eat more. Then, I started to consume 4000 – 5000 calories. I increased more carbs, it was around 600-650g, with 250 – 300g(protein) and 50 – 70g fat. I finally ended up gaining weight, 1-2 pounds. I failed to keep track of certain aspects of my progress. That happens, I know. I saw some strenght improvements, but rather limited, because of plateaus, but, as predicted, I have gained some belly fat as well. Right now, I am 199,7 pounds. I plan to get right back to:
        (1.2 grams of protein per pound of bw/ 1 gram of carbs pp of bw /0.2 grams of fat pp of bw)
        and bulk again, with 1g pp (P), 2g (C), 0.4 (F), adjusting the rest accordingly checking my weights first thing in the morning, limiting my weight gain from 0.5 to 1 pound. I think that my body fat level is around 13%. However, sometimes I wonder if I should keep bulking, considering my height (6.2 feet tall), to feel “bigger”. Even so, it’s best to cut, right? With that article that you sent me, changing my macros, cutting and then bulking, I will change things up. Many thanks!!

        • Great! If you’re sitting at 13%, you can take it up to 15% before cutting. All in all, looks like you’re doing pretty well. Keep it up!

  • Briscan Andrei

    It is true that Type 2 muscle fibers are divided in : Type 2A , Type 2B & Type2AB ?

  • micheal

    I’m stuck at 160 pounds. I’ve only been lifting for 2 years – I was 135 less than a year ago, have been lifting regularly, eating healthy. My goal is to reach minimum 170 pounds of lean muscle body weight. For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been able to significantly increase the weight I’m lifting in squats, bench press, curls – pretty much everything. But my body weight has been stuck at 160 pounds for 6 weeks.
    I’m only doing 3-4 days a week in the gym, so I don’t think overtraining is an issue. I eat clean food (mostly chicken breast and greens) and I’m getting about 3500 calories per day if I include the protein shake. I get about 7 hours of sleep on average. I don’t drink alcohol but I did quit smoking cigarettes about 2 months ago (which I thought would help me put on more rapid gains in addition to just overall more healthy).
    Any advice appreciated.

    • Hey Micheal, nice work so far! Have you seen this?


      Sounds like you need to increase your calories.

      • Darren Holte

        Nicotine speeds up your metabolism. When you stop smoking your metabolism slows down. Also lets face it stopping smoking creates stress in the initial months.

  • David Bennett

    Also noticed the same thing. Once I dropped my reps from the standard 8-12 range down to around 4-8 I gained more muscle. Not only that but the workouts became more enjoyable than grinding out endless reps. The only high reps I do now are for Laterals.
    I also noticed dropping my rest period helped too. I can now fly through the workout in around 35-40 mins, whereas before I was slogging it at about an hour.

  • Eric

    It took me a long time to understand why you would recommend a 5 Day Split for natural lifters Matthew, but after a near two years of my attempts to build powerful muscle. I totally get it, and I also believe if a person has the time, it actually is the BEST option.

    The 5 Day Split is usually depicted as “one body part per day” but truly this is not the case.
    Chest, Back, Arms, Legs, Shoulders.
    The Triceps are trained 3 times per week as they are necessary for chest and shoulder presses.
    The Biceps are trained twice per week, perhaps an indirect three or even four times per week as they are stabilizers for pushing movements, then again, I’m making this analysis more complicated than it needs to be.

    I will be the first to admit if I’m not lifting more often, it is too easy for me to become lazy with conditioning. When I lifted 5-6 Days a week even, I found I was more aggressive, and excited to lift the heavy ass weight as Ronnie Coleman would say.

    I look forward to committing to a 5 Day Split for the rest of 2017, and see my whole body blow up 🙂

    • That’s great, Eric! Keep up the awesome work.

    • Well yes. In theory the more often you can train the better it is for an aesthetic lifter – as long as you can recover properly doing as few bodyparts per day as possible

  • Amir Sharapov

    So I had a question. When I was researching muscle training, there were four that came up. Muscle power, endurance, strength and hypertrophy. My question is: when performing muscular endurance exercises (high rep, low weights) would that be the same as doing sarcoplasmic hypertrophy exercises? and would muscular strength exercises be considered myofibril hypertrophy exercises? If so, then there would really only be 3 types of muscle training, and it all falls under hypertrophy? Correct me if I’m wrong. Thanks

  • I love this article!!
    Its good that you pointed out all the idiocy that “gurus” talk about on how they can “emphasize” either sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar growth. I don’t believe that its the point that is why I never wrote about emphasizing either one. A powerlifter is stronger than a bodybuilder pound per pound because its the way he trains while a bodybuilder needs to run towards the “side effect” of lifting itself which is muscular hypertrophy

  • Oli

    Hey Mike,

    Im nearing the goal for my cut being 10% body fat. Ive taken tbings real slow at around 14 weeks with 20 lbs of fat loss with slow and steady muscle gains tbroughout.

    Im not sure if i should keep going to 7% fat then bulk to put size on or bulk at 10%?

    The cut has left me lean but that as you k ow has a negative with appearence of size loss. Even if the loss is fat and im left with lean muscle, im no doubt looki g smaller so now need to start phase 2 with lean muscle increase.

    Bulking comes with fat gain but at what fat percentage is best to get on the bulk?



    • Hey Oli, I recommend starting the bulk at 10% body fat. There’s no need to get leaner before bulking if you don’t want to. Check this out: http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      • Oli

        Hey Mike,

        Thanks for sending that article my way. That answers a whole ton of questions for me.

        Gaining 0.5 – 1 lbs of muscle per week but what sort of fat gain per week should i expect if im on target?

        Also fast cuts were mentioned but how fast are we talking? I lost 20 lbs over a 14 week period, is that good progress or should i aim to get the job done quicker on tbe next cut?

        Thanks again


        • Hey Oli, somewhere around a 1:1 ratio fat to muscle is expected while bulking if you’re doing everything right. So with that ratio, half of what you gain would be muscle, and half would be fat. You want to be gaining 0.5-1lb total each week, not 0.5-1lb from just lean mass.

          A good target for fat loss is 1lb per week. If you have a lot to lose, 2lbs per week is reasonable. Once you’re lean, fat loss slows down and 0.5lbs is still a great rate. Losing 20lbs in 14 weeks is great 🙂

          I hope this helps!

          • Oli


            Thanks for the info man. Really appreciate you taking the time to advise.

            Muscle mass on cut stayed same with slow and steady gains and with fat down?

            If im able to lose 1 – 1.5 lbs per week fat and maintain almost the same muscle mass throughout a cut, would you recomend maybe trying a maintenence ratio to see if i can increase gains without putting on too much fat?

            Or would you recommend going onto bulk ratio and cut at the 15% you mentioned in the article link?

            Want to bulk but lean bulk if there us such a thing as want to keep fats lower and lower until at a consistent 7%.

            Thanks for the help


          • You can definitely eat at maintenance, but you will gain muscle and strength faster on a bulk. We’re talking a small 10% calorie surplus here 🙂

            Fat gain will be inevitable on a bulk, but a small surplus like that is the best way to not put on too much body fat, and it’s easy to get rid of with a cut afterwards.

            I recommend cutting at a 20-25% calorie deficit.

            I advise you still do HIIT cardio while bulking , but I don’t recommend fasted training unless you’re cutting. You’ll likely have better workouts if you eat a nice pre-workout meal 🙂

            I hope this helps!

          • Oli

            Yes that all makes perfect sense now. Huge respect for being available with the advice like this Mike.

            Cut will be over in 2 weeks and very excited about getting size on again and then repeat for better and better result.

            If there are any other tricks or tips for the transition from cut to bulk, im all ears.

            Thanks again man.

          • No problem! You should reverse diet into a bulk. http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

  • Özgür Doğan

    So how come two studies conlifct?


    This study argues that “Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men”

    And this one https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562558/ argues that high intensity training builds more muscle.

    • Hey Ozgur, there are all sorts of reasons why different studies might have conflicting results. For example, in the first study you linked, the participants did not have weightlifting experience. Newbies can do almost anything in the gym and still see gains. That doesn’t mean that high-rep, low-load training (like they did in that study) is the best way to gain muscle for everyone.

      In the second study, they were experienced lifters, so to make progress they had to focus more on intensity.

  • Briscan Andrei

    Mike , when it’s come about the 3 day split form BLS you prescribe 12 heavy sets in total for pushing movements , 9 horizontal & incline pushing sets and 3 vertical pushing sets . It’s ok if we do 6 heavy sets of vertical pushing , 3 sets of incline pushing and 3 sets of horizontal pushing ?
    You said that 5 days split > 4 days split > 3 days split , but if we do the 3 days split we will eventually hit the same results as the other routines ( 5 & 4 days split routines ) but it will be slower ?
    What do you think about the greasing the groove method for bodyweight movements like chin ups , pistol squats ,etc. in the rest days ? It will interfere with recovery during a cutting period or doesn’t matter that much ?

    • Hey Briscan, there are two different split options for the 3-day routine. One involves 9 sets for chest, and hits shoulders on another day. The other has a Push day, which involved 6 sets for chest and 6 sets for shoulders. Both options feature lateral raises for the shoulders, so it’s not 6 sets of shoulder pressing on either one. I’d recommend checking this article out:


      The 3-day split is not as efficient as 5-day, but you can still reach your goals. Ultimately, I’d do the program as is, with rest days included, and see how you do. Doing bodyweight exercises between heavy lifting days will interfere with recovery, so you’d have to watch out for overtraining. Check this out: https://legionathletics.com/signs-of-overtraining/.

      I hope this helps!

      • Briscan Andrei

        Thank you , Mike ! Do you think that using the 5 days split on a cutting phase it’s too much ? Should we cut to 2 sets instead of 3 if we feel killed by the workouts ?
        Also , my biggest problem it’s that my thighs and glutes are very developed and I’m afraid that if I do the legs routines from the BLS soon I will be the second Joey Candito 🙂 I care about aesthetic , I want to have sleek legs and wear pants that look good on me . Also , I want to become more explosive in general without adding mass . What do you recommend ? A future article on how to build power to sprint faster and jump higher without adding a ton of mass on legs would be awesome .
        What do you think about lateral raises with the pinky up ? I heard that this exercise it’s a bodybuilders BS and that they are very dangerous for rotator cuffs .

        • The 5-day split is fine while cutting. Make sure you’re sleeping enough, eating enough, etc. This article might help: https://legionathletics.com/muscle-recovery/

          If you don’t want your legs to grow, you can lower the volume for your legs and just maintain your strength on squats. Focus on being explosive witht he movement if that’s your goal. Check this out: https://legionathletics.com/maintain-muscle-strength/

          Lateral raises aren’t dangerous if you do them with good form. There’s no need to do them “pink up.” Pinky up can be a good cue for making sure you hit the lateral deltoid, but it’s not necessary and could cause impingement issues. Just make sure to bend forward a tiny bit, and keep your wrist at or below your elbows. Watch the video on this page:

          I hope this helps!

  • sakib800

    Hey mike i’m hear that now researchers like eric helms seem to think that more volume is better for muscle growth…? what are your thoughts?

  • Harry

    Hi Mike

    I came across and article about a training program called MI40 by Benjamin Pakulski. He talks about certain training methods like time under tension and neurological overload sets (NOS) to maximize results with half the amoint5of weight. I was wondering whether you had heard of this? It sounds like a gimmick to me as these methods were not mentioned in your book.

  • Jay L

    Hi Mike!

    Just a question. I’ve read that people talking about submaximal training and not going to failure; what’s your take?

    Also, while on my BLS routines doing 4-6 reps at 80-85%, I will either 1) hit 6 reps knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do more; or 2) hit 5 reps knowing that there’s no more in the tank to attempt a 6th or 3) hit 5 reps and while attempting the 6th, fail.

    Is this normal? Is this considered training to failure? I’m not intentionally trying to fail but trying to hit 6 reps and sometimes that means failing and only hitting lesser.


    • Check this out: https://www.muscleforlife.com/training-to-failure/

      If you’re failing on the 6th rep, that is training to failure, and not something I recommend on your heavy, compound lifts. You should typically keep one rep in the tank, especially if you’re training without a spotter. If you want to train to failure, save it for your isolation exercises.

      I hope this helps!

      • Jay L

        I just read it, thanks Mike!

        Does that mean on my BLS set, if I manage to squeeze out my 5th rep and I know that I’ve put in all I’ve got and won’t be able to get a 6th; I shouldn’t try for the 6th at all? And I’ll just record that I had 5 reps on that set. Same thing goes when I hit 4 reps knowing that there’s a good chance I’ll fail on the 5th – just stop at 4?

        • Yup! That said, you can try for that last rep if it’s later in your workout and not a main lift. Check out that article I linked. I train to failure on 2 or 3 sets per workout, but never on the main compounds.

  • Pablo Andrada

    Hi Mike!

    How are you?

    (Again I apologize for any english mistake)

    I’m cutting and I’ve been following the BLS program in five days: .

    Chest/Back/rest/Shoulders/Legs/Upper body/rest

    The 4-6 range in some exercises is becoming a little though for me:

    – Shoulder: I can’t improve reps or weight in lateral raises (dumbells 35lbs) usually the last reps aren’t in the best form… The days after my shoulders feel sore.
    – Legs: I would like to train legs more often, lighter, and gain some size.. I think training so heavy doesn’t fits with other sports, like soccer, I’m less accurate, slower reaction and also at higher risk of tear muscles in legs.. I actually had a minor injury (not tear)

    I have been thinking to switch to a LPP routine training 6 days a week… or should I move to a 8 – 10 reps range in some exercises??

    Thanks in advance..

  • Ray Abraham

    Hi Mike, could you illuminate more on the “progression” term? At what weight should we start (% of 1RM)? And more importantly, when is the right time to load more weight, and with what increment? Hope that makes sense. Thank you.

    • Hey Ray! Basically, you just pick a weight where you can’t get more than 6 reps, but you can get at least 4.

      Honestly it’s just trial and error for your first week or two. As a general rule, for every 5 lbs you add to a dumbbell exercise, you’ll lose 2 reps. The same for every 10 lbs added to a barbell exercise. So if you put 100 lbs on the squat bar and do 10 reps, you should be able to get about 6 reps with 140 lbs.

      Just work with light weights at first and learn the form, and then increase. You’ll get your numbers within a week or two. 🙂

      I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps. So set 1, 6, add weight, get 4 or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until 6, go up, etc. If, however, you only get 2 to 3 reps after increasing, drop back and work with that lower weight until you can do TWO sets of 6, and then try to move up again. If that still fails, then work up to 3 sets of 6 and you’ll be fine.

      Let me know how it goes!

  • Jay L

    Hi Mike! On the topic of progressive overload, is it normal to be stuck on the same weight/load for a couple weeks? Or maybe even same weight but only getting 1 rep more for the entire workout day than the previous week? Or am I supposed to consistently increase weight every single week? Thanks.

  • Jay L

    Hey Mike what’s your take on the RPE scale. I see many people talking about it. I’m following the BLS routine hitting the 4-6 rep range and every single rep is heavy (to me). Right from the first rep I can feel that it’s a heavy weight. But I manage to grind out my reps without hitting failure.

    Should I be concerned with the RPE scale or as long as I’m hitting the 4-6 reps I’m fine?

    Also is it normal that every rep feels heavy? Haha thanks.

    • Hey Jay! RPE is very useful, and in fact, I use it as a tool in my workouts, too. The reason I didn’t talk about it specifically in BLS is that most beginners should be training with around the same RPE, which is an 8 or 9, in other words, 1 or 2 reps shy of failure.

      So, as long as you’re following the guidelines in the book and progressing in the fashion I recommend (adding reps until you hit 6, adding weight, building back up to 6 reps, etc), then RPE takes care of itself. Just make sure you’re a) adding weight over time, and b) you aren’t grinding every rep, and you’re fine.

      • Jay L

        Thanks Mike. So the RPE scale really does help.
        Even if I am not a beginner/new to weights, every set on BLS does feel like a 8 or 9 like you said! More like 9 actually. And that’s fine yea?

        Nope I’m not grinding every rep, just the last one. But even from the first rep it feels like a heavy weight, I guess that’s simply because I’m training in the 80-85% of 1RM, it’s meant to be heavy yea?


        • Yup, it’s fine. 85% of your 1RM is heavy no matter how you look at it haha

Sign in to Muscle For Life
or use your MFL Account