Okay quickest summary ever: To build muscle, your workouts must contain some form of progression over time. It’s called progressive overload and blah blah blah I’m not going to expand on “progressive overload” – doing so would turn this short article into a goddamn book.

So just trust me when I say that the two simplest ways to incorporate progressive overload into your training are adding weight to the bar or doing more repetitions with the same weight.

I’ll assume that more than a long life full of health and happiness you want to know which will build you more muscle. A recent study examined exactly that:

Progressive overload without progressing load? The effects of load or repetition progression on muscular adaptations

The researchers investigated whether adding more weight or more reps builds more muscle. They put subjects into two groups:

(1) increasing load while keeping repetition range constant vs (2) increasing repetitions while keeping the load constant

And then 43 trainees with at least 1 year of consistent resistance training experience did some iron pumping — back squat, leg extension, straight-leg calf raise, and seated calf raise 2x/week — for a total of eight weeks:

the LOAD group aimed to increase the load while maintaining this target repetition range, whereas the REP group aimed to increase the number of repetitions performed per set while maintaining the initial load. Both groups were verbally encouraged to train to failure

Results? Here:

Progressive overload without progressing load? The effects of load or repetition progression on muscular adaptations findings

Before your brain says ouch this is too much information and colored dots the system is overloaded fuck this fuck this I’m done, I’ll simply summarize the findings like so: There were minimal differences between the groups as both had similar increases in muscle mass.

The researchers concluded:

Overall, these results suggest that, from a hypertrophy standpoint, progressions can be made with load, repetitions, or conceivably a combination of the two over the course of an 8-week training block. The results are generally consistent with the body of literature, which shows similar hypertrophy across a wide spectrum of loading ranges.

Practical applications


  • Progressing in weight and reps are both viable progressive overload options

    I prefer a combination of the two — adding repetitions within a certain rep range until I “fill out” that rep range. Then I add more weight. So it goes reps/weight/reps/weight/and on and on. It’s the double progression system and I think you should take a good sit-down and read the article about it that I wrote a while ago.

  • If you decide to progress in reps, keep in mind that to get the same amount of stimulus growth, higher rep sets will have to be taken to failure

    This might be a fucky way to train because even in this study despite researchers’ best efforts to verbally encourage participants to train to failure, some subjects stopped short due to high levels of discomfort and metabolic acidosis. So don’t get to the point where you are doing 40 reps. You won’t have much success with that.

  • This loops us back to the double progression system

    I recommend choosing a load that you can stay within the target rep range. Anywhere between 6 and 20 reps is probably going to be most optimal for muscle growth. Work in that rep range until you complete all sets for the top end of the range. Then, increase the load by the smallest possible amount. It’s simple and pretty much anyone can use it to gain muscle.

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If you don’t want to deal with programming your workouts, jump on board for the Train With Me program. It’s a 3, 6, or 12-month progressive strength training 1:1 online coaching in which I’ll teach you how to train with a proper technique, volume, and proximity to failure so that you can enjoy your time in the gym without the need to figure it out all for yourself.

Cheers, Egis.


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Originally published by me on Medium on November 15, 2022

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I like single rep range from 1 to 3 reps and mix 10 reps within, i am looking to build athleticism and not a bodybuilder. more focused on strength

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