High rep workouts – full plan

High rep workouts – full plan

12-08-2015
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In the past few weeks you could find some articles about high rep workout routines. We tried to compile a routine for each of the major muscle groups. However it pays to organize these routines into a program. It is pointless to start following this kind of workout system without some common sense. Intensity and work volume are both high, so it is easy to go overtrained.

Some topics

Benefits of high repetition counts

Frequency of training

Workout routine

Required food supplements

Against the tide

There are many people out there saying that you make a grave mistake by doing this kind of workouts. You can surely find coaches too who share this opinion. It is up to you whether you stick to it, or return to a more conventional routine, but let me start with this: you can get real results from this kind of workouts on the long run – just like in the case of other workout routines. If you try such a workout once in a while, it would get you pumped, it would also cause muscle soreness, and that would be all. But if you keep yourself to the plan, pretty soon you would see that high reps are achieved at such weights that seemed unreal earlier. And then we have not mentioned the effect promoting muscle growth. Actually if you follow a good diet regime and choose the right weights to workout with, in many cases such a workout routine would be more effective for muscle development than “traditional” methods.

What are the benefits of high repetition counts?

Here ‘high rep’ stands for the range of 20-30 repetitions, and ‘super high rep’ means exercises repeated up to 100 times per set. It would be foolish to expect muscle growth directly from such high rep counts, but this kind of workout has advantages beyond dispute:

  • capillaries within the muscles get increased both in their density and their volume,
  • blood vessels running through muscles also get increased in diameter,
  • initiates the formation of new blood vessels too,
  • all of these lead to a dramatic improvement in nutrient supplies within the muscles.

Besides all that if someone cannot get the hang of using a certain muscle, that person could start working that muscle by doing a 100 reps set – doing so on each workout will definitely develop muscle awareness and improve pumping up.

You’ll find that none of our workout routines has such high repetition counts. However the 20-30 reps range...

  • ...provides you all the benefits that the 50 or 100 rep sets can offer (mentioned above),
  • ...allows you to do the exercise with such a weight that it initiates significant growth in the muscles targeted,
  • ...considerably lowers the risk of injuries and the wear and tear of joints (not a factor to be sneezed at),
  • ...can be applied to any exercises,
  • ...leads to increased production of lactic acid to which the body reacts by excreting large amounts of growth hormones – this has fat-burning and muscle-developing effects too, so the workout routine works fine both in weight-gaining and dieting periods. It is important to underline that this is NOT a so called ‘cutting workout routine’.

{Related article: Cutting workouts}

How often and for how long does it pay to do high rep workouts?

Since it is a high volume workout, it is definitely not recommended to work on a certain muscle group more than once a week along this method. You should also keep in mind that you need sufficient rest times, so do not plan more than 4 such workouts (or 5 at max) for a one week period. The average duration of a workout would be one and a half hours – and please don’t comment about it being impossible as it is battle tested and can surely be done :) The only exception to that limit is your leg workout if you choose squats over leg presses. This limit can also be pushed somewhat during your back workout if you choose deadlift as the final exercise. But if you keep to the plans described here then the 90 minutes time-frame will be sufficient – and that can be even shorter if you divide the muscle group stimuli into four or five sections.

Also keep in mind that this kind of workout will get you best results on the long run (just like in case of other programs). It takes a few months to find the right weights, and to achieve actual development. Doing a high rep workout every now and then can get you a nice pumped up state, and can be fun in the line of dull routines, but it would not lead to long term effects. If you follow the plan, and keep yourself to the volume limits described above, then you are safe from overtraining even on the long run, so you can follow the program as long as it contributes to your development.

So it is three to five workouts a week, sixty to ninety minutes per session – that’s all you need!

Calves, abs, forearms...?

Yes, you are right, there is no article focusing on these, and there is a reason to that: calves and abs are to be worked at high reps by default, so there would be nothing new to that. There is no point in dedicating an entire workout to your forearms either – 1-2 exercises would do the trick after a workout on the biceps or the back.

Articles on this topic

How to make pairs of muscle groups?

The range of possibilities is almost unlimited, as no extra restrictions apply when compared to other workout programs. Design and tune your workout program according to your body structure, your genetics, your strengths and weaknesses. Let’s see some examples:

3-day split 4-day split 5-day split

Monday: chest & back
Wednesday: shoulders & biceps & triceps
Friday: legs


or


Monday: chest & biceps & triceps
Wednesday: legs
Friday: shoulders & back

Monday: chest
Tuesday: back
Thursday: legs
Friday: shoulders & biceps & triceps

or

Monday: chest
Tuesday: legs
Thursday: shoulders & back
Friday: biceps & triceps

Monday: chest
Tuesday: back
Wednesday: legs
Thursday: shoulders
Friday: biceps & triceps

Other sequences could work too, but there are certain aspects that imply that this order of workouts is optimal.


You can train your calves twice a week, and you can include abs training in every single workout (with the minimum of two abs sessions per week). Abs training can come before or after the major workout – it is absolutely up to you.

Now you can see that there is a wide range of possibilities. Usually it is recommended to schedule weaker parts on separate days if possible (though it might not be possible in a 3-day split program), so that those can be worked at maximum focus.

Of course there are other splits that could work. For instance many people prefer to work their biceps and triceps on different days, and rather schedule those muscles after the chest or back workout – feel free to do so! There is no ‘one and only’ best method – choose a way that works best for YOU!

Though there is a thing that might be better to avoid: working anything else on a leg day. A leg workout can burden the body so much that you have no chance training any other parts effectively, and you might also want to start that leg workout with your energy stores full – so it is not recommended to work any other muscle groups before or after leg sets (with the exception of calves and abs).

What weights to use

This is the most tender spot of the workout routine. It is easy to make the mistake of not using large enough loads. Do not forget: we go for sets of 20-30 reps that are hard to do; the goal is not to do what you can, but to finish a challenge, so you need to work yourself up to a weight at 20-30 reps, with which you originally CANNOT finish that rep count! If you do 20-30 presses with a weight that was manageable from the beginning, then you might achieve a nice pumped up state because of the high rep count, but do not expect development. Your body will not build extra muscles, if you do a workout with which the existing muscles can cope with. It is extra load that is rewarded by extra muscle tissues as it can manage larger loads with larger muscle mass. That is why it is important to work more than in the previous workout – you achieve more in at least one exercise than previously, and you do not decrease rep counts at other sets.

You’ll probably get a chest & back workout during which you can do one rep more in a set of bench presses, and another rep more in a set a bent-over rows, while all the rep counts remain the same... Some other time you’ll find that you can increase rep counts and/or weights in almost every exercise. It does not matter at all! The point is to raise your performance compared to your previous week, even if it is only a one-rep raise. If you do so, you should not be afraid of not developing your muscles. But NEVER EVER let your rep count drop from the previous workout levels, always reach some kind of increase – and you can be a 100% sure that is achievable (in case your expectations are not exaggerated).

So always use the heaviest weight to do the highest number of repetitions you can. You might need some workouts to find the right weights, and unfortunately there is no general formula to determine those (like a % of your usual weights or your 1RM). We are much more varied than that: there are no two physiques that are exactly the same, and it is especially true for high rep workouts that your actual fitness and your previous workout routines have a high impact on what weights you should start with. First it will be your nervous system (and not your muscles) that will get used to the change in loads (especially if you take a whole new direction by leaving the world of low rep workouts behind), so during the first few weeks the basis of increasing performance is not necessarily the growth of your muscles.

Related workout routines:

Supplements

You might think that here comes the “Buy something” part – and yes, being a webshop we have some interests in selling supplements too. :) Sorry. Nevertheless we do not want to talk you into buying all kinds of our stuff. But there are some supplements that are

  1. essential,
  2. helpful,
  3. nice to have (but you can do without them too).

Essential things

You need energy and building materials in order to grow your muscles. The energy is supplied by carbohydrates (and some fats), the building blocks are gathered from proteins. Most of these should be taken in the form of solid food. In other words: you need to eat a lot. You need at least 2 grams of protein and 3-7 grams of carbohydrates a day per body-weight kilograms (depending on your basic body type). Those who gain weight fast are likely to get okay at about 3 grams/day of carbohydrates, while hard-gainers might need as much as 7 grams daily.

We don’t cover the sources of nutrients in this article, you can find detailed info on them in the basics. Always keep in mind that no matter how perfect your workout routine is, your development can be hindered by inappropriate nutrient intake!

{Related article: Basics }

So what supplements are essential? First of all you need weight-gaining supplement with proper quality proteins and carbohydrates! You can substitute such a product by a home-made protein+carb combo too that is not the same as a professional weight-gaining formula, but might be useful as a low-cost alternative. That is all you definitely need, end of story. No argument about it. Such a workout can really empty your glycogen stores, so it would be a grave mistake not to reload them with some fast carbs, and your fatigued muscles need vitalizing amino acids really bad from the proteins.

Another kind of essential supplement is a multivitamin product. It can be a one-pill multivitamin product for athletes, but we recommend you not to accept less than a pack of vitamins designed for athletes. This kind of workout routine can run your body down, so you need all the help to enhance your immune system, to stay healthy, and to aid your regeneration.

And that is the end of list of essentials – it is not that long, is it? If you take all these, and you follow an appropriate diet, your work will get you results. Here you can find two examples – a low-cost version, and one that is positioned higher:

Low-cost solution
%
4 kg 
 / 4.0
9%   75,90 €  
69,00 €
2 kg 
 
20%   7,78 €  
6,22 €

If you take it more seriously
3,24 kg 
 / 5.0
5%   42,47 €  
40,34 €
30 pak. 
 / 5.0
5%   18,72 €  
17,78 €

Useful things

Even though you are okay with the mandatory stuff above, you might want to have some extras at hand too. One of the most important things is BCAA, especially leucine. It is proven to be anabolic (meaning it promotes muscle growth), and it is also anticatabolic (meaning that it prevents muscle decomposition). Take at least 5 grams of it before and after workouts. If you take pure leucine, then 2-3 grams would be enough. You can use leucine as a supplement for meals too: if you take 2 grams of it with each meal, you can support protein synthesis for the entire day.

It would be a mistake to forget about glutamine, as it represents a very large proportion of the muscles, and it has beneficial physiological effects too. If it fits your budget, be sure to provide yourself with it - but if you need to choose between BCAA and glutamine, take BCAA!

Another useful supplement is creatine. Apart from causing fast increase of strength levels by drawing water into the muscle cells, it also plays a vital role in cellular energy renewal, and that is very helpful at this kind of workout. You don’t need to take it as part of a diet regime, but always have some kind of creatine before and after workouts if you can. In case you take it before and after workouts to promote energy renewal then a pH corrected formula can do nicely, but doing a creatine regime is best using the good old mono-hydrate, or you can choose a designer creatine product too. Recommendations:

Low-cost solution
120 caps 
 
 
27,50 €
500 gr. 
 
6%   24,97 €  
23,41 €
240 gr. 
 
 
16,90 €

High-end solution
100 caps 
 
7%   11,22 €  
10,38 €
%
660 gr. 
 
22%   26,84 €  
21,00 €
300 gr. 
MHP 
 
 
26,83 €

“Nice to have” things

Since the workout routine will create unbelievable congestion, if you include some NO booster, you’ll feel something extraordinary. You won’t recognize yourself. This is optical enhancement, but there is something else to it too: better oxygen and nutrient levels towards the muscles, so you can achieve better performance, and better nutrient provisions make regeneration more effective.

An all-round product of essential amino acids taken before working out can enhance that effect even more as there is no point in a better flow of nutrients if there is nothing to carry by that immense volume of blood rushing into your muscles. It won’t hurt either to add some liquid amino to your drinking water during workouts, or at least some glutamine or BCAA.

Recommendation
825 gr. 
 
5%   33,41 €  
31,75 €
500 gr. 
 
5%   22,47 €  
21,34 €
1 lit. 
 
37%   31,00 €  
19,56 €

Of course, if you take a good look around in the shop, there is no limit to the money you can spend – you can buy testosterone enhancers, or extra products with exotic active substances that might work for you, or not. But if you purchase the things mentioned above, and keep yourself to the info provided, you’ll have both your workout experience and your development rocket boosted!

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