I don’t need to tell you that when it comes to hitting your fitness goals, your success hinges on having a solid plan of action. Without consistency, you won’t get the results you’re after. But far too often, I see women get tunnel vision with their programs, sticking to one concept rather than applying an individualized approach to their training. For instance, defaulting to the 8-10 rep range with every set of every exercise because they’re convinced it’s the only way to achieve muscle hypertrophy.
The fact of the matter is your rep range needs to vary in order to hit and activate more muscle fibers and in turn, achieve the sculpted physique you’re working so hard to build. Here’s what you need to know in order to build an approach “just right” for you.
Your body contains slow, intermediate, and fast twitch muscle fibers, each of which behave in different ways during your workout. Slow fibers recover quickly and engage during endurance activities, intermediate fibers are powerful but do not have the staying power of the slower muscle fibers, and fast twitch are the most powerful, achieving all-out exertion efforts.
Why am I telling you this? In order to achieve muscle growth and size, you need to activate the full spectrum of muscle fibers in your body by engaging in different repetition ranges, along with various movements through the proper time, type and force of movement.
THE GOLDILOCKS PRINCIPLE
The “Goldilocks Load” refers to a rep range and time under tension that is, like that fabled porridge from childhood stories, not too hot, not too cold, but just right. This method of training requires you to produce an effort quickly enough so as not to give the fast and most powerful muscle fibers the bulk of the work, but also not so slow that the intermediate and slow twitch fibers have sufficient time to recover and reprocess the effort back to the fast twitch. It may sound confusing at first, but don’t worry, your program won’t be a cluttered mess of exercise loads and principles, but rather a planned progression of exercises and rep ranges that effectively stimulate lean muscle growth.
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This program will follow a template of progression that looks like this: Heavy Compound Movement, Intermediate Compound Movement, and High-Rep Isolation.
These principles will allow you to construct a training day that capitalizes on the full spectrum of muscle recruitment by incorporating compound and isolation, multiple repetition ranges and fatigue on isolation exercises.
- The Heavy Compound will follow your warm-up and tackle the fast twitch (high threshold) fibers and require a rep range of 1-6.
- The Intermediate Compound Movement will use an 8-10 rep range and focus more on muscle activation and form than power and movement.
- The High-Rep Isolation exercise will focus on a 12-20 rep range and allow for a longer time under tension, but will fatigue the muscle by the end of the set.