Sample Muscle-Building Routine Using All Rep Ranges
When we last left off during this muscle-building series we were discussing which rep range was the best for building muscle. If you missed it I’d suggest taking a step back and going through that before continuing on but for the sake of time I’ll provide a quick recap. While an intermediate rep range of around 8-12 reps is widely considered the hypertrophy (muscle size) rep range it’s important to include all rep ranges for the best possible results. Low rep ranges which build strength will increase your intermediate and high rep weights while high rep ranges which increase musclar-endurance will in turn allow you to perform better and longer with your intermediate and lower rep weights.
By now you know you should incorporate all rep ranges in your routine, but how do you go about doing that? In future articles I will be going into greater detail over some of the different periodization strategies you can choose from and what some of the benefits and drawbacks of each style can be, but for now I want to offer a simple solution for your muscle building needs. In this article I will be giving you a strategy to put everything together by giving you a specific routine you can follow should you wish. This routine will incorporate all the strategies I’ve been covering so far in this series.
While this routine is for a more experienced lifter and not something I’d recommend to a true beginner (if you haven’t been lifting for at least a year this probably isn’t for you) this article will also be more for someone a little less advanced in program building (or even following) which will give you a simple way to include all rep ranges and have you building muscle faster than you probably thought possible especially if you were following the typical bro-split of one muscle group per week.
The first thing you will want to do is set up a routine that has two days of heavy lifting, one each for upper body and lower body, and two or three days of lifting lighter weights depending on how advanced you are and how much time you have to devote to lifting. This program WILL, however, require at least 4 days of lifting per week. If you can’t do that I’d recommend full body workouts but that’s not for this article.
On the heavy days you will choose one compound exercise for legs and one compound exercise for both chest and back to lift a weight you can do between 3-5 reps at. The rest of your exercises on these days will be between 6 and 8 reps. Again this is heavy day so you want to avoid going too light.
On your lighter days your rep ranges will vary greatly. Here for each muscle group you will be splitting up the rep ranges for each exercise. You will hit each muscle group with 3 exercises. One will be between 8-12 reps, the next between 12-15 and the last will be 15-25. If you are doing a four-day split you will once again do one upper body and one lower body circuit. If you are lifting 5 days per week you can split up your upper body between two of those days (or theoretically you could split up lower body too) on either end of your leg day. How you decide to split up your upper body is up to you, there is no right or wrong answer. If you have certain lagging parts, you will want to give them extra work.
An example 5-day routine could look like this:
Monday – Heavy Legs
Tuesday – Heavy Upper
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Light Chest and Shoulders
Friday – Light Legs
Saturday – Light Back and Arms
Sunday – Off
For those of you looking for a sample routine I will include one below. Please keep in mind this is only a template. The exercises I am prescribing are not necessarily the “best” exercises and they most certainly can be changed and should be after you’ve done this for a while. The beauty of this template is you can stay on it pretty much forever if you wanted, so long as the weights are increasing and/or you are changing the exercises or even changing the rep schemes of the exercises you are using. The same thing goes for number of exercises and sets. The volume in this routine is high and if you aren’t an experienced lifter you will probably want to decrease it a bit.
Please note all exercises are performed for 3 sets.
Day 1 – Heavy Legs
- Back Squats or Deadlifts – 3-5 Reps
- Leg Press – 8-10 Reps
- Hack Squats – 8-10 Reps
- Romanian Deadlift – 8-10 Reps
- Lying Leg Curl – 8-10 Reps
- Standing Calf Raise – 8-10 Reps
- Seated Calf Raise – 8-10 Reps
Day 2 – Heavy Upper
- Bench Press- 3-5 Reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press – 8-10 Reps
- Weighted Dips – 8-10 Reps
- Bentover Rows – 3-5 Reps
- Weighted Pullups – 8-10 Reps
- T-Bar Rows – 8-10 Reps
- Standing Barbell Shoulder Press – 8-10 Reps
Day 3 – Rest
Day 4 – Light Chest and Shoulders
- Dumbbell Chest Press – 8-12 Reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press – 8-12 Reps
- Decline Barbell Press – 12-15 Reps
- Cable Cross Or Incline DB Flyes – 14-18 Reps
- Arnold Press – 8-12 Reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises – 12-15 Reps
- Dumbbell Front Raises – 14-18 Reps
Day 5 – Light Legs
- Back Squats or Deadlifts – 8-12 Reps
- Front Squats – 12-15 Reps
- Leg Extensions – 14-18 Reps
- Stiff Legged Deadlift – 8-12 Reps
- Standing Good Mornings – 12-15 Reps
- Seated Leg Curl – 14-18 Reps
- Standing Calf Raises – 12-15 Reps
- Seated Calf Raises – 14-18 Reps
Day 6 – Light Back and Arms
- Bentover Rows – 8-12 Reps
- Seated Rows – 12-15 Reps
- Lat Pulldowns – 14-18 Reps
- Skull Crushers – 8-12 Reps
- Rope Pulldowns – 12-15 Reps
- Barbell Curls – 8-12 Reps
- Hammer Curls – 12-15 Reps
Day 7 Rest
Notes for heavy days: You will want your rest periods to be longer on this days. For your 3-5 rep lifts take as much time as needed to feel recovered and ready to hit the weight again. You only have one thing in mind in these lifts, lift as much weight as possible! Once you are able to reach more than 5 reps increase the weight. For me personally when I was on a similar routine I would go up in weight as soon as I was able to hit 5 reps. For the 6-8 rep exercises keep the rest periods around 2-3 minutes.
Notes for light days: On these days the goal is to keep moving quickly. Keep your rest periods around 60-90 seconds. You will probably need to drop the weight each set to be able to stay in the rep range with the minimal rest. Staying in the rep range is more important than keeping the weight the same and getting less reps. It will take some time to figure out how to do this but you’ll get it in time. It’s not about perfection.
Again, I want to stress this is only a sample routine and it can and should be adjusted to your experience level and your needs. If you have lagging body parts adjust to give them more volume instead of other areas. If this is too much or too little volume based on what you’ve been doing you can take out or add in some exercises or change some of the exercises to 2 or 4 sets instead of 3. Also, if you want to do squats and deadlifts together you can but again I’d recommend that for more experienced lifters and I’d put them both on leg day. For me personally I have an easier time doing squats before deadlifts than the other way around.
Lastly keep in mind you will need to periodically deload with this program. It’s a high volume high intensity program and your body will need opportunities to recover. When you first get into it if you are not used to this type of work you will probably be very tired and very sore the first 2-3 weeks. This is normal and important to push through to get what’s call the repeated bout effect (1) which is essentially your body’s ability to adjust and accommodate to repeated physical stress by becoming more adept at repairing itself.
After this initial adaptation you will start to feel better. After that once you start to feel extremely fatigued consistently, or if you are like me and love to train and suddenly you have no desire to train for a length of time, you’ll want to deload for around a week but take however long you need to feel refreshed and ready to go. This is when your body is actualizing the gains you’ve made and you’ll come back better than ever.
If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below and I will be sure to get back to you. In the mean time, lift big or stay small!