Hypertrophy And Effective Reps - Incomplete Model?

Discussion in 'Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST)' started by mikeynov, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Super smart dude Greg Nuckols made a post over at exodus barbell on the topic of hypertrophy models and effective reps that I thought was worth considering:


    In my previous hypertrophy thread, we discussed the concept of "effective reps" that I first saw introduced by Borge/Blade. Basically the idea that the reps that really "count" in a set seem to be the ones at the end where you are in a state of maximal recruitment, particularly in sets of ~5+. So whether it's a set of 12 or 30, you only get something like 5 "effective" reps per set. Chris Beardlsey talks about the idea at length here:


    What's interesting about Greg's note above is that "effective reps" doesn't seem to be consistent with the fact that training to failure does NOT actually generate more growth per set. One of the consistent findings is that sets that are even near-ish failure, like 2+ reps away, seem to generate just as much hypertrophy, usually. If there are only 5 effective reps per set as per the Beardsley thinking of effective reps, then missing something like half of those should very much NOT result in identical hypertrophy. But it seems to all the same.

    Ron and I were previously speculating that sufficient work at high levels of recruitment and rate coding are necessary to grow optimally, but I'm not sure how to reconcile the rate coding model with this data either. Meaning that not all the motor units' rate coding are maxed out in submaximal sets that are in at least the ballpark of failure (probably still full recruitment), but still they seem to generate as much hypertrophy.

    I was reminded of the old idea of growth being turned "on" ala HIT thinking, but even that's not quite correct. Because it's not that growth is being turned "on" so much as growth is being maxed out under certain conditions, and if those conditions are met, then you've done all you can in that set to grow.

    So, the hypertrophic potential of a set is only maxed out when two things happen:

    1) Sufficient total time/reps/fatigue
    2) Sufficient levels of recruitment occur

    For #1, we appear to need to do > ~5-6 reps per set. For #2, we need to reach a condition of full recruitment, either by being heavy enough or close enough to failure.

    So testing this model, doing singles or triples satisfies #2, but not #1. So we'd predict that their growth potential would not be maxed out, and as per the research, this appears to be the case, though you can make up for it by doing a shitload of sets. Similarly, if we do really light weights but aren't very close to failure, we've satisfied #1, but not #2, and again, we'd predict suboptimal growth. Interestingly, like the singles example above, we can probably make up for it as long as we do enough volume, and there is some research where they still get pretty good growth doing a bunch of sets of 10 at ~60% 1 RM, for example, which is probably something like a ~15-20 RM, never really hitting full recruitment.

    Anyhoo, I just thought these thoughts were worth sharing, as Greg's comments made me reconsider the arguments we had back and forth in that other thread I made on the necessity of load progression in hypertrophy. The problem I see vs. the other thread is that we were sort of concluding that growth was something tantamount to the amount of total work being done near failure, but the problem with this would be that submaximal sets seem to consistently generate as good of growth as sets to failure as long as the two criteria above are filled.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Ron, you out there bro? :)
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
  2. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    I think a lot of it has to do with where you are in your training career. Beginners, intermediates and even early advanced lifters can grow with sub maximal training. Hard core long-time trainees, I believe, need to be close to failure a good part of the time to induce hypertrophy and Myo reps, as set forth by Borge, is a way to achieve that within the shortest amount of training time. It can also be achieved using regular training methods such as a 3 minute rest period between sets but you are going to have to perform many more reps to achieve the same level of recruitment and the total training time may be creating a negative impact on your central nervous system that may actually inhibit or even reverse growth. My belief is based on anecdotal experience only. After 60 years of lifting, I thought I was pretty much maxed out without abusing steroids. However, 9 months after a continuous program of Myo rep workouts, the difference, at least to me, is astounding. Again, I do believe that this type of program is limited in its usefulness to those that are solidly advanced, i.e., 5-10 years of serious lifting.

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