Getting ripped is done through a diet that places you in a caloric deficit and weight training to build and retain lean muscle.
But today, we are going to specifically talk about high rep training, and whether or not it’s the best way to get ripped.
In this article we will cover everything you need to know about high rep training and getting ripped:
- What is Considered High Reps?
- Whis is Considered “Ripped”
- The Difference Between Lean vs Ripped vs Jacked
- Do High Reps Get You Ripped
- Benefits of High Rep Training
- Sets & Reps: Rules to Follow to Get Ripped
- Best Rep Ranges to Get Ripped: Final Verdict
What Is Considered High Reps?
Depending on who you ask, the number of repetitions that is considered “high” will vary. This is because different goals and sports have drastically different needs.
For general fitness and strength training, something is considered to be high reps when 15 or more reps are performed. Performing 8-15 reps is considered to be moderate reps, whereas anything below 8 is lower rep training.
Outside of the general fitness scene, however, these ranges may drastically differ.
For example, in maximal strength and power sports like powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting, high reps may be between 8-20 reps, and is often reserved for accessory work. The bulk of training occurs in the moderate rep ranges of 5-10 reps and the lower rep ranges of 1-5 reps.
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What Is Considered “Ripped”?
The term “ripped” is given to describe a very lean individual who has noticeable muscles (shirt on or off), vascularity (veins), and minimal body fat.
While there is no objective measurement to qualify someone as ripped, it is commonly accepted that if someone is ripped they have a body fat percentage that is under 8% (men) and a little higher for women, with noticeable muscle size.
They will have visible abs, built upper bodies, and developed lower bodies.
Do High Reps Help You Get Ripped?
Generally speaking, you want to train both low and high reps to get ripped. Not just high reps.
Training with low to moderate rep ranges can help you get ripped as low rep training at hard intensities will help you maintain strength to ensure you are able to do more work with lighter weights.
In other words, the stronger you are the more work you can do with lighter loads, and the more volume you can achieve in the long run
Remember, volume is the product of reps x sets x load, and more training volume equals more muscle mass.
Training with higher reps can help you get ripped as higher rep training allows you to achieve higher volumes by increasing the amount of reps you perform, which can increase your overall workload.
So, do high reps help you get ripped?
Yes, but getting ripped with weights is not exclusive to higher rep training.
In fact, one study that looked at the effects of various forms of exercise on energy expenditure (calorie burn) found that both low rep and high rep training increased the amount of calories burned post exercise significantly more than moderate to hard intensity cycling (cardio) done at 80% of heart rate max (1).
There were no significant differences between low vs high rep groups when it came to which was better for burning more calories post exercise, however, in this study the lower rep group did have slightly higher calorie burn levels than the high rep group (not statistically significant though).
The biggest variable that plays a significant role in getting you ripped is your diet.
Without being in a caloric deficit, also known as negative energy balance (you burn more calories than you consume) you will not lose significant amounts of body fat (or enough to get you ripped). It is a very simple mathematical equation:
Calories Consumed – (Calories Burned at Rest + Calories Burned Through Exercise) = Total Calories.
Other Benefits of High Rep Training
Below are four other benefits of high rep training that have been established in scientific, peer-reviewed journals. It is important to note that some of these benefits also apply to low and moderate rep training, as most studies have a wide range of repetitions that qualify as “high repetition”.
It is made clear through all of these studies that resistance training done with high reps needs to be accompanied with high intensity (training to failure). If done, high reps can produce significant improvements in lean muscle mass, strength, fitness, body composition, and bone mineral density.
High Rep Training is More Effective at Improving Lean Muscle and Body Composition Than Cardio
Building muscle is a byproduct of lifting weights. Research has shown that weight training can be just as effective as aerobic training (aka cardio) in fat loss, with the added benefit of increasing lean muscle building and retention rates (not losing muscle) more than cardio (2).
This is a significant finding for anyone who is looking to get as ripped as possible.
These findings demonstrate that you can lift weights and lose fat without doing cardio.
Additionally, by spending more time lifting weights, you are able to lose higher proportions of body weight from fat, rather than losing muscle and fat, which would have a negative impact on your body composition.
High Rep Training Can Help Beginners Lose Fat and Improve Strength Without Strict Dieting
While dieting is a critical and necessary part of weight and fat loss, researchers have concluded that in untrained individuals lifting weights can be a great way to kick start fat loss and muscle gain (even better than cardio) without needing to adhere to a strict diet plan (3).
Researchers studied 20 untrained women, ages 19-44, who participated in a 12-week, twice a week moderate intensity resistance training program.
They found that when compared to the control group (who did not train), untrained women who lifted weights twice per week significantly decreased body fat, improved strength, and increased their metabolism without changing their diet.
While the results were nothing earth shattering (they lost on average 2% body fat, from 29% to 27% over the course of 12 weeks), the takeaway here is that doing minimal amounts of weight training can produce some results (albeit small improvements in fat loss).
Imagine what would happen if you were able to lift 4+ times a week and follow a training program that tracked and progressed your workouts based on your performance in the gym every week!
It is safe to assume that if you also added a healthy calorically restricted diet into the mix, your results would be significantly greater than the above study!
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Maintain Your Weight Loss After A Diet with High Rep Training
Regaining weight after a diet is a very common and very avoidable diet mistake. Many dieters regain some or all of the weight they lose due to unrealistic diet practices, ceasing to workout after the diet ends, or going back to old eating habits.
So how does high rep training help avoid this?
Researchers found that continuing to lift weight following a weight loss phase can help you preserve lean muscle mass, increase strength, and help keep your metabolism higher than if you were to cease training (4).
By lifting weights during and after a weight loss phase, you are able to build or preserve as much muscle as you can during the diet, keep your metabolism high after a diet phase, and ultimately decrease the likelihood of regaining weight after a diet.
Low Load, High Rep Training Can Increase Bone Mineral Density in Aging Population
It has been established that lifting weights, specifically heavier loads can enhance bone mineral density and slow down bone loss from aging. Previously, it was unknown whether or not increases in BMD could also be seen after low load, high rep training.
In 2015, a study found that lower load training done for high reps and volume produces significant improvements in bone mineral density when compared to non-weight bearing exercises (5).
These findings make a case for low load, high rep training as a viable alternative to heavier weight training in populations that may not be able to lift as heavy.
Sets & Reps: Rules To Follow To Get Ripped
We have already established that getting ripped is done almost entirely through a diet program that is calorically restricted and lifting weights. The specific sets and reps recommendations for getting ripped are not that much different than building muscle.
Ideally, you would train each muscle group with both lower and high rep training:
- Performing 2-5 sets of 5-10 reps per muscle group with heavier loads, per week, may be enough to help retain strength during the diet phase.
- Moderate (10-15 reps) and higher rep training (15-30 reps) should be done as well to increase overall training volume, work performed, and help retain as much lean muscle mass you can during a diet. Total sets for higher rep training per muscle group can range from 8-15 total sets per week.
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Best Rep Range to Get Ripped: Final Verdict
When it comes to how many sets and reps you should follow to get ripped, you will want to include both low and high rep training into your program.
Assuming you are in a caloric deficit (which is a necessary part of getting ripped) training hard can be tricky, especially if your energy levels are lower due to not eating as much.
For that reason, it is recommended to first train with heavier loads and lower reps first in a workout session to allow for strength improvements to be made when you are less fatigued. Lifting heavier for lower reps also helps increase metabolism and helps to preserve muscle mass and strength.
Higher rep training should be use after lower reps, or on other days that focus more on higher rep training to boost overall training volume and allow you to train a muscle to failure so that you can increase energy expenditure (aids in fat loss) and accumulate enough muscular stress and tension on the muscle to stimulate growth (or at least muscle retention).
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.
- Elliot, D. L., Goldberg, L., & Kuehl, K. S. (1992). Effect of resistance training on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. J Appl Sport Sci Res, 6(2), 77-81.
- Ballor, D. L., & Keesey, R. E. (1991). A meta-analysis of the factors affecting exercise-induced changes in body mass, fat mass and fat-free mass in males and females. International journal of obesity, 15(11), 717-726.
- Cullinan, K., & Caldwell, M. (1998). Weight training increases fat-free mass and strength in untrained young women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 98(4), 414-418.
- Hunter, G. R., Byrne, N. M., Sirikul, B., Fernández, J. R., Zuckerman, P. A., Darnell, B. E., & Gower, B. A. (2008). Resistance training conserves fat‐free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity, 16(5), 1045-1051.
- Nicholson, V. P., McKean, M. R., Slater, G. J., Kerr, A., & Burkett, B. J. (2015). Low-load very high-repetition resistance training attenuates bone loss at the lumbar spine in active post-menopausal women. Calcified tissue international, 96(6), 490-499.