Many people in the training world either have little to no knowledge of proper applications of specific rep ranges and their applicable uses. To no fault of their own, many people stick to their 8-12 or 12-15 rep ranges to simply stay “fit”. These systems work well if you are just looking to stay mildly active and ‘look good’.
There have been many studies done in previous years understanding our physiological adaptations to resistance training and their approach to healthy living, but also athletic performance.
Muscular endurance is a term given to muscles that have a higher resistance to fatigue over multiple repetitions. This is a great training period for women who do not wish to look “bulky” or get too large of muscles. This can also be an effective first phase of a mult-phased athlete periodization training block. To train muscular endurance, the aim is to use lighter weights and higher reps (more than 12 to be accurate). The approach here is to have low intensity (weight/resistance) and higher volume (repetitions) to develop a little bit of strength and hypertrophy, but mainly to prime the muscles to be efficient and burn fat stores as a primary fuel source.
Muscular growth or “hypertrophy” has been shown to be most effective in a 6-12 rep range. This is the training style many bodybuilders use and mostly all males in a gym setting. This is generally works well as periodational middle ground. What I mean by this is that you are able to train your muscles in a little bit of multiple systems. The muscles have to adapt to be more efficient when pushing towards the 10th, 11th, and 12th repetition. Meanwhile, the muscles themselves are developing a little bit more strength and power, while also growing in cross-sectional area, or size. Again, this tends to be most effective for males who want to ‘look good’!
Power training is generally only used in training modalities of professional and higher-end collegiate athletes as they have the equipment and staff available for such goals. Power training is aiming for that 1-6 repetition range. Here, you have a little bit of muscular hypertrophy, virtually no efficiency training, but you are training the muscles to be very strong and powerful. The types of exercises performed are things most people would associate with seeing on TV such as deadlifts, power cleans, push press, etc. They are highly dangerous exercises that should only be carried out in proper settings with proper trainers and personnel as you are aiming for low volume (reps) and high intensity (resistance) to max out your muscles in that 1-6 rep range.
So how does this apply to the athlete world you ask? Certain sports may require athletes to be of a certain size and weight while maintaining power and performance. This applies in multiple ways. For example, an American football lineman may want to reach a certain goal weight in his off-season training to not only have a lot of muscle mass, but to also be heavier and therefore harder to push around. His training periodizational approach would be to spur on muscular growth, but then to train with power exercises to give his muscles a fast, explosive nature to them.
Let’s look at a Professional European soccer (football) star though. Sure, his off-season training goals may also be to gain some speed, power and strength, but he does not want to put on a lot of muscle as that could hinder his agility and performance. By adding certain amounts of muscle to his body, he would essentially have to re-train his muscles to be as skillful as they were before.
The soccer star’s approach, which is one that has come under review lately, is one that may surprise some individuals. Individuals of these types of sports would need to rely more on the muscular endurance and muscular power type of training modes by either doing repetitive exercises with very high reps, or skipping the 6-12 rep range workouts completely and aiming for power-lifting type exercises.
Another perfect example of this type of training is NHL hockey players. Many of these athletes take part in off-season training that makes them faster, stronger, and more powerful by combining high-volume/low-intensity and low volume/high-intensity training without putting on too much mass. This is done in an effort to improve performance without sacrificing any of their speed and agility!