The 24-50 Principle
What's your goal: strength, hypertrophy (size), or fat loss?
We've all heard that certain set/rep schemes are best for each goal. While it's true that specific parameters are well-suited to an intended goal, these parameters are often pulled out of thin air. Every expert has different set/rep "rules." It gets confusing.
The 24-50 Principle cuts through the confusion.
Basically, I've found that certain minimal and maximal set/rep volumes are necessary for various structural and neural effects. I've devised key set/rep volume ranges for each one.
A sufficient set/rep volume will determine whether an athlete: increases maximal strength with hypertrophy, increases hypertrophy without regard for maximal strength, or provides a sufficient stimulus to maintain muscle mass during fat loss.
Depending on your main goal, your reps will range from a total anywhere between 24 to 50.
With the 24-50 Principle you'll be able to:
- Determine which set/rep range is ideal for your goals.
- Figure out why a program isn't working.
- Add variables to constantly manipulate your program design.
Pick your goal and see how to apply the 24-50 Principle to your training.
The philosophy of maximal strength training assumes that heavy-load, low-rep training will cause minimal, if any, muscle growth.
Those who greatly increase their loading often greatly reduce their volume. In other words, they perform low reps with heavy weights. Why? I blame traditional western linear periodization schemes that mandate low volumes and high loads.
Anyone who's been around the iron game for an appreciable amount of time knows that linear periodization has turned out to be a lesson in futility. So let's assume that such reasoning is insufficient and manipulate maximal strength parameters to up the volume.
Why increase volume? Because once you reach a certain set/rep volume threshold, hypertrophy will occur. If you seek maximal strength and hypertrophy, follow these guidelines:
The 24-50 Principle as it Applies to Maximal Strength with Hypertrophy
|24-36||80-90% of 1RM||70-180 sec.||2-4|
* per Week per Muscle Group
This table depicts the parameters necessary and sufficient to induce maximal strength gains with hypertrophy. Lifters often perform 3 x 3 or 5 x 3 during periods of maximal strength training. But such parameters can fall short of the minimal threshold required for hypertrophy.
Going from a 3 x 3 set/rep scheme to an 8 x 3 set/rep scheme would lead to an immediate hypertrophy effect.
A minimal load of 80% of 1RM is required to recruit high-threshold motor units, while 90% of 1RM appears to push the upper end of possible loading. Why? Because loads greater than 90% of 1RM are too taxing when striving for a set/rep volume of at least 24.
Strength parameter options: 8 x 3, 10 x 3, 12 x 3, 7 x 4, 8 x 4, or 9 x 4. These would all work well to increase maximal strength and hypertrophy.
Sometimes we just want to get big and we don't give a horse's ass how strong we are. If that's you, then this section's got you covered!
Merely seeking hypertrophy in a given phase of training can also benefit those who want maximal strength. Increased hypertrophy – via an accumulation of myosin and actin proteins – allows for greater force production in subsequent cycles.
Hypertrophy targeted training parameters vary more than any other goal. You perform one set to failure that usually consists of 12 reps or so. Therefore, a 1 x 12 volume would equate to a limp-wristed, pansy-assed set/rep volume of 12 – which would be insufficient for hypertrophy.
On the other hand, 10 x 10 schemes are often employed in pursuit of greater hypertrophy. This would equate to a set/rep volume of 100. The problem? The necessary loading wouldn't be ideal for hypertrophy. To perform such a high volume, you'd have to use a load of about 60% of your 1RM.
Such a load would be futile for hypertrophy training due to the fact that smaller motor units that possess suboptimal growth potential are primarily taxed.
So, if you want hypertrophy, aim for the following:
The 24-50 Principle as it Applies to Hypertrophy
|36-50||70-80% of 1RM||60-120 sec.||2-4|
* per Week per Muscle Group
If you want muscle growth, the stimulus must be sufficient without overkill. A minimum set/rep volume of 36 is required for hypertrophy, but such volume must be matched with proper load selection.
As you approach a load of 80% of 1RM, a volume of 36 is close to ideal for most lifters. As loads decrease, volume must be increased to induce hypertrophy. But any volume greater than 50 won't allow you to utilize a load of at least 70% of 1RM without inducing excessive structural and neural stress.
Hypertrophy parameter options: 6 x 6, 4 x 12, or 5 x 10. These would provide a powerful hypertrophy effect with the prescribed loads.
If you want to lose fat you'll need to balance intensity and volume. If the intensity is too low, you won't maintain or increase muscle. If the volume is too high, excessive structural damage will often occur and recovery will take longer than an obese geriatric running a marathon.
If you want to lose fat, then you'll also need an eating plan that forces your body into a deficit energy state. Such a state is stressful in itself, so weight-training parameters must adequately address this shortcoming.
The following parameters are ideal for those who want to maintain muscle mass without inducing excessive structural, neural, and hormonal stress:
The 24-50 Principle as it Applies to Fat Loss
|24-36||70-80% of 1RM||60-90 sec.||2-3|
* per Week per Muscle Group
The parameters would provide a sufficient stimulus for fat loss. They're tightly regulated since it's difficult to maintain a volume greater than 24-36 with 70-80% of 1RM during fat loss phases.
If you try to push the volume or intensity above these numbers, you may quickly become unmotivated (a sign of CNS stress) and excessively sore (a sign of excessive structural stress).
So both volume and intensity must be tightly maintained while the rest periods are decreased a little in order to provide a slightly larger cardiovascular stimulus.
Fat loss parameter options: 4 x 6, 4 x 8, 5 x 5, or 5 x 6. These will all work well to maintain muscle mass during hypocaloric eating phases.
Study these parameters before your next training phase. Plan them before every workout and rotate them throughout the week. Don't perform the same parameters for two consecutive workouts.
Don't be afraid to get creative, but stick to the recommended ranges. If you do, you'll be well on your way to the physique you desire.