Tip: The Best Rep Scheme for Size

Trigger muscle growth 3 different ways with this effective (but painful) loading method.

Ascending Loading with a Drop Set (12/10/8/6/20)

Ascending loading is one of the best rep schemes for building size because it increases mechanical tension (time under tension), stimulates metabolic stress (the pump), and increases muscular damage (muscle fiber recruitment) – the three vital ingredients for muscle growth.

  • The higher rep sets (12/10) will add training volume and metabolic stress.
  • The heavier sets (8/6) will add more mechanical tension to give you the ultimate one-two punch for muscle growth.
  • The 20-rep drop set should be performed right after the 6-rep set and serves as a "shock" method to wake up stagnant muscles.

Here's How It Works

The heavy-rep sets get your central nervous system firing on all cylinders and your body reacts with improved intramuscular coordination (the coordinated firing of motor units). Next, the mid-range reps will have you moving more efficiently due to enhanced intermuscular coordination.

Because you're moving more effectively at the neuromuscular level, you'll be able to lift heavier than normal for the 20-rep set, thereby creating a greater overall muscle building response.

Here's how it looks with a dumbbell bench press over a three-week span:

Week One

  • 70x12: Rest 60-90 seconds
  • 80x10: Rest 60-90 seconds
  • 90x8: Rest 60-90 seconds
  • 100x6: Rest 0-30 seconds
  • 50x20: Crawl to the water fountain

Week Two

  • 70x12: Rest 60-90 seconds
  • 85x10: Rest 60-90 seconds
  • 95x8: Rest 60-90 seconds
  • 100x6: Rest 0-30 seconds
  • 55x20: Sob quietly in the corner

Week Three

  • 75x12: Rest 60-90 seconds
  • 85x10: Rest 60-90 seconds
  • 95x8: Rest 60-90 seconds
  • 100x6: Rest 0-30 seconds
  • 60x20: Examine the ceiling as you suck air

If you miscalculate your 20-rep set, no worries. If you can't complete all 20, pause before hitting failure and rest for 15 seconds. Break up your 20-rep set into shorter sets until you complete 20 total reps. Once you can hit all 20 reps on the last set, increase the weight next time.

Eric Bach is a highly sought-after strength and conditioning coach, located in Colorado. Eric specializes in helping athletes and online clients achieve optimal performance in the gym and on the playing field. Follow Eric Bach on Facebook