This article is authored by Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS. Opinions expressed may not be that of SMARTER Team Training, STT sponsors or constituents. Joe is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach and Fitness Director at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA, where he presides over the assessment, preparation, and implementation of training programs for athletes in grades 6 through 12 and a diverse and accomplished alumni base currently competing in college athletics and in a host of professional and amateur leagues.

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Lifters and athletes in pursuit of adding muscle inevitably stumble upon training plateaus. Plateaus can thwart a lifter’s muscle building efforts, eliciting frustration and the urge to abandon their goals of gaining muscle. Over the next three weeks I will share tips that have worked for me throughout my career.

Let’s get started. Sometimes an overlooked aspect of training, but a necessary one at time – Vary Your Rep Ranges.

Most lifters and athletes hamper their muscular development by mistakenly using the same rep schemes throughout their training, leaving a lot of potential for growth still on the table. Utilizing a spectrum of rep ranges from low high reps stimulate muscle growth via the recruitment of muscle fibers, both fast and slow. It should be noted that intensity and velocity of the contraction determines the recruitment, activation, and synchronization of muscle fibers

Bodybuilders have long suggested that the sweet spot for muscle building is between 8 and 12 repetitions, which is roughly between 70 to 80% of a person’s one rep max. However, research suggests that performing higher repetitions with as little as 30% of 1RM (1) to lower repetitions with a much as 85% of 1RM have been proven effective in stimulating muscle growth (2).

It should be noted that there are two distinct types of hypertrophy – myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic. Myofibrillar hypertrophy, which is characterized by an increase of a muscle’s contractile content resulting from the stress of lifting heavier loads, is best induced from lower reps conducted at higher percentages of 1RM.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy consists of the collection of fluid and non-contractile matter, including glycogen within the muscle cell, is typically accomplished through performing higher repetitions conducted with lower loads. Higher rep ranges also bolster the tensile strength of tendons and ligaments, as well as enhance mitochondrial accretion and drive up lactate threshold which increase muscular endurance.

Joe Giandonato also serves an adjunct instructor of exercise science and fitness electives at colleges throughout the Philadelphia-area. In addition to his coaching and teaching duties, Giandonato is also a contributing author on a number of health, fitness, and strength and conditioning websites, including Previously, Giandonato held stints at Saint Joseph’s University, where he assisted with their strength and conditioning program and at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he developed and availed health promotion programming in a number of departments. Giandonato can be reached via e-mail at


1. Mitchell CJ, Churchward-Venne TA, West DW, et al. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypetrophic gains in young men. J Physiol. 2012;590:4351-4361.

2. Willborn CD, Taylor LW, Greenwood M, et al. Effects of different intensities of resistance exercise on regulators of myogenesis. 2009;23:2179-2187.