Reps vs Weight: Which is Better for Building Muscle Mass & Making Progression in the Gym?

Reps vs Weight Which is Better for Building Muscle Mass

Lots of clients ask me: should I add more weight or do higher reps for progression? Or what about more sets?

In this months issue of MASS (Monthly Application In Strength Sports) Eric Helms had an article tithed “Progression frame work for hypertrophy” which talked about progression through reps and load. Dr Mike also wrote an article which pushed towards adding sets. In the article he stated if the athlete is recovering why not add additional sets?

I want to offer my own opinion/insights and how we can interpret this information and apply it to our own training.

Reps VS Weight Vs Sets:

Firstly, lets not view this as either one or the other. Like my good friend Tim from Body Seek pointed out last week, “things aren’t always black and white, they are sometimes grey

Anyways, as a physique athlete progresses throughout his/her lifting career we know that volume load goes up – volume load being weight x reps x sets. Something to understand is that there are so many ways to manipulate these variables. The great thing about building your physique is that there is so many different paths you can take and still end up at the same destination.

Let’s talk adding set for progression. In my opinion, Dr Mike is right in saying why wouldn’t you add more volume (being additional sets) if someone is properly recovering. Proper recovery means that the sets you add are of high quality, and those higher quality sets will certainly induce an overload response since you are doing more than what you have done in the past.


Volume and intensity (effort applied) have an inverse relationship, more volume is only beneficial up to a point. I’ve seen this numerous times – people adding set after set at the expense of effort doing “junk volume”. Hence why Eric is also right in saying why add volume if weight/rep progressions provide an adequate training stimulus. If someone isn’t able to maintain a high training quality while adding volume then the additional volume would be like I said previously, considered “junk volume” and would not be additive to the training stimuli.

reps vs weight vs sets for muscle growth

So what do we do with these strategies?

Well how many famous programs do we know have used both strategies and got amazing results? Like I said earlier, success can come from different avenues. The road you choose is not right or wrong, it’s just different.


With my clients I use both strategies. Why? Because I allow the context of my client to dictate with path I go down. If you’d like to chat about how you can achieve the best results possible for you please feel free to contact us. Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about the services and training and nutrition programs we provide, please find more information here.

Hope that helps! Stay Safe

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