The Reason You Should Lift 5 Sets of 15 Reps for Muscle Mass

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Doing 5 sets of 15 reps can help you build muscle when you're ready for a challenge.
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If gains are the goal, you may need to adjust your weightlifting program to 5 sets of 15 reps. Increasing the volume of your training could stimulate the hypertrophy (increase in muscle size) you're looking for.

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Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy — muscle growth stimulated by the higher rep, higher set ranges — may be what your specific body needs to build mass, according to Holly Perkins, CSCS, author of Lift To Get Lean. If you're seeing a plateau, consider incorporating this lifting scheme.

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Building Muscle Mass in the Gym

Building muscle requires a strategy. Hypertrophy occurs when you exercise with progressive overload (gradually increasing the weight you lift over time), according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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You can achieve hypertrophy by lifting less weight with more sets and/or reps or more weight with fewer sets and/or reps, Perkins says. Bottom line: Everybody responds differently and it takes some trial and error.

The amount of weight, sets or reps you lift are all components of your training volume, according to CrossFit coach Maillard Howell, founder of The Beta Way, a holistic wellness program. The higher your training volume, the larger your muscle growth, given that you're getting adequate sleep and nutrition, Howell says.

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While your current routine may involve a traditional routine of 3 sets of 10 reps per exercise, eventually your body will adapt and you will need to shift around some of those variables. This is why lifters generally increase their reps over time in order to continue fatiguing the muscle as it grows accustomed to the training, Howell says.

Your Optimal Set and Rep Range

The weight you lift varies by exercise, but performing each exercise at a higher set and rep range, like 5 sets of 15 reps, is one method to build muscle. Note: The weight you lift per rep will likely decrease at this high range of repetitions. If you're increasing to 15 reps from 10 reps, Howell says to decrease the weight you previously used for 10 reps by 40 percent.

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"Err on the side of lighter if you're trying this for the first time, as you may have a breakdown in technical form toward the end as fatigue sets in," he says.

While 5 sets of 15 reps is a good rep range for more seasoned lifters, Howell says beginners should try 5 sets of 10 reps. Start with a weight you can lift easily (about 50 percent of the heaviest you could lift one time). "This sounds super conservative, but trust me, it catches up," he says.

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Incorporating Recovery and Nutrition

Your muscles can't grow without rest. While you sleep, the body stores glucose as glycogen in the muscles, which is then used to fuel exercise, according to the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).

Not to mention, while you sleep and recover, human growth hormone (HGH), floods into your body to repair and grow muscles post-exercise, according to the ISSA. Without quality sleep, this process is disrupted.

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When it comes to nutrition, protein is the most important macronutrient for building muscle. Aim to get 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight, according to a July 2017 meta-analysis in the ​‌British Journal of Sports Medicine‌. For a 180-pound person, that would be about 130 grams of protein per day.

Although protein hogs the spotlight as the muscle-building macro, carbohydrates are just as crucial. Carbs are partially converted to glycogen and supply your muscles with energy, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — this is especially important if you're training in the 5-set, 15-rep range. For muscle growth, at least half of your daily calories should come from whole-food carbs, like brown rice or sweet potato.

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