There's a lot of small details that people get way too caught up in when they decide to induce muscle hypertropy. One of them are reps, specifically how many to for muscle growth. Generally, you'll hear people toss out things like 3-5 for strength, 8-12 for muscle growth, and anything beyond that is just endurance.
I'd love to know where that all came from. If anyone knows, please drop me a line. Or, is this a case that proves the point, "success has many parents and failure is an orphan?"
For as long as I've trained, I've never bought into that. Back in 2007, i grew my upper back and arms (in addition to my entire body) by doing pull-ups and chin-ups in 15-20 rep ranges. How did that happen? I discussed this a while back, in this post.
I don't see the point in regurgitating old posts yet again. Besides, like any other form of regurgitation, people don't generally have positive reaction to it. I do have something to add to it, to further get the mind off of the strict importance of rep ranges.
Lately, I've been doing quite a few exercises that render it impossible to fit into the normal, pretty category of one rep. When we think of an exercise, we're kind of accustomed to a movement that has a definitive concentric (muscle shortens) movement followed by an eccentric (muscle lengthens) movement... or sometimes the other way around. Either way, put them together, and you've got A REP!
What about rope climbing? Going up is nothing but concentric movement. Going down is nothing but eccentric movement. What do you consider one rep on that? What's the rep range for building size and strength on that one? I can certainly vouch that it can! Or, what about any kind of carrying or farmers walk work? Does it even have concentric and eccentric movement? Better still, how about pushing a car? Most people that do car pushing do a lot more than just 20 "pushes" in the scheme of doing so. Is that just endurance? Try it and get back to me...and don't be a smart ass and use a SmartCar!
What's also very interesting about these three is that if you ask anyone who has done them with any kind of frequency, they'll tell you that you can, and will, get brutally strong with them.
Hey! There's a workout for you: Rope climb, truck push, and farmers walks. PhunSHUNcTal too!
This kind of brings up another angle to muscle confusion. By destroying the typical eccentric+concentric=one rep movement that makes up most exercises, we have another angle to building some awesome strength. Let's level with each other: after a while, if we get tired enough, our body instinctively finds ways to make the rep easier, usually by dropping out the controlled, eccentric movement. You can't do that when you're hanging 12' off the ground anymore (unless you love sore elbows, or the the sensation of hitting the ground from the top of the rope).
That's why I'd rather think in terms of amount of time under contraction rather than reps. I will say that for a beginner, giving rep ranges have their place. They make for a good starting point. Besides, a lot of the exercises (maybe the concept of scrambling concentric+eccentric=rep isn't for beginners anyway) I described aren't exactly beginner's movements. It just goes to show that there isn't this carved-in-stone rulebook to getting big, buff, powerful and sexy.