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DC Training Rep Ranges: The Ultimate Guide!

DC Training is one of the most popular bodybuilding training programs in the world. It was invented by Dante Trudel to help bodybuilders add muscle mass as fast as humanly possible.

If you want to get the most out of this bodybuilding program then you MUST use the correct rep ranges for each muscle group!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Rest-Pause Set Rep Ranges
  • Part 2: Straight Set Rep ranges
  • Part 3: Widowmaker Set Rep Ranges
  • Part 4: Upper Body Rep Ranges
  • Part 5: Lower Body Rep Ranges
  • Part 6: Rep Ranges While Dieting
  • Part 7: Rep Ranges For Older Lifters

In this comprehensive guide I’m going to share with you Dante Trudel’s recommended DC Training rep ranges.

You will learn the rep ranges that work best for each muscle group and exercise, as well as how to vary your reps if you are an older lifter or in a pre-contest dieting phase.

If you’re looking for a general overview of DC Training instead of a detailed discussion on DC Training rep ranges then check out the following articles:

One of the most confusing aspects of DC Training is the target rep ranges.

The target rep ranges are different for each muscle group. They also vary for different exercises for each muscle group such as incline bench presses vs incline dumbbell presses.

DC Training uses three different types of sets:

  • Type #1: Rest-Pause Sets
  • Type #2: Straight Sets
  • Type #3: Widowmaker Sets

If you want to get the most out of DC Training then it’s critical that you understand these three set types.

A rest-pause set is a high-intensity training method where you train to failure three times in a row on an exercise with 20-30 seconds rest in between each set.

Here is what a rest-pause set might look like in the real world:

  • Step #1: Train to failure in the 7-10 rep range, then take 12-15 deep breaths
  • Step #2: Train to failure again with the same weight, then take 12-15 deep breaths
  • Step #3: Train to failure again with the same weight, done!

Here is the DC Training guru Dusty Hanshaw giving a perfect demonstration of a rest-pause set:

It’s very important that you actually fail on your last rep of each attempt. If you barely squeeze out your 8th rep then you lower the weight back down and try the 9th rep even if you can’t get it.

Dante Trudel likes to joke that if you don’t have the mental fortitude to train to failure then you are a “candy-ass Nancy-boy” and DC Training probably isn’t for you.

With rest-pause sets Dante doesn’t care too much about the number of reps you got on your first attempt. Instead Dante wants you to keep track of the total number of reps you got on all 3 sets.

Let’s say you got 9 reps on the first attempt, 3 reps on the second attempt and 2 reps on the third attempt. Dante would say you got (9+3+2) = 14 reps rest-paused.

For your rest-pause sets Dante wants you to have a target range of repetitions for each body part or exercise.

Here are some sample rest-pause rep ranges:

  • Option #1: 11-15 RP
  • Option #2: 11-20 RP
  • Option #3: 15-25 RP
  • Option #4: 20-30 RP

The optimal rep ranges for rest-pause sets differ for each body part and exercise. There are 2 “set in stone” rules though:

The 2 Rest-Pause Rep Range Rules

  • Rule #1: Dumbbells presses are always performed for 15-30 reps rest-paused
  • Rule #2: Triceps isolation exercises are always performed for 15-30 reps rest-paused

Dante wants you performing dumbbell pressing exercises in higher rep ranges for practical reasons.

If you get 7 reps on your first attempt on incline dumbbell presses then it will be very hard to get the dumbbells in position for your 2nd and 3rd attempt.

On the other hand if you get 12 reps on your first attempt then this will be much easier.

Triceps isolation exercises like skull crushers are also performed in the 15-30 rest-pause rep range. This is done for safety reasons.

The last thing you want is to hurt your elbows trying to do something like (7+3+1) = 11 RP. You will get just as much growth in your triceps and stay much safer if you do something like (11+5+3) = 19 RP.

Just take a look at Dusty performing dead skulls for triceps:

Dusty gets over 15 reps on his first attempt with the weight. It doesn’t matter though – as long as he is training to failure and lifting progressively heavier weights he is going to grow!

Rest-pause sets are performed for the following muscle groups:

  • Muscle Group #1: Chest
  • Muscle Group #2: Shoulders
  • Muscle Group #3: Triceps
  • Muscle Group #4: Back Width
  • Muscle Group #5: Biceps
  • Muscle Group #6: Hamstrings (Sometimes)

I will cover Dante’s recommended rep ranges for each of these body parts down below. But first we have to talk about straight sets and the dreaded “widowmaker” set.

A straight set is just a regular set performed all the way to failure. There isn’t anything fancy that you have to do.

DC Training uses straight sets for the following muscle groups:

  • Muscle Group #1: Back Thickness
  • Muscle Group #2: Forearms
  • Muscle Group #3: Calves
  • Muscle Group #4: Hamstrings (Sometimes)
  • Muscle Group #5: Quads

The main reason why Dante Trudel doesn’t use rest-pause sets with these exercises is it isn’t safe to do so.

For example it would be incredibly stupid to do an all-out rest-pause set on conventional deadlifts. Your lower back would be too fatigued on the second and third attempts and your risk of injury would shoot through the roof.

Just take a look at Dusty Hanshaw performing a set of t-bar rows:

If you put that kind of intensity into your back thickness sets then your back will be smoked after 1-2 straight sets! Trying to do a rest-pause set on back thickness is just asking for an injury.

The same is true for quads: it is just too risk to do a true rest-pause set on something like squats. I will cover the recommended rep ranges for these exercises below.

Now let’s talk about the infamous “widowmaker” set. A widowmaker set is Dante’s version of a 20-rep breathing squat. The basic idea is to take your 10-12 rep max and perform 20 reps in a row with it. Here is how it works:

The DC Training Widowmaker Set

  • Step #1: Perform 10-12 reps with your 10-12 rep max, then rest with the bar on your back
  • Step #2: Perform 1-3 more reps in a row, then rest with the bar on your back
  • Step #3: Perform 1-3 more reps in a row, then rest with the bar on your back

You keep repeating this process until you have performed 20 total reps. Here is a great video of Justin Harris performing a widowmaker set on back squats:

Justin Harris squats 500 pounds for 16 reps – WOW!

If you watch the video carefully you will see that Justin performs 8 reps in a row, then performs 8 extra reps with short rest breaks where he locks out his legs to catch his breath. This is what you want!

For quads you perform 1 straight set and 1 widowmaker set. I’ll cover that more below.

DC Training use an upper body / lower body split performed there days per week. Here is what the upper body day looks like:

The DC Training Upper Body Workout

  • Exercise #1: Chest
  • Exercise #2: Shoulders
  • Exercise #3: Triceps
  • Exercise #4: Back Width
  • Exercise #5: Back Thickness

Chest exercises are normally performed for 11-15 reps rest-paused. The chest has a larger percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers and responds well to lower rep ranges. Something like (8+3+2) = 13 RP is perfect.

If you are performing a dumbbell exercise such as an incline dumbbell press then bump up the rep range to 15-30 RP for safety reasons.

Shoulder exercises are normally performed for 11-20 reps rest-paused. Some DC Trainees get better results using the lower end of the rep range while others do better with higher reps for shoulders.

If you are using dumbbells then aim for 15-30 RP for safety reasons.

Triceps exercises are normally performed for 11-15 reps rest-paused. Dante is a big believer in compound pressing movements like close grip bench presses / reverse grip bench presses / dips and he wants these performed in lower rep ranges.

If you are performing a triceps isolation exercise then aim for 15-30 RP for safety reasons. If you are using a hammer strength dip machine then you may want to aim for 15-25 RP for safety reasons as well.

Back width exercises are performed for 11-20 reps rest-paused. The lats have a healthy mix of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers and respond well to a wide variety of rep ranges. I recommend you experiment and find what works best for you.

Back thickness exercises are performed for 1 or 2 straight sets. If you are deadlifting then Dante wants you doing 1-2 straight sets in the 4-12 rep range.

For example you could do 1 set of 5-7 reps and 1 set of 9-11 reps. You can also perform your lighter set first if you want. The choice is up to you.

Here is Dusty Hanshaw demonstrating his 4 favorite back thickness exercises: deadlifts, smith machine rows, rack deadlifts and t-bar rows. Check it out:

Note: for deadlifts you should stop 1 rep shy of failure. In other words get as many reps as you can without missing and without getting sloppy with your form.

The last thing you want is to literally fail on your last rep of deadlifts and hurt your lower back.

For heavy rowing exercises Dante wants you performing 1-2 straight sets in the 8-20 rep range. IFBB pro David Henry often performed 1 heavy set of 10 reps and a lighter but still heavy set of 20 reps.

Dante likes his athletes to perform heavy rowing exercises with a decent amount of “cheating” so even if you use higher rep ranges the weight should still be heavy enough to stimulate growth.

The DC training lower body day is organized as follows:

DC Training Lower Body Rep Ranges

  • Exercise #1: Biceps
  • Exercise #2: Forearms
  • Exercise #3: Calves
  • Exercise #4: Hamstrings
  • Exercise #5: Quads

Biceps exercises are normally performed for 15-25 reps rest-paused. Dante found over the years that most DC Trainees get better biceps growth with a slightly higher rep range.

There are a couple of reasons for this: the biceps have more slow-twitch muscle fibers and the higher reps makes it easier to stay strict with your form. When the reps get too low it is very easy to cheat on your biceps exercises and take tension off of the biceps.

Forearms are trained with 1 straight set of 8-12 reps. Dante Trudel found that his DC Trainees were overtraining their forearms when they rest-paused forearm exercises. It’s best to perform 1 straight set to failure and move on.

Calves are performed for 1 straight set of 7-10 reps. Dante has a special way of performing his calve exercises: he has you perform a 5-10 second pause in the bottom position on every rep. If you perform this correctly then that 1 set will give you plenty of time under tension.

Hamstrings are performed for 1 rest-pause set OR 1-2 straight sets. It just depends on the exercise. Leg curls are always performed for 1 rest-pause set. You can use the 11-15 RP rep range or the 15-30 RP rep range.

The hamstrings are a fast-twitch muscle and respond well to lower reps. However, in Dante’s experience many DC Trainees make faster progress with the 15-30 RP rep range for leg curls. The choice is up to you.

For compound exercises like stiff-legged deadlifts and sumo leg presses you should perform 1-2 straight sets of 6-12 reps. Sumo leg presses should probably be performed for 10-12 reps for safety reasons while stiff legged deadlifts can be done anywhere in the 6-12 rep range.

Quadriceps exercises are always trained with 1 heavy straight set of 4-8 reps and then a 20-rep widowmaker set.

Here is Justin Harris demonstrating his leg sets:

If you are performing squats then you can go as low as 4-6 reps for your heavy set. If you are using a machine exercise like leg presses or hack squats then you should probably aim for 6-8 reps for safety purposes.

After your heavy set you should rest 4-5 minutes and perform your 20-rep widowmaker set as descried above.

Remember, you load the bar / machine with your 10-12 rep max and perform 20 reps with it. The key is to lock out your legs and take rest breaks after the first 10-12 reps so you can keep busting out repetitions.

The widowmaker set is a core part of the entire DC Training program so don’t wimp out here!

Rep Ranges For Older Lifters

DC Training is primarily geared towards younger bodybuilders in their 20’s and early 30’s who are trying to build muscle mass at the fastest speed possible.

You can still use DC Training if you are in your late 30’s or 40’s etc. However, Dante believes that you have to train smarter and bump up your target rep ranges.

Here are Dante’s exact thoughts on this subject:

“The worst thing I could think of a 40 year old bodybuilder doing is trying to beat weights he used when he was 28 in a low rep range.

I really feel it is not a matter of IF you tear a bicep or a pec or tricep but WHEN.”

“Want a one way ticket to a torn bicep? Be 44 years old trying to curl 225 for 4 reps.

Torn tricep? Be 42 years old trying to do 225 for 6 heavy reps in the lying tricep extension.”

Dante still wants you training with heavy slag iron and beating the logbook every single workout. The difference is he wants you to do this in a slightly higher rep range.

If you are over 34 years old then aim for at least 10-12 reps on the first part of your rest-pause set. That can look something like 12+5+3 = 20 RP.

You may want to go even higher for dumbbell exercises, skull crushers etc.

Don’t worry, you won’t lose any muscle mass training this way. You are just beating the logbook in a slightly higher rep range to keep yourself injury free over the long run.

Rep Ranges When Your Dieting

DC Training is designed as a mass-building training program. You can still perform DC Training while on a diet. However, you have to be smart with your target rep ranges.

For the first 4-12 weeks of your diet you just keep everything the way it was and beat the logbook whenever possible.

Eventually you will start to feel run-down and struggle with your workouts. At that point you increase the rep ranges on all of your exercises.

Your old 11-15 reps rest-paused becomes more like 20-25 reps rest-paused. You may even want to slow down your eccentric tempo or adjust your form to make your exercises slightly harder.

Don’t worry, you aren’t going to lose any muscle mass doing this because you are going to start climbing that strength ladder again, just with higher rep ranges.

The higher reps are very helpful from a mental standpoint.

If you are several weeks or months into your diet and severely depleted then the last thing you want to do is to try and beat your best 6-8 rep max on an exercise. However, beating an old 10-13 rep max etc. is still feasible.

If you are preparing for a bodybuilding competition then you may need to drop the rest-pause sets entirely your last 2-4 weeks before your contest.

The last thing you want is to injure yourself doing something stupid while in a crab-depleted state.

Dante recommends his trainees do 1-2 straight sets of 10-20 reps per exercise in the last 2-4 weeks before a bodybuilding contest.

At that point you’re just trying to maintain muscle mass without injuring yourself and the higher-rep straight sets will get the job done just fine.

Conclusion

DC Training rep ranges can be a confusing topic. At the end of the day the exact rep ranges aren’t very important.

The most important thing is that you can consistently beat the logbook on your key exercises and climb that strength ladder over time. I

f you are consistently getting stronger then you are using the correct rep ranges.

If you keep plateauing on an exercise or muscle group then you may want to try increasing or decreasing the rep range until you start making progress again.

I hope you found this discussion of DC Training rep ranges helpful. Now get back in the gym and show that logbook who’s boss!

“There is no way around hard work. Embrace it. You have to put in the hours because there’s always something which you can improve.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck with your strength training journey!