Lifting weights: How many reps are right for you?

Ever wondered how many reps are best for you? Well, that really depends on the result you’re going after. What is it that you want to achieve? Stronger muscles? Bigger muscles? Fatloss?

The following video does a good job at explaining the different rep ranges.

Main takeaways:

The most important thing is to train in whatever range you train in! So if you’re training in the lower rep range, make sure that you actually give it all you got in that lower rep range. That means the weights need to be so heavy that you literally can’t lift them more than 5 times. Let’s say you aim for a 3 rep range, and you do three reps and stop, but actually you could do 4 or 5 or even 6 reps, then that’s not really being in the lower rep range. If you’re doing 3 but you could do 5, then you’re not training effectively, and you won’t get the benefits of the lower rep range.

Lower rep range (1-5 reps):

Focused on strength, heavier lifts.

Mid rep range (6-10 reps):

You’re blending the benefits of lower rep range (strength) with the benefits of the higher rep range (hypertrophy).

Higher rep range (11-14 reps):

Great for building bigger muscles because time under tension is usually more than 45 seconds (if you assume you spend 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down per lift, 12 reps = 48 seconds).

Very high rep range (15 and more reps):

He doesn’t go much into the benefits of a very high rep range in the video.


Another great article on the same topic that I found is The Rep Range That Builds The Most Muscle. It takes a slightly different approach, breaking it down into 3 ranges:

Low reps (1-5)

Great for building strength. But time under tension is too short to maximize hypertrophy.

Moderate reps (8-12)

Best if you want bigger muscles. The ideal time under tension is 30-60 seconds, because that’s where your body starts create lactic acid, which is vital to new muscle-tissue production.

When lactic acid, or lactate, pools in large amounts, it induces a surge in anabolic hormone levels within the body, including the ultrapotent growth hormone and the big daddy of muscle-building, testosterone. These circulating hormones create a highly anabolic state within the body and if you’re after more muscle, that’s exactly the state you want to be in.

The increased time under tension also leads to more muscle damage, imperative if you plan on getting larger any time soon. Theoretically, the longer a muscle is contracted, the greater the potential for damage to the tissue.

The moderate-rep range, when coupled with a challenging weight, will also bring about a much-desired condition: the muscle pump. That tight, full feeling under the skin, caused by blood pooling in the muscle, has value beyond its ego-expanding qualities. Studies have demonstrated that the physiological conditions which lead to a pump activate protein synthesis and limit protein breakdown. Thus, more of the protein you eat goes toward muscle construction instead of being burned off for energy. In a scientific twist of good fortune, the fast-twitch fibers appear to be the biggest beneficiaries of this phenomenon.

High reps (15 or more)

Good for muscular endurance, but not so much for bigger muscles:

The amount of weight you can handle isn’t heavy enough to recruit fast-twitch type-2 muscle fibers. So what, you ask? Simply put, type-2 fibers are where the potential for growth resides, and they respond only to heavy weights at least 75 percent of your one-rep max.

So there are some slight differences in opionion between Jeff from Athlean X and Michael Berg, but there’s one thing they both agree on: you should exercise in all rep ranges!

To make sure your body doesn’t adapt to a particular regimen and stagnate, you need variety. Cycle periods of low-rep training and high-rep training into your overall program, while progressively trying to increase your strength and perfect your exercise form every time you lift.

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