Understanding Rep Ranges

Reps do make a difference so here’s what you need to know.

If you are new to training you might get to the gym, start performing a movement, and begin to wonder, “how many of these things am I suppose to do?”

I’ve been there before.

When I first began training, most of my knowledge came from Muscle and Fitness magazines. At the time, that was one of the best/easily accessible sources. Whether or not that was good advice was irrelevant and I must say, we have more than enough information now to help us narrow in on what we should be doing.

Related: 4 Tips If You Are New To The Gym

For starters, rep ranges do make a difference depending on what your goals are.

If you are looking to get strong AF then you’ll be in a different range than if you were trying to build some serious endurance.

So it’s imperative that you first figure out what your goal is. Once you do that, then you can program out a program that will help you reach that particular goal

Here’s what you need to know: (Without getting technical you have the ability to do a variety of rep ranges throughout your programming. Some days/movements you can do lower reps, while other days/movements you can do higher. You don’t ALWAYS have to do the same thing over and over again. In fact, most of my training will vary the rep schemes because I like variety and I’m trying to improve it all (strength, hypertrophy, endurance).

1-6 Reps

This is for the guy looking to get strong. The best example I can give for this is the olympics. If you’ve ever watched the olympic lifting athletes they are simply trying to lift as much as they can for 1 rep (In certain cases could be 1-3). Most, not all, of their training time will be spent in between that 1-6 rep range because they want to move as much one rep max weight as possible.

Low reps is effective because it stimulates myofibrillar hypertrophy. For the science geeks, this is an increase in the number and size of the actin and myosin filaments within a muscle. With this type of hypertrophy you can expect strength gains because it involves an increase in the contractile tissue. That’s simply the contraction of your muscles.

7-12 Reps

This range is essentially a combination between the low rep, heavy weight and the high rep, light weight ranges. You are getting the best of both worlds and that is the primary reason why this is known as the best when it comes to building size and strength.

Heavier loads under tension longer create more muscle growth is probably an easier way to explain it. Heavy loads create myofibrillar protein synthesis and the time under tension will stimulate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase of the sarcasm and other non contractile protein within the muscle and this is typically created when you lift lighter loads for more reps.

This is also the best rep range for achieving “the pump.” Whether this is beneficial for growth is debatable and will be saved for another blog.

15+ Reps

Anything really above 15 is considered training for endurance. Over the course of time we’ve been somewhat conditioned that lifting heavy is for size and lifting higher reps is more for fat burning. This is technically not true and it can be extremely important to have some sets in the 15+ range. Let me explain.

I’ve talked about it before when it comes to scale weight but you can re familiarize yourself with glycogen stores. Glycogen is stored carbohydrates in the muscle tissue. For every gram of glycogen it binds to 2.7 grams of water. Added water increases the size of your muscles AND it helps increase protein synthesis.

The more hydrated you are the better your body will handle protein synthesis. When you lift higher reps (15+) you have the ability to deplete your glycogen stores. After this happens your body will react to the depletion by increasing the muscle glycogen stores. This allows the muscles to stretch and eventually grow.

(P.S. Higher rep training actually sucks. It’s really hard and much worse than lifting less reps more weight.)

In Summary

Essentially all rep ranges can help stimulate muscle growth. They also help stimulate your metabolism. Not one is better than the other for those two things. However, you probably won’t increase your strength going higher reps vs going lower reps (heavier).

This is why it’s crucial that you utilize various rep schemes. Depending on your programming you might have some movements that are higher rep or even some days are higher rep. It just depends on what it is you are doing.


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