When it comes to your training program, there are so many different approaches (sets, reps, tempo/time under tension, rest period, total volume, supersets, giant sets, clusters sets, grip changes, etc... confused yet?) and it can be incredibly overwhelming, especially as a beginner. Ultimately, no matter who you are, when you pick up the iron, we all have the same goal: build muscle. That can be big and dense muscle, or small and lean muscle that can also promote fat metabolism. But in some way shape or form, muscle is the goal. Strength training = muscle.
Reps, short for repetitions, refers to the number of times you perform a movement at once. If you program calls for 3 sets of 10 reps for a squat, you will do 10 squats at once, with rest (as required) for a total of three time (sets.)
These are the super simple easy-to-understand rep ranges and how they affect your body for performance:
Strength: 1-5 reps per set (more commonly 1-3)
This is usually seen with a heavier weight and long rest periods in between. This is very common for strength-based athletes such as powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters and Strongman athletes.
Hypertrophy: 6-15 reps per set (more commonly 8-12)
This is the most common rep range for muscle building, seen with a moderate weight for moderate reps. No rep failure should be seen here because it’s not a maximal effort. This is usually my most common method of programming for my coaching athletes as it helps to develop better power abilities and really pushes a higher heart rate and additional blood flow.
Endurance: +15 reps per set
This is seen with a lighter weight for a high amount of reps. Usually this range is quite fatiguing, but more with heart rate and lung capacity (think of acid buildup in muscles where it feels like your muscles fill with concrete!) rather than failing with the actual weight itself. This range trains the muscle fibres to push through lactic acid threshold (point of feeling fatigued and that concrete feeling).
A few factors to remember or to take into consideration:
1RMs (one rep of maximal effort) are not necessary for everyone and working off of 1RM percentages for reps can feel different for each individual
becoming stronger can happen either by lifting the same amount of weight for more reps or by increasing the weight for the same amount of reps
strength gain is a very slow process; it doesn’t happen overnight or even within a few weeks; you learn and grow by practicing and training
performing max reps (aka AMRAPs, ‘as many reps as possible’) can be optimal for overload, but isn’t beneficial for all individuals
rep range abilities can vary greatly depending on genetics (muscle fibres, lever lengths, central nervous system (CNS), training experience, age and gender)
Depending on how serious your performance goals are, it’s important to understand how your body works and grows with different rep ranges. It’s great to include variety in your training programming to not only keep it interesting and fun, but to prevent overload on both your muscles and CNS.
If you’re looking for custom training program guidance in order to achieve your goals, please visit my website (courtneyforlife.com/coaching) and fill out the online form so we can assess your lifestyle and see which programming style will best compliment your needs and lifestyle. When you are set up for success, you are much more likely to not only achieve, but surpass your goals!