How Many Reps Should I Be Doing?

How many reps should I be doing is a common question that we get asked in the gym. The number of reps you perform will greatly depend on your experience level and fitness goals. 

Whether you are strength training or training with lighter weights, you should aim for somewhere between 3 and 20 reps per set. But, the number of reps you perform will greatly depend on your experience level and fitness goals. 

So what exactly is a rep?  “Rep” is short for “repetition” and it refers to how many times you repeat an exercise.

Rep Ranges

Understanding a rep is pretty straightforward. However, understanding rep ranges is a bit more complex. 

For those new to weight lifting, it’s  recommended that they follow the 3×10 rule; 3 sets of 10 reps per exercise. As you advance and you become stronger, you’ll want to alter your rep ranges. 

As an example, you’re looking to build strength with heavy-lifting exercises like deadlifts, back squats, or bench presses, reduce your output to 3 to 5 sets of 2 to 6 reps.1 But, if you’re looking to improve your endurance, you may want to repeat 12 to 20 reps for only 2 or 3 sets. 

What Are the Best Rep Ranges?

So what’s the best rep range to build muscle? According to studies, somewhere in the 6 to 12 rep range is best for muscle growth. It is important to note, that exercise selection, number of sets, and rest are also important factors to consider. 

Not everyone is looking for hypertrophy (muscle growth) though. If your goal is strength over hypertrophy, the recommendation changes accordingly:

  • Strength – Increasing the amount of weight you lift will help to build your strength. That being said, since heavier weights can quickly lead to muscle fatigue, it’s recommended that you stick with 3 to 6 reps per set.
  • Lean Muscle Growth – If you’re aiming for growth and endurance, volume reps is key. Anywhere between 6 – 20 reps. 

 But what if you want BOTH Strength and Lean muscle growth?

The answer to this depends on how long you’ve been lifting weights, as it can be more difficult to gain lean muscle if you have been weight training for longer. 

So here is something to go by;

  • Beginners – If you’re just starting out or have only been weight training for short time, there’s good news. By staying in a 5 to 12 rep range, you’re likely to advance in both strength and lean muscle growth.
  • Intermediate – Once you’ve been lifting weights for a few years, your body won’t adapt as quickly as it did originally. However, by this time, you probably know what muscle strength and growth exercises work best for you and you can start adjusting your routine. For large, compound lifts (like bench press or squat) you may want to go in a lower rep range, whereas isolation exercises (like a biceps curl) may benefit from higher reps.
  • Advanced – After many years of training, you’re probably approaching your genetic potential and any additional lean muscle growth will be hard to gain. To combat this, variety is key. For e.g one month, focus on strengthening exercises. Then switch to endurance training the next month to provide your muscles with a challenge. 

Don’t forget that every fitness level and goal requires a different amount of reps!

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Colin Vale

I'm a part owner in Impact S&F and answer to Coby who answers to Amber! My credentials, I am a qualified Chef first and foremost and then back to school doing accounting and my MBA. I've traveled to many places in the world, climbed Kilimanjaro and Mont Blanc. I like to ride my bike and get to the gym a few times a week. Prior to my life today I was the MD of a large group of companies for many years in PNG and am now settled back on the Sunshine Coast finally doing stuff I really want to do.