Best Rep Ranges For Building Muscular Size, Strength, & Endurance

Best Rep Ranges For Building Muscular Size, Strength, & Endurance

When it comes right down to it, most people have a pretty good idea on what rep ranges are optimal. Depending on your goal, it absolutely matters what rep ranges you should be working in.

The basic outline that most people follow are:

  • Strength: 1-5 Reps
  • Hypertrophy: 6-15 Reps
  • Endurance: 15+ Reps

This is an awesome baseline to start at but there’s more to it than that. Also, depending on what muscle group you’re working, some rep ranges are better than others.

Let’s find out more about which rep ranges are optimal for building size, strength, and endurance!

Here we go!

Optimal Rep Ranges Depend On Your Goal

Like all things in the world of fitness, the answer to any question is “it depends.” If you’re a Powerlifter, your rep range is going to be much more specific than a Bodybuilder. The biggest reason for this is the adaptations that occur when using these rep ranges.

Let’s break it down in a way that makes sense for the average person.

Rep Ranges For Strength

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When building strength, you want to focus on lower reps with a higher intensity. This will maximize your strength development and increase your motor unit recruitment. This rep range is going to vary regardless of what people tell you.

Anything below sets of 3 is too physically demanding to build strength. Unless you’re peaking for a powerlifting meet, you have no reason to be working in this rep range.

The recovery demands it places on your body isn’t worth the safety risk either. Instead, you want to focus on sets of 3-6 for the majority of your strength training.

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Your main movements (Squat, Bench, Deadlift, and Overhead Press) will fit into this rep range. This will build the most strength without going too heavy and messing with your recovery.

Working in the 6-10 rep range will build a blend of size and strength for your supplement exercises. (Front Squat, Incline Bench Press, Romanian Deadlift). This will ensure you have enough volume to build muscle mass.

Your assistance exercises work best in the 10-20 rep range. These are exercises that build the body parts that assist in your main movements. (Dumbbell Pressing, Row variations, pulldowns, curls, extensions, back extensions, ab work, etc.)

As you can see, it’s much more involved than just deciding to work in only rep range for strength. If you’re only doing sets of 3-6 on all your exercises, you’re going to plateau unfortunately. If you only work at high intensities without much volume, you’re going to lose muscle mass over time.

This is a part of training that you need to pay attention to. Using a blend of rep ranges will give you the best results even if sets of (1-5) are considered optimal for strength training.

Rep Ranges For Muscle Mass

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When your goal is building muscle mass, the majority of your training should take place in the 8-12 rep range. This is the main rep range people suggest you use.

Training for muscle mass involves focusing on increasing reps at heavier weights. If you go from 200 lbs for 12 reps on the Squat, to 300 lbs for 12 reps, odds are you built more muscle.

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One of the best ways to train for this is by working in this rep range with the majority of your exercises. I like to use them for my supplemental barbell, and dumbbell exercises.

You start with a weight you can handle for 8-12 reps. You push until you’re 1 rep away from failure and try to do the same the following week. The difference is, you’re going to increase the weight and try to do as many reps as you can.

Here’s what this might look like using the Bench Press as an example:

  • Week 1 – 200×12
  • Week 2 – 205×12
  • Week 3 – 210×11
  • Week 4 – 210×12
  • Week 5 – 215×9
  • Etc.

It doesn’t require anything complicated for most people. Just a simple progression trying to do more reps and heavier weight over time. This is a tried and true method that works well for almost anybody.

While the 8-12 rep range is great for hypertophy, any reps in the 5-20 rep range will work also. As long as you’re pushing hard 1-3 reps away from failure, the stimulus for muscle gain will be there.

The other thing to consider is fiber types for certain muscle groups. Muscles like the deltoids (shoulders), are much more slower twitch than your triceps. The majority of your shoulder work in the 10-20 rep range will give you a solid hypertrophic stimulus. Using exercises such as lateral raises, face pulls, and dumbbell presses works well here.

For the faster twitch fibers you want to do heavier sets of 5-10 with barbell pressing movements.

Here’s what all this breaks down into:

  • In general, the majority of your workouts for muscle gain should be in the 8-12 rep range.
  • Heavier barbell movements in the 5-10 rep range stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibers.
  • Lighter movements such as cables, dumbbells and bodyweight work best in the 10-20 rep range.
  • This ensure you get complete muscular development across all body parts in your body.
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Whether you respond better to high volume and lower intensity, or lower volume and higher intensity, your goal should be to get stronger.

If you’ve been training for a couple of months and haven’t noticed much progress look at your strength levels. If you benched 200 for 10 reps months ago and you’re only at 210 for 10, you might need to eat more or work harder in the gym.

As long as you’re getting stronger in the 5-20 rep range, the 8-12 range specifically, you will build muscle. Make sure you’re eating enough to add muscle mass and training as hard as you can.

Rep Ranges For Endurance

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The correct weight/reps for improving muscular endurance/work capacity is easy to figure out. Training to improve muscular endurance involves higher reps with shorter rest periods. This ensures that you’re training your work capacity effectively.

Sets of 10-20 reps with 30 seconds to a minute of rest between sets is what we want to aim for here.

The best way I’ve found for training work capacity/endurance is by utilizing super sets. Super sets are a basic way to train that many people have heard of before.

I recommend using exercises that give you rest between muscle groups. If you do a set of Squats and superset them with Lunges you’re doubling down on fatigue. Not the best idea if you want to do the most amound of work as possible.

Instead, set it up as shown below.

Day 1Day 2Day 3
Superset:
Squat
3 Sets of 5-10 Reps
Superset:
Bench
3 Sets of 5-10 Reps
Superset:
Deadlift
3 Sets of 5-10 Reps
Dumbell Incline Bench
3 Sets of 10-20 Reps
Goblet Squats
3 Sets of 10-20 Reps
Dips
3 Sets of 10-20 Reps
Dumbbell Incline Rows
3 Sets of 10-20 Reps
Dumbbell Romanian
Deadlifts
3 Sets of 10-20 Reps
Pull Ups
3 Sets of 10-20 Reps
Pull Aparts
50-100 Reps
Pull Aparts
50-100 Reps
Pull Aparts
50-100 Reps

As you can see, this program allows you to train the main lifts heavy. On top of that, you do assistance lifts superset together to train your work capacity. I’ve used these exact program myself to push my endurance up very quickly and it works well!

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If you’re looking for a program that works great, try out a 3 day full body split using supersets like I’ve shown above. It works great and gets you in shape quickly. Throw in some running, or Airdyne 3 days a week and you’re set for a solid endurance training program!

Should You Work In Multiple Rep Ranges?

Yes! However, if you focus on only one rep range and goal for too long, it’s going to be difficult to progress long term. That’s why it’s a good idea to switch up your training or at least have a maintenance period every 3-4 months.

This will help prevent staleness and overuse injuries. You’ve all seen the people that lift super heavy weights without breaks before. Usually they have, a bunch of injuries right along with it.

Now, let’s move onto the more extensive answer!

Greater Work Capacity=Bigger Engine

By working on your work capacity, you’re able to do more work and recover better. Anybody that’s out of shape trying to do high rep bodybuilding style work outs know this. You get tired, you get sore and beat up. It makes it difficult to continue working hard when you’re dying all the time.

Your muscles are very similar to a cars engine. Unless you have fuel, the engine isn’t going to run for very long. Sure you can make sure your food and water intake is sufficient. Yet, building work capacity is equally important.

The better your work capacity is, the more work you can do. Bottom line. Don’t neglect it or you’re going to suffer the consequences down the road.

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More Muscle=Higher Strength Ceiling

Moving onto hypertrophy training! The more muscle you build, the greater your strength potential will be. This is especially true for upper body movements such as the Bench Press.

If you only work on strength in the 3-6 rep range, you won’t build as much muscle as focusing on hypertrophy. This is important for getting stronger and staying injury free.

The strongest people in the world have tons of muscle mass in their backs, arms, legs, and torso. If you want to get stronger for life, you need to work in the 5-20 rep range to build more of it.

If you haven’t been increasing strength for awhile, take a break and work on building muscle instead.

Getting Stronger In All Rep Ranges Is Great!

There’s one important fact that most people need to realize, the stronger you are, the better your performance will be. If you can Squat more weight you’re going to build more muscle. If you build more muscle you’re going to be stronger. If you’re stronger, little things like walking around and performing basic human functions is easier.

Realizing how certain adaptations in the body fuel others is a huge game changer! At least it was for me. It makes a lot of sense though, the stronger you are, the easier everything else is. You can do more work and build more muscle.

Basically you can be more useful in general! Kind of like when I’m at the grocery store and somebody needs something from the top shelf. I’m more useful at the moment than a shorter person.

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Get stronger in the 3-6 rep range and watch how your performance inside & outside the gym changes.

Conclusion

As you can see, no matter what your goal is, the rep ranges you use do matter for optimizing performance.

Just don’t forget how important changing your goals over time is. You might want to build maximal strength, but to do that you need more muscle. You need to be in better physcial shape to recover from your work load.

If you’re trying to build the most muscular physique, staying in awesome lifting shape is important. Also, moving around little dumbbells for super high reps (30+) isn’t going to do much for hypertrophy.

Bottom line: getting stronger in the 3-20 rep range will push the majority of the adaptations you need to get better.

Think of a time you used a new rep range in the gym? Was it heavier sets of 6-8, or lighter sets of 15-20? How did it improve your training and your overall results? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

-Dante Redgrave

danteredgrave

danteredgrave

I'm a Strength Coach and Content Creator with freedom on my mind! Without strength training, I hate to think of where I would be without it. What kind of person I would be, what kind of shape I would be in. It scares me, and that's why every day is a new chance to better myself. Anybody that's interested I am taking online clients now! Just shoot me an email and know you won't find a better deal online or offline. Guaranteed:)

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