What Rep Ranges Should You Be Training?

Hey y’all! Today I want to talk to you about rep ranges, or the number of repetitions you’re doing in a given set of exercise.

This question is from my friend, Tally Sessions, who writes:

“Would you advise changing up the rep range/weight level as a rule, or is it specific to one’s goals? For instance, if my goal was hypertrophic, should I stay in that 8-12 rep range, rather than venturing into 3-5 reps with heavier lifts for strength? Or do you recommend a general mix and match for optimal overall fitness?”

This is a great question, and if Tally is thinking about it, I’m sure that lots of other people are, too. Thanks, Tally!

So, I do indeed recommend a general mix and match for optimal overall fitness. In program design, I like to intelligently diversify rep ranges over the course of a week, and adjusting the intensity accordingly.

Quite simply, if you’re doing fewer reps, say 3-6 reps, that means you can go much heavier, whereas doing 15-20 reps means you’ll have to go much lighter. The most popular rep range tends to be the 8-12’s, which are probably another relic of the heyday of bodybuilding.

It’s important to me to say this: Regardless of your training goals, I think everyone should train for strength in each of these rep ranges.

Working towards momentary muscular failure is incredibly beneficial for our health and performance, but it isn’t heavy lifting on its own that builds muscle – it’s also a calorie surplus. So even if you’re not interested in building muscle, I think a well-designed plan should account for proper strength training across a variety of rep ranges.

In my current workouts, my rep ranges are very obviously different – I’m either lifting weights or riding my bike. There’s some variety within those workouts, but for the most part, it’s a handful of reps for an hour of lifting, or quite literally tens of thousands of reps over multiple hours of riding.

My guess is that your training will have less of a range of this, and that’s probably what most of the Ninjas at MFF are experiencing.

Let’s say that you do a semi-private one day, that includes some heavy deadlifts or bench presses for 4-6 reps, but then changes gears and includes 15-20 bicep curls at a time.

Then the next day you’re taking our Superhero Strength class, where some Ninjas are literally doing over 100 push-ups in period of about 10 minutes at the end of class. The variation there is pretty big, and that allows for your body to adapt and respond to the biggest variety of stimulus.

Furthermore, there are some exercises that are better suited to some rep ranges then others. High-rep back squats or deadlifts don’t make that much sense to me, and neither does trying to set a 5 rep max for your skull crusher. More technically demanding multi-joint exercises are probably better for lower reps, while less demanding multi-or single-joint exercises can be pushed far higher.

When it comes to loading appropriately, this is where some self-awareness of intensity comes in handy. Across almost all rep ranges, I like to focus on having 1-3 reps left in reserve. If it’s a heavy set of 3 or a “feel the burn” set of 25, I like making sure you can do 1-3 more reps before actually failing to complete a rep.

To help create some separation in how we experience reps, I like sets of 5-6 reps, 8-10 reps, and 12-15 reps. Those little gaps tend to make it feel more dramatically different, which I’ve found to be useful in both training the body and educating the mind.

Okay y’all, that’s it for Rep Ranges, thanks for joining me! If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me a message!

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