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Repetition RangeBy John Dulac, CPT
When beginning a resistance training regimen there are a lot of variables to consider when designing a program. You have to consider which exercises best suit you and your goals, how many sets to do of each exercise, how much rest to take between each set, and the exercise intensity which will end up determining how many repetitions to perform. Each of these variables plays an important factor in achieving certain goals. Outside of exercise selection your repetition range will help direct you toward certain goals. For example someone looking to improve upon strength will perform different amount of repetitions than someone looking to enhance their muscular endurance.
Assuming you already have a history of resistance training and your body has adapted, you will then decide what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you looking to gain strength, power, hypertrophy, or muscular endurance? First you may be asking yourself what’s the difference between strength and power but we will save that conversation for another day, as it deserves to be its own topic. The reason why deciding what your main goals are is because this will decide how many repetitions to do of each exercise to help recruit the correct muscle fibers to achieve the “look” or results you desire. The last thing we want is for someone who wants to tone, or gain muscular endurance, to gain mass or size. This could be very possible if you are not performing the correct amount of repetitions.
Now, to help point you in the right direction I will outline how many repetitions you should perform for individual goals. I will start right at the bottom with the lower amount of reps. When you want to develop overall strength and or power your repetitions should be right around 4-6, if you are very experienced with heavier lifts you can go as low as 2 repetitions per set. Earlier I outlined that strength and power are quite different, the main thing that will distinguish this difference is the choice of exercise itself, not the amount of reps. When training you should perform your compound movements (exercise that includes more than one joint) for 2-6 reps with a rest period of 2-5 minutes! Also, so the volume of the workout is correct you should consider working your way up to 4 or 5 sets after you become more accustomed to this style training. You will only perform this amount of reps for compound movements such as the bench press, squats, cleans, military presses, etc. Note, you should not perform single joint exercises such as a rope extension or bicep curl for a repetition range this low. I would recommend the lowest you should go for these assistance exercises is 8 repetitions.
Up next on our repetition range scale is the ever so popular hypertrophy (growth of muscle fibers). The body building range so to speak, to achieve muscular growth you should be performing right around 8-12 reps with a rest period of about 45 – 90 seconds. These movements should be controlled and really stimulate and contract the muscle. This range applies to most all exercises for all muscle groups, put these principles into action, proper reps and rest, recover with an appropriate amount of protein and watch the growth begin.
Off to the opposite end of the spectrum we find muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is for those who may want to play soccer, run a 5 k, or be able to sustain a high intensity long duration workout. The repetition range to help improve upon muscular endurance should be right around 15-20 reps per set. This will allow you to have a lactic acid build up which in return allow you to become accustomed to the burning sensation. Muscular endurance is often where we start off beginners. It allows their body to adapt to resistance training without apply heavy loads to the client. It’s a great way to start off a regimen, its also good for a person looking to lose weight; it will take anaerobic actions and allow you to get the highest calorie expenditure out of them. Your rest period for muscular endurance should be 30 seconds.
Decide what your most important goal is and apply the proper reps and rest periods. The weight you are moving isn’t important. Hypothetically speaking, you might be able to squat 500lbs for 15 reps and even though that is an extremely heavy load you will not be living up to your true strength gains training this way. Find out what your repetition range is, more importantly find a weight for each exercise that you have to FORCE yourself to get into this range. As soon as you start exceeding your repetition range, this is a perfect indicator that you need to up your weight. For example if you’re working on strength gains and you can bench press 225lbs for 6, eventually your reps will increase to 7 or 8. When this happens you can add more weight which in return will drop you to the low end of your repetition range, perform this weight until you once again exceed your range. Always use a spotter when necessary especially for heavier loads, be safe, have fun and good luck!
Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the advice of your physician or other health care professionals. Consult your physician or other health care professional before following any training regiment, nutrition program, using any supplements or if you have any medical condition or are taking any prescription medications.
Member of NPTI
John Dulac, CPT
Keep It Simple Fitness, LLC
235 Taunton Avenue
Seekonk, MA 02771
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