Choosing the right rep ranges for your goals? - Nigel Berry

Posted: 19th Apr 2016

Category: Health and Fitness Tips

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Whether your goal is to build strength, increase size or increase your muscular endurance you need to understand what range of repetitions you need to work in to maximise your effort and get you closer to achieving your goal.  Here are the basic rules of choosing the right reps per set for your fitness needs.



If you are training for muscle size, choose a weight at which you reach muscle failure in the 8-12-rep range. In other words, after your warm-up sets—which are never taken to failure—you should select a load with which you can complete at least 8 reps but not more than 12.

This means that if you can do only 6-7 reps, your weight is too heavy and you need to reduce it on subsequent sets. If you can do more than 12 reps, but simply stop at 12, that is not a "true" set and you need to increase your weight in the subsequent sets. A true set is one in which you fail—the point at which you cannot do another rep with good form on your own—within the target rep range of 8-12.

Choosing the right load for your muscle-building goal effectively targets the fast-twitch muscle fibres, which grow bigger and stronger in response to resistance training with enough volume to stimulate growth. However, these fibres fatigue fairly quickly, which is why you cannot lift a heavy weight many times.

Hit a target muscle with different exercises in high volume (sets and reps) to stimulate growth. In general, your rest periods should be in the 1- to 2-minute range.


When focusing on maximizing your strength, you want to train with even heavier weights, ones you can lift for just 1-6 repetitions. These heavy weights provide the stimulus needed to improve your muscular strength.

In resistance training, a pyramid structure entails starting out with a light weight and increasing this on successive sets. As you keep adding weight, the number of reps you can do goes down. Doing a pyramid set with strength training is one way to help increase your strength, try doing 5 sets in total, decreasing your number of repetitions by one each time. .

The rest time for strength training should be between 1 and 3 minutes.


When you think about muscular endurance, you may picture the marathon runner who can maintain a steady pace for 26 plus miles. But in the gym this translates into a programme that incorporates a lighter load but for a high number of repetitions.

Low-intensity training is typically considered aerobic exercise, since oxygen plays a key role in energy production. This allows you to maintain your activity level for a longer period of time. This energy process occurs primarily in slow-twitch muscle fibres, so performing low-intensity, high-repetition (15 reps+) training builds up the mechanisms within the muscle cell that make it more aerobically efficient.

Rest periods should be kept short, so that you are working the body hard, rest time should about 15-30 seconds.