Workout of the Day

Reppin' for Results


Did you know that different numbers of repetitions will have very different effects on the training stimulus and outcome? Put another way, if you’re after a specific training adaptation, your best bet is to choose the right number of reps to match it.

Let’s break it down.

Reps in the 1-3 range are best suited for developing maximal strength. Reps in this range are best for improving your ability to generate maximal force, increase bone density, and increase ATP and creatine phosphate storage (the fuel and fuel reserves stored in your muscles), as well as neural adaptations that allow you to better recruit your muscles for force production. In addition, at submaximal loads, lower reps are highly effective for developing power (moving a moderately heavy load quickly).

Skipping ahead a bit, reps in the 8-15 range are best suited for building muscle mass (hypertrophy). This is where bodybuilders spend most of their time. This rep range will still build strength and potentially power, but not to the same degree as low reps at higher loads.

(The fact that moderate rep ranges and moderate weights (as opposed to the heaviest weights at low reps) are best suited for building muscle mass may come as a surprise to some. "Heavy weights = big muscles" is a common misconception. Au contraire, my friend! There’s a reason that weight-class athletes who need to be strong but want to maintain a lower weight build their training around lower rep ranges.)

Skipping ahead once more, reps in a high to very-high range, somewhere around 30+, are best suited to develop endurance and stamina. In addition, very high rep ranges are effective for increasing lactate production (a “backup fuel” of sorts, used in high-stamina efforts), capillarity (improves blood flow to muscles), and pain tolerance (the burn!).

Because these affects all exist on a continuum, in-between rep ranges give us a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Reps in the 4-7 range are pretty good for both strength and muscle mass increases, as well as power. Reps in the 15-30 range tend to be pretty effective for adaptations in both muscle size and stamina/endurance.

It should be noted that this all assumes the use of a training load (resistance) that appropriately matches the number of reps. Very low rep ranges (1-3) should be performed with very heavy loads (near maximal), while very high rep ranges (50+) should be performed with very very light loads (nowhere near maximal), and so on.

It’s important to remember, also, that everything is context-specific. A day of training that calls for a set of 10 handstand push-ups followed by a set of 10 ring dips followed by a set of 10 push-ups, all repeated with minimal rest for multiple sets, will provide a very different stimulus than a set of 10 bench press preceded and followed by four minutes of rest. Just because it says the number 10 somewhere in today’s training doesn’t mean those 10 reps happen in isolation. Reps are just one of the many moving pieces that affect the outcome of your training.

Manipulating rep ranges is just one of the many tools in our toolbox to get the stimulus we’re seeking to improve performance and health. Happy reppin’, folks!

- PS


  • Every 2 minutes for 30 minutes:

    • Min 0-2) 10 strict wide-grip pull-ups

    • Min 2-4) 5 deadlifts (AHAP)

    • Min 4-6) 50 double-unders