How Many Reps To Build Muscle – The Best Range For Muscle Growth

By | March 10, 2015

How Many Reps To Build Muscle – The Best Range For Muscle Growth

How many reps to build muscle has been a common discussion between avid lifters who want to increase their muscle size and density. Some people train with under 5 repetitions per set some train over 15 per set. There is not a simple answer to this question but let me break it down for you a bit so you can gain a better understanding on this topic.

But first let’s look a bit to the different kinds of muscle gains you can achieve by training with weights!

How Many Reps To Build MuscleSarcoplasmic Hypertrophy & Myofibrillar Hypertrophy

So in essence there are two different ways to introduce muscle growth, which are sarcoplasmic– and myofibrillar hypertrophy. And what we’re after is the myofibrillar one. Let’s look a bit more indepth in both of them…

Sarcoplasmic refers to increase of the non-contractile fluid in the muscles. The problem in this type of hypertrophy is that it’s quite shortlived since you ain’t really building up your dry lean muscle tissue, you’re basically just making the current muscle to expand bigger. And so the gain in this type of hypertrophy won’t really give you any strength and your muscles will get to their previous form really quick after you stop exercising.

This type of hypertrophy happens in the upper spectrum of rep ranges, about 10-15 repetitions per given set. And when you go even higher you’ll start to include more and more your cardiovascular system because of the lactic acid build-up. This is effective for endurance but not so good for gaining muscle mass.

Myofibrillar refers to increase of the true dry lean muscle tissue. And this happens as your body adds more myosin and actin proteins to the muscle fiber. The increase of this type of hyertrophy will give you more strength and permanent results because you’re building new muscle tissue rather than just increasing fluids in your pre-existent muscles.

This type of hypertrophy happens roughly between 4-10 repetitions per given set. It’s a perfect mix of strength and right kind of hypertrophy.

Which One Is Better?

When designing an effective workout program your main goal should be always in increasing the Myofibrillar hypertrophy rather than sarcoplasmic, since that type of increase of muscle mass results in permanent changes of your body composition because you’re building actual muscle tissue opposed to just increasing the amount of fluid in your muscles.

What Rep Range Is The Best For Muscle Growth?How Many Reps To Build Muscle

When the goal is to build muscle it’s common belief that bodybuilding type training is superior to strength training. In so called bodybuilding type programs the reps are usually between 10-15 reps per given exercise set and in strength training it’s more common to stick with lower end of the spectrum such as 1-3 repetitions per set.

The truth is that if you’re training in the lower, end let’s say under 3 repetitions per set and higher end over 10 repetitions per set you will build muscle doing both of these ranges.

Under 3 Repetitions…

Although when training with the lower spectrum (less than 3 reps) you’ll increase the neural adaptations which will result in a more efficient strength and power generation more than increase in actual muscle size. This is a great range if you’re trying to figure out your true strength potential.

Over 10 Repetitions…

And in the other hand training with more than 10 reps per set you’ll move more over to the Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and endurance side of things, sifting away from myofibrillar hypertrophy. This is great range for increasing your endurance but not the best for actual increase of muscle size.

The Sweet Spot!

I personally believe that the best range for muscle growth lies in between 5-8 repetitions per set. And this is due to maximization of producing myofibrillar hypertrophy rather than sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

Another thing is that by working out in this range you will perform your sets with the correct amount of intensity because when you’re putting all your effort to your given set, 5-8 repetitions will be the sweet spot to really keep yourself tight and focused on every single repetition throughout the set rather than grinding out long 1-2 minute lasting sets where your focus easily can get drifted away as you’re completed the first 5-8 reps.

Just Hold On A Minute…

I’m not saying that the 5-8 reps per set is the best range for EVERYONE & EVERY SITUATION and that you cannot build any muscle with other ranges, since you absolutely can. But 5-8 reps is just the most common range that will be a good guideline to implement in most of the cases. It’s by no means an absolute magical figure that everyone must use or you won’t gain any muscle at all!

ConclusionHow Many Reps To Build Muscle

So all in all 5-8 repetitions should be your major number what you try to hit with each set with compound exercises. There is an exception to this rule. When performing exercises that place a lot of strain on your joints such as side laterals or pec flyes aim for higher reps and a bit lighter loads, a good guideline would be somewhere between 10-12 reps per set.

Here is a bullet point list to recap all the important information introduced here:

  • Focus on Myofibrillar Hypertrophy to gain strength and permanent increase in muscle mass
  • 5-8 Repetitions per set is the ideal range for most people in most cases
  • 5-8 Repetitions should be used with compound exercises
  • Use higher reps and lighter weights for exercises that put a lot of stress on your joints
  • 3 repetitions and less are good for peaking strength
  • 10 repetitions and more are good for endurance
  • There is nothing MAGICAL in 5-8 range
  • You will gain muscle with all of the rep ranges

That is all there is to it folks! Did you find this article helpful? I’d love to hear if you have some comments or suggestions in mind! Leave me a comment down below and I’ll get back at you.

Check out my other article on how to preserve muscle while burning fat at HERE!

Remember to train hard and train SMART!



14 thoughts on “How Many Reps To Build Muscle – The Best Range For Muscle Growth

  1. Thomas Gormley

    I love this post it is great to see some practical and important information on the use of weights when training. You certainly know your stuff well done. I like this site it is a calm looking site and not exploding out at you. Your content and images plus colour and layout are very good also. Overall a very good post and site.

    1. Jesse Post author

      Thanks Thomas! I’m happy if you enjoyd your visit here and got some helpful information. Always happy to help 🙂

  2. Lee Hale

    As a surfer, I most get the paddling kind of muscles from super high reps which ends up being a cardio workout too! It does help strengthen my lats and back, but I’d have to agree that fewer reps result in mass!

    Great post on how many reps to build muscle!

    1. Jesse Post author

      Thanks a lot Lee. Depending on multiple different factors people can experience great results with different ranges than 5-8. But the 5-8 is a great general guideline for most people and most situations and it’s been proven to add some really nice gains over and over again.

  3. Jason

    Great article. These are some great tips to use when hitting the gym. I always tend to do things in figures of 10s, so thank you for showing me the right way,

    1. Jesse Post author

      Jason no problem! It is a good idea to implement all of these ranges from time to time. But always try to keep the core of your programs in the 5-8 range and aim for progression in those numbers. When you’re strong enough to do a set with 8 repetitions or more, add weight so you can do atleast 5 reps but not more than 8 while leaving 1-2 repetitions away from failure.

  4. Emily

    hi Jesse
    thank you so much for this post! This was so helpful. I work out almost every day and I had never had someone explain it to me so well. I usually go for 12 rep sets so I will try to lower my sets to about 8 rep but with with heavier weights. Not that I want to gain a lot of muscle mass or bulk up. But I would not mind a bit more definition. Would 8 reps be a good number for that?

    1. Jesse Post author

      You’re welcome Emily. 8 Reps are totally fine. Don’t worry about getting too bulky too fast! Eventhough you change your repetitions from the higher end to moderate you won’t be noticing some dramatic & magical increases in muscle mass. It takes a lot of time to develop. Also when you move onto heavier weights, don’t sacrifice your technique. Add as much as weight as you can while maintaining proper lifting form!

      1. Emily

        very true technique is very important! I will switch it up tomorrow morning when I hit the gym 🙂

        1. Jesse Post author

          Have a great training Emily and keep at it! Results will follow 🙂

  5. Diondre

    Great post Jesse. I’ve always heard people recommend hitting a rep range of 5-8 and I always wondered why and now thanks to your post I understand. The science behind muscle can be so complex sometimes you just need posts like this to break it down.

    1. Jesse Post author

      Yeah I tend to digest only the information that is somewhat practical. Not interested to go too deep into human biology with these things 🙂

  6. maz20

    I’d suggest sticking first to (and progressing by) simply the “neuromuscular efficiency” approach of five or fewer reps per set (with longer rest periods). This is because “myofibrillar” hypertrophy (praised in this article) is generally useless without the first and primary foundation of “neuromuscular efficiency”. Or, in other words, having “more fibers” won’t help you if you “wouldn’t know how to use them”.

    Only after plateauing (i.e., you stop “progressing”) with the “neuromuscular efficiency” approach (from that image), would I then recommend decreasing the weight to increase the reps by one or two (and then restarting your program using that rep range for your intended exercise).

    1. Jesse Post author

      This is a bit old article and I’ve changed my stance a bit about this whole thing. I don’t believe anymore that much about which kind of hypertophy you stimulate. I think it’s irrelevant. There is a study that came out not long ago that compared doing 10 sets of 2 repetitions vs. 2 sets of 10 repetitions and which one would induce more hypertophy aka muscle growth. Turned out the hypertrophy response was the same in both groups but the 10 sets of 2 gained more strength. I really don’t buy much into this whole sarcoplasmic vs. myofibrillar hypertrophy thing. Just be sure to incorporate reps between 1-5 per set and 15-30 per set, periodize your training with intensity and volume work and you will not have to worry about any of this sarco and myo stuff.

      And yes you are correct about the neuromuscular efficiency. If you want to get better at a certain movement and get stronger do it more often and periodize that stuff. Neuromuscular efficiency comes first and that is why beginners tend to progress in strength so fast, not so much because of increased muscle mass (although as a beginner the muscle grows fast).

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment 🙂


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