Weight Training Reps – Guide To Rep Ranges

By | February 21, 2015

Weight Training Reps – Guide To Rep Ranges

Weight Training RepsOften times people wonder the amount of sets and reps to do when training with weights. There is a lot of different information out there that claim different attributes for different ranges. Let me try to help you with weight training reps so you’ll understand which ranges work for what.

The common belief is that lower reps build strength, moderate reps build strength as well as muscle and the higher end of the spectrum is for building muscle only. So for the rough number these would look something like this:

  • Low reps for strength: 1-3 reps per set
  • Moderate feps for strength and muscle: 5-7 reps per set
  • Higher reps for muscle: 12-15 reps per set

This is the basic template that gets taught to people but it’s not as black and white as people make it to be. It’s really common to see people hitting only the 8-15 bodybuilding rep ranges because they don’t care how much they lift they just want to look good. If you’re just sticking with one end of the spectrum you’re basically restricting your full potential.

The bottom line is: You should be using all of these rep ranges!

There is a huge misconception about the rep ranges being as black and white as listed above. You can build muscle and strength with ALL of these rep ranges and that is why you should be incorporating all of them to your routines.

Contradictionary to the general belief, what happens when you’re sticking with the lower end of the spectrum 1-3 reps per given set is that you’ll get better at MAXING with the strength you’ve build up with moderate and higher reps. So basically you’re getting your nervous system to fire better with lower reps and your body will be more efficient with producing strength as a result from your low rep training. That is the real reason you’re “getting stronger” with lower reps, it’s more or less just peaking your already aquired strength to the highest degree.

You can look at all the powerlifters and how they train, they don’t stick with doing only sets of 1 or 3 or 5 repetitions and avoid going higher. What they usually do is build their strength up with higher reps and periodize their training so that they’ll peak their maximum effort slowly, getting their bodies more geared towards those one rep max attempts. The powerlifters will also always incorporate some bodybuilding type training to their routines to gain more muscle so they’ll get stronger. And many bodybuilders are also doing powerlifting.

The muscle growth and strength gains are accomplished by progressive overload using any rep range!

So what you will want to do is vary between the rep ranges to get out the most benefit from your training. For the first month perform lifts with the range of 8-15 per set. Next month increase the weight a bit and start hitting with 5-7 reps for the whole month. Then for the last month train with the 3-5 reps sets. After the 3rd month is over you start the cycle again. This is just a rough example how to do it.

One good option is to stick 1 year with the rep range of anything between 5-15 and go by the feel. Then some weeks you can start to play around with lower reps such as 3 per set if you want to start peaking your strength and figure out how much you can lift. Stay away from the failured reps, meaning that if you do a set of 6 repetitions and you feel you could crank out 7th or 8th rep don’t do it every time you workout. It is a good idea to implement failure sets SOMETIMES when you really want to test yourself out but they are not the key for your muscle building. If you start to go for failure on every training session you will hit a wall quite fast and won’t be experiencing any progress.


All in all the actual rep range isn’t THAT important. What is important is that you’re aiming for progression over time, be it with 3 reps, 5 reps, 8 reps, 12 reps, 15 reps or 20 reps per set. As long as you’re adding more weight or more reps per set to your compound lifts you don’t need to worry about the rep range.

But since all of us like numbers I’d suggest you to stay in between 5-15 reps per given set. And if you want to start peaking your strength then start to incorporate 3 rep sets to your compound lifts.

Most people find out that the best range to train is with 5-10 repetitions with the compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, chin-ups, overhead presses), which should be the corner stones of your weight training routines if you want to get the most out of your workouts. And the reason for this is usually that by working in this range you will decrease the risk of injury because you’re not using weights close to your maximum potential and it’s easy to aim for progress since you can leave yourself 1-2 reps away from failure and the next workout for the same exercise you can aim for just 1 more rep.

So let’s recap the important points here once more:

  • Muscle and strength is built with all of the rep ranges
  • The rep ranges are not so important, the important factor is the progressive overload, aiming for more weight or more reps per set!
  • Stay 1-2 reps away from failure
  • If you want to find out your current strength level start to peak with lower rep ranges
  • For most of the people 5-10 reps per set seems to be the “sweet spot”

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

Train hard and train SMART!




4 thoughts on “Weight Training Reps – Guide To Rep Ranges

  1. Jason

    You are providing some valuable information here for all those body builders out there. Thank you for posting.

    1. Jesse Post author

      Yeah I try to share information to everyone who is interested in lifting weights 🙂 The goal obviously can be anything from sports related performance to strength training & bodybuilding or just taking care of your body in general.

  2. Danny

    Great tips. I’ve been needing to get into weight lifting for a while and your post has inspired me to take action. I’ll definitely give your rep techniques a try!


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