A really common question we get asked is what rep range is best to work at when you’re resistance training. There isn’t a black and white answer sadly. It truly depends on what your training goal is.
But here’s some rules of thumb:
Reducing your body fat percentage:
If you’re training to manage your body fat levels, as long as your combining your resistance training with some cardio and HIIT, it doesn’t matter so much. Lifting full stop in any rep range will help to condition the muscles. Whether that’s a timed circuits based body weight approach, a heavy/ low rep session a couple of times a week, or something in between, what counts is getting the body moving. Ensuring the muscles are under tension a least a couple of times a week will condition and shape your body and spike the metabolism.
If your goals are more strength or size specific then this is where rep ranges and sets are important. Generally speaking, to build maximum strength you should focus on lifting heavy weights over multiple sets in low rep ranges. A classic powerlifting routine (for strength) is the 5 x 5 – five sets of five reps at a weight where you’re hitting failure on the final rep of the final set.
Focus on the big compound moves (moves that involve multiple muscle groups) for strength and power – like the squat, deadlift, bench press and barbell row. Plenty of power lifters will focus just on those moves (adding the more advanced clean and press) focusing on low rep sets with big weights to increase strength. Of course, with proper nutrition, that’s also going to increase size. As you get stronger your muscles will get bigger. BUT if size is your goal rather than strength then you’re going to want to take a different approach…
Training for size, or hypertrophy, will typically see gym go-ers working in the 8 to 12 rep range across 3 to 4 sets for each exercise. They’ll likely split training between body parts and hit each body part with 2 to 4 sets.
So a typical week might look like a full body Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or a lower body day, upper body day, rest day, lower body, upper body across 5 days. But the most important thing is to find what works for you. Get professional advice if it’s overwhelming and don’t be scared to try new training splits.
The critical bit though is to leave at least 48 hours between hitting the same muscle group again. What you wouldn’t want to do is hit back two days in a row. That’s because our muscles actually grow when we’re at rest. Post training the muscles repair and they grow back stronger and bigger – so if you hit the same muscle without adequate rest you’ll actually impede it’s growth.
Finally endurance training should focus on 15 reps of a maximum of 3 sets. Or you can do a timed circuit based workout, where you’re aiming to get as many reps as you can in a certain time.
Again, recovery time is key. Slot other forms of cardio or HIIT on the days when you’re not hitting weights.
Whatever your goal – proper nutrition is absolutely key, and a whole, much bigger story. But it’s safe to say that a good nutritious diet will improve performance, strength or growth by ensuring we receive all the macro and micro nutrients we need.
This is the kind of stuff we teach on our retreats and virtual training programmes, so if you fancy learning more, drop us a line.
One final thing – weight training (or resistance training) is not just for men. Claire lifts for strength and size four times a week. She will lift in the way I’ve mentioned for hypertrophy as she wants to create a lean, strong shape. It’s not going to bulk you and if you want to find out more – you can always join her virtual Beach Body program – launching in approx. two weeks. She provides a total breakdown of hints, tips and explanations of the whys and hows!