how many reps or sets should you do?

Posted on April 12, 2020   |    By Lalo Rumayor

"Should I do 4-6 or 8-12 reps?"

Have you ever been in the gym and asked yourself how many reps you should do? Well, in this article we will talk about what is the best rep range for you. In reality, there is no right or wrong answer to this question, because it really depends. But let’s try to keep it simple, start by defining your goal first, is it to develop muscle? do you want to get stronger? or is it that you want you have more endurance? These are the three scenarios that we will cover in today’s article. 

Now let’s quickly learn something about human anatomy, there are two main types of muscle fibers: Type I and Type II. The type I muscle fibers are recruited for endurance, low-intensity, or low resistance activities such as running a 5k, rope jumping, or performing high reps with low weight. The type II muscle fibers are recruited for hypertrophy, power or strength.

Scenario 1: Increase your strength

If your main focus is to increase your strength it makes sense to activate your Type II fibers, but how do we do that? In order to target those fibers we need to keep the rep range low. We recommend to keep each set between 3-6 reps and increase the amount of sets to keep the volume high (volume = sets x reps). To build strength you need to train with heavier loads to create the stimulus needed to grow stronger and making sure you are resting enough time in between sets (2-3 min).

Scenario 2: Increase your muscle mass

If developing muscle tissue is your main goal, then both muscle fibers I and II must be targeted. To focus on those fibers then a range between 8-12 reps will be the most optimal rep range for hypertrophy which in short words means muscle growth. Choose a weight where you can comfortably hit 8 reps and work on your form first, then slowly start increasing the weight or the amount of reps where you hit failure around the 12th rep.

Scenario 3: Increase muscle endurance

Lastly, if you are looking to maximize muscle endurance, you should be looking to target fibers type I. As we discussed before those fibers are recruited for low-intensity activities, so working on them must be a priority when looking to increment your endurance for longer periods of time. To target them you should be aiming to perform 15-20 reps and do fewer sets per exercise, as well as making sure you are keeping the rest periods relatively short (30-60 seconds). You will be working with lighter weights in order to work on your aerobic capacity.


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