Reps: How many?

 Image from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 2008; official textbook used by the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA: www.nsca.com) for their CSCS certification 

Image from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 2008; official textbook used by the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA: www.nsca.com) for their CSCS certification 


REPS: How many?

George Cho, MFSc, CEP, CSCS
 

The load and repetitions of resistance training needs to be adjusted depending on the desired outcomes. The table above is a general guideline showing how many repetitions should be performed in a single set in order to attain Strength, Power, Hypertrophy, and Muscular endurance. Generally, the recommendation would be:

Strength: 2 - 6 reps

Power: 2 - 5 reps (aim for speed as well)

Hypertrophy: 6 - 12 reps

Muscular endurance: 13 - 20 reps

 

It should be noted that the above variables can be trained at a much wider range of repetitions than listed here and that it is beneficial to change up the number of repetitions from time to time instead of sticking rigidly to one narrow range. However, the table demonstrates the repetition levels that would elicit the specific adaptation desired.

 

Final Repetitions should be Challenging

Sometimes you'll go to the gym and see people performing exercises in which even at the last few reps, their faces area as serene as when they started. The load is clearly too light for them. It needs to be emphasized that at the end of each set, it should be challenging to complete the final 1 to 2 reps, else we may not achieve our goals. 

For example, even though strength is trained at mainly 2 - 6 repetitions, it should be quite difficult to finish repetition numbers 5 and 6. If it is, then we know we are working hard enough. If its too easy, then, we may need to consider increasing the weight. Just doing 2 - 6 repetitions does not mean we are actually developing strength. 

 

Conclusion

Strength and conditioning is much more complex than merely aiming at the correct repetitions. Nevertheless, the number of reps performed is important in determining what type of adaptation we'll achieve. As a general guideline, the above information will prove valuable. 

George Cho