One of the most difficult aspects of training is figuring out how many repetitions a client should perform for each exercise. What if the client wants to build muscle mass? What if they want to improve their endurance? These are all questions that need to be answered during the initial consultation in order to provide the best training program to succeed. There are four different types of repetition ranges: Endurance, Hypertrophy, Strength, Power. We are going to look at all four of these to determine which repetition range is right for you!
The first range is endurance. Endurance training involves performing a high number of repetitions during a set using lighter weights. Endurance training is not only beneficial for improving muscular fatigue, but it also serves as a cardiovascular exercise as well. This type of training typically involves repetitions in the 12-15 range and beyond. Endurance training is great for clients who are new to exercise as well as clients who want to focus on stamina and overall joint health. Whenever we exercise, there are energy systems that are being used to provide our bodies with the fuel to perform exercise. With endurance training, we are using our aerobic energy systems by activating our slow-twitch muscle fibers. At the end of each set, a short rest of around 30 seconds is all that is needed for the aerobic energy system to replenish.
Hypertrophy training is best used for clients who want to build lean muscle mass. The phrase, “you have to lift big to be big” is not necessarily true. Lifting the most amount of weight possible will build strength and power, but that does mean you will have the biggest physique. Hypertrophy training uses a repetition range of around 8-12 reps per set. Now, what if you only get 7 reps? If you cannot lift a weight that is at least eight reps, the weight needs to be lowered. During these reps, we do not want to go until failure. We want to perform the exercise just before failure so our form is still intact. The energy system being used during hypertrophy training is the glycolytic energy system. Whenever we perform physical activity, our body uses glucose, or sugar, to give us energy. The glycolytic energy system, also known as aerobic glycolysis, uses the carbohydrates that we have and breaks them down for energy. This is why it is super important to consume carbs before a workout. The rest intervals for this type of training differ from that of endurance. Aerobic glycolysis supports work for up to 90 seconds. We should therefore take a rest of anywhere between 30-120 seconds between sets.
Strength and power are very similar in terms of the repetitions being performed and the energy systems being used. Strength involves repetitions of anywhere from two to six reps, while power is a max-out of just one rep. These two ranges involve using heavy weights. This is why form is critical. Powerlifters and strongmen/strongwomen must have perfect form on every exercise otherwise they could endure a life-threatening injury. Strength and power should only be used by clients who have adapted to a weight training program and have perfected each exercise. These two ranges use fast-twitch muscle fibers and consume the most amount of energy. Our body produces what is called ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, to give us energy. This energy will last anywhere from 3-10 seconds and requires up to five minutes to fully restore. A few examples include a 100m dash or a 6-rep max on the bench press. When we are performing a 1-rep max, ATP fuels our body. A rest period is needed of up to 90 seconds. For anything more than that, the phosphagen energy system is used. We are still using fast-twitch muscle fibers, but we can perform work for up to ten seconds.
So which repetition range should you choose? This is a question that should be answered after meeting with your trainer and setting up a routine. The important take-away from this is that we don’t want to stick to the same repetition range. We always want to change our routine. If we perform the same amount of reps over and over again, our bodies will get used to what we are doing and we won’t see the progress we are wanting. I would advise against anything more than 6-8 weeks of the same repetition range to prevent injury. I change up my workout weekly in order to keep the muscles guessing! This is also called “shocking the muscles”. When your mind and body do not know or are not used to what you are lifting, you will see more progress.
So remember, always ask your trainer if you have any questions about the number of reps, but most importantly GO HAVE FUN!