A common question that gets asked is how many reps per set should be performed for a specific exercise. And particularly, how many reps to build muscle?
Many people are following crappy workout routines (or no workout routine at all) and are thus getting poor results. Others have tried everything in the book and are still scratching their heads in confusion. Although there are many reasons why workout routines fail, one of them is training at the wrong intensity and rep range for a desired goal.
The number of reps and amount of weight you lift is directly related to your training intensity.
Obviously, lifting heavier weights increases intensity while lifting lighter weights decreases intensity. And the correlation between intensity and reps is as follows:
- The more reps you can perform at a certain weight = lower intensity
- The fewer reps you can perform at a certain weight = higher intensity
This concept is important because certain levels of intensity and hence rep ranges are more suitable for attaining specific goals than others.
And this leads up to the main question: How many reps should you perform per set for an exercise? To properly answer this question, we must first determine your weight training goal.
How Many Reps to Build Muscle?
We can make the following conclusions from the chart above.
- Lower reps (1-8 reps, higher intensity) are most ideal for improving strength.
- Higher reps (12-20 reps, lower intensity) are most ideal for improving muscle endurance.
- Moderate reps (5-12 reps, moderate intensity) are most ideal for building muscle (hypertrophy) and hence, improving your appearance.
The term “ideal” is important. Even though “strength” isn’t written beside the 12-15 rep range does not mean that you will never gain strength when doing 12-15 reps of an exercise.
Each rep range has the potential of increasing your strength, muscle and endurance to some degree. However, the idea is to choose the rep range that is specific to your desired goal since this will allow you to attain the results you want in the most efficient way.
Best Rep Range for Toning Muscle
If you’re looking for the best rep range to “tone” or “define” your body, I’m sorry to inform you that no such category exists because the whole concept of toning muscle is bullshit.
To make sense of this, you must understand that nothing actually makes a muscle toned, defined, or “cut.”
Tone can be defined as having a decent quantity of muscle and body fat percentage that is low enough so that the muscle underneath can be seen.
So if you’re aiming to “tone up,” what you really want is the ability to better see your underlying muscle. And this can be accomplished by lowering your body fat, building more muscle, or ideally, a combination of both.
From a rep range and training intensity perspective, getting toned or defined all fall into the same group as building muscle in the chart above. And the 5-12 rep range (moderate intensity) is most ideal for muscle hypertrophy. Combine this with some HIIT for fat loss and you’ll be on the right path to increasing “tone.”
If you’re still a little confused on where to start, you can follow a scientifically-proven weight training program and diet routine that will help you properly build muscle and lose fat to give you that lean, muscular physique.