The power of reps: how to use repetitions to build muscle and strength

Soniya
What is reps in workout? (image via unsplash / dylan nolte)
What is reps in workout? (image via unsplash / dylan nolte)

Repetitions, or "reps" for short, are a fundamental component of strength training and muscle building. It is the number of times an exercise is performed in a single set. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced athlete, understanding how to use repetition can help you achieve your fitness goals more efficiently and effectively.


What are reps?

In a workout, "reps" refers to the number of times you perform a particular exercise. Short for repetition, it is the basic unit of measure in weight training, bodyweight exercises, and other types of strength and conditioning exercises.

Used to count the number of time a specific workout is performed. (image via unsplash / sven)
Used to count the number of time a specific workout is performed. (image via unsplash / sven)

For example, if you are doing bicep curls, one repetition consists of lifting the weight up towards your shoulder and then lowering it back down to the starting position. If you perform 10 bicep curls in a row, you have completed 10 reps of the exercise.


The role of repetitions in strength training

There's a lot of confusion around how much 'repetition' is best for building muscle and strength, so let's break down this question by looking at four popular types of repetitions:

  • Strength training - 1-5 reps per set (3-6 sets)
  • Muscle building - 8-12 reps per set (3-5 sets)
  • Fat loss - 15+ reps per set (2-3 sets)
  • Conditioning - 20+ reps per set

Repetition ranges

The ideal repetition range for beginners depends on your goals. If you're trying to build muscle, do more repetitions in each set of an exercise. For example, if you are doing 10 repetitions of bicep curls with a weight that feels like a 5-pound dumbbell, try doing 12 or 15 reps instead.

repetition range depends upon fitness goal. (image via unsplash / alexander redi)
repetition range depends upon fitness goal. (image via unsplash / alexander redi)

You can also change your repetition range during workouts depending on how fatigued your muscles are getting and what kind of difficulty level is appropriate for the exercise being performed at that point in time.

For example, if you are doing bench presses for your chest muscles and find yourself getting tired after two sets of 15 repetitions per side (30 total), then you may decide it's best not only for your health but also to build strength when you reduce those sets down from three back down again to two until they reach full capacity once again.


How to find the right rep range for you

The first step to working out the right range for you is to start with a moderate range and work your way up.

For example, if you're not used to doing high reps, start with 10 or 12 repetitions per set and see how that feels. If it's too easy, try doing 12-15 repetitions per set next time. Then move on from there: try doing 15-20 or 20-25 repetitions per set as your muscles get stronger and more conditioned--you'll notice that eventually those higher numbers aren't as hard as they once were!

combination of repetition is ideal in a workout. (image via unsplash / boxed water )
combination of repetition is ideal in a workout. (image via unsplash / boxed water )

You should also workout where both high and low repetitions are included; this will help prevent injury while allowing plenty of opportunity for growth in both areas on a regular basis without overdoing either one too much (which can also lead down dangerous paths).

When choosing how much weight/resistance should be used during these exercises, keep in mind that it should still feel challenging but not impossible; if it feels too heavy, decrease the amount of weight until there is a balance between challenge versus safety concern.

start with few repetitions while working out. (image via unsplash / bruce mars)
start with few repetitions while working out. (image via unsplash / bruce mars)

Repetition ranges are important and can be used to build muscle, but they're not the only thing you need to worry about. It is also important to use proper form in order to get the most out of your repetitions and avoid injury. Make sure that every motion is slow and controlled, and focus on using your muscles rather than momentum or other external factors like gravity.

Edited by Siddharth Dhananjay