The most often asked question for weight training is:
HOW MANY REPETITIONS SHOULD YOU DO?
My answer is, it depends, if you are training for Strength, Muscle Mass, or Endurance.
NOTE: there are some older articles on weight lifting on this blog. The top 4 articles are weight ratios for power clean, bench press and squats in terms of your bodyweight, my old weight training program, a discussion on how to determine 1 rep max (1 RM) and another sample weight training program from another coach.
Below is a chart with estimates on percentages of 1RM (one rep max or one repetition maximum) and the benefits associated with the reps and intensities. The chart may be off by one rep either way, but you can get an idea of the big picture.
You can look at this chart and it will explain why I do 4×5 reps or 8-6-4-2-2 or three-by-threes or why I do doubles and triples but never a single 1RM.
Also, genetically I get very big lifting weights (most men would die for this problem) but I don’t want to get too big as 400 meters is a long way around the track carrying an elephant, grizzly bear and piano.
In terms of how long to stay in the weight room, 45 minutes is usually my limit. The number of sets for a particular exercise should be limited to 3 or 4.
If you are coming straight from the track (my personal recommendation, though several world class athletes prefer a 9am weight session) then you are already warmed up. Jump right in with a fresh T-shirt please, and bring a small towel to wipe off the sweat on the bench!
How many reps should you do?
What does this chart tell us?
- 1-3 reps: Max and Relative strength
- 3-5 reps: Max strength and low end hypertrophy
- 5-8 reps: Best combo of max strength and hypertrophy
- 6-10 reps: Good strength, better hypertrophy
- 10-15 reps: Excellent hypertrophy (for bodybuilders), average strength, lots of fatigue
- 15-20 reps: some hypertrophy, lots of endurance, tons of fatigue
Strength, Muscle Mass, and Endurance
If you like infographics, then this picture gives a better representation, though the content is aimed at getting BIG and STRONG. Thanks Mehdi from Stronglifts.com for the image (though I don’t know where he stole it from either).
Click on the image for a larger view. (960 x 810px)