The age old question, “should I do low weight with high reps, or a lot of weight with a few reps?”
The answer is, you guessed it, it depends. Every question in the gym is set with the context of the goal, so instead of answering the question of low versus high reps, let’s shoot to understand the point of each and how they can each be used to get you to your goals!
Keeping in mind, everything in the article below is a gradient, none is particularly set in stone; these “zones” of reps cross over. Each of these zones can also be looked at as a tool in your tool belt. None of them are right. None of them are wrong. Luckily, you don’t have to pick just one.
To look at this accurately, the reps are considered to, or at least very close to, form failure.
* 1-8 reps is considered “Low” depending on who you ask
* This is utilized when the goal is strength development, however once you past 5 reps you can also consider it the hypertrophy or “muscle-building” range
* I typically program this rep-range with clients once they’ve had adequate practice with a movement over several sessions and they have the skill to maintain technique with such a heavy load
* 8-15 is a standard “Middle” rep range
* This is primarily utilized when muscle building is the goal, still a relatively heavy load that can be used for enough reps to stimulate growth
* This is the rep range majority of people spend their time in, as it’s a great opportunity to use a significant load and each rep is opportunity to practice technique
* Many of my clients and myself spend a lot of time here, as this is your primary range for building lean tissue
* 15-30 reps is considered the “high” rep range
* This is primarily utilized to train a muscle or movement without significant load, to practice it or to simply elevate heart rate (which should only be used with an extra attention to technique and control; NOT trying to turn resistance training into cardio)
* Many of my beginner clients spend time here to practice and learn key movements
* Many of my advanced clients also spend time here to elevate heart rate and during things like drop sets in order to take a muscle closer to true failure
Another side note here, many varying fitness levels perceive this differently. If you’re someone who’s never worked out before, and you do 25 bodyweight squats, the stimulus from that would be significant enough to build lean tissue, elevate heart rate, and build strength. Again, there’s a gradient to all of this, which is even more significant the earlier on in your training journey.
Majority of individuals should be training in every range. Depending on what your goal is, you would spend more time in a specific rep range catered to that goal.