Strength Training
Posted by: Amanda Capritto on
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How Many Reps Will Build Muscle?

When you walk into the gym, do you enter with a plan? Workouts that reflect your goal will propel you to success.

Whether you want to build muscle, get stronger, or improve your endurance, knowing how many reps to lift is key to getting there — consider this your one-stop guide.

How many reps to lift to build muscle

If your main goal is to build muscle, you’ll want to lift in the 8 to 12 rep range. This is the proven “hypertrophy rep range” according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and several scientific studies support this.

To build muscle, you need to hit that sweet spot between volume and weight — volume is the number-one variable for increasing muscle mass, and load comes in a close second.

The absolute best way to put on size is to take a hybrid approach known as “powerbuilding.” A powerbuilding plan includes high-volume days and lower-volume, heavier days to build strength (since more strength usually correlates to more muscle).

How many reps to lift for strength

A woman squats with a barbell on her shoulders

Heavy lifters get strong. Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash.

Speaking of strength, lower your rep count and increase your weight if you want to get stronger. Studies show that lifting heavy weights to fatigue (meaning on the brink of failure) is the most effective way to build strength. The ACE recommends lifting one to six reps, while the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends up to five.

How many reps to lift for power

A man prepares to lift heavy weights

To get good at Olympic lifts, train for power. Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash.

Mastering the power clean, snatch, and overhead jerk (AKA the Olympic lifts) requires extreme power in the posterior chain. To develop such power, lifters need to focus on explosive lifts at high loads. The ACE suggests limiting sets to just one or two reps in order to maximize your power output, while NASM recommends up to five reps for power.

The other key to developing power is implementing high sets. For example, five or six sets of one to two reps (rather than just two or three sets) gives you more overall volume but still allows you to focus on explosivity at heavy loads.

How many reps to lift for endurance

A man performs a push up with a medicine ball

Training for endurance means high-volume sets at low weights. Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash.

If you’re training for endurance, lifting 15 or more reps per set is your best bet. Improving your endurance requires improving your aerobic capacity, or how long your body can sustain a rhythmic, repeated motion under duress.

Lifting weights for endurance can help runners, hikers, cyclists, and other distance-based athletes get better at their sport. It’s also a phenomenal training modality for general health and translates well to everyday activities, such as walking up long flights of stairs.

A graph shows different rep ranges for different fitness goals

Knowing exactly how many reps to lift when you work out is key to meeting your fitness goals. If you want help developing the right goals and training program for you, talk to a World Gym personal trainer.