There is a workout-related adage that is as old as time: “three sets of ten reps.” You’ve probably heard an old school gym-goer repeat that to a newbie trying to figure out a workout, or maybe you’ve even been that old school gym-goer yourself.
While this method is as outdated as a guy working out in a string tank top, there was a very good reason behind why certain workouts were performed like that. However, as more research is being done in the exercise science field, there is evidence that training in different rep ranges yields different results.
Let’s take a look at the different ranges and see which one(s) pertain(s) to your current training:
- 15-25 repetitions – Stabilization is when you use your core and secondary muscles in a lift to create a balanced body and to begin training for strength. 0-60 seconds of rest is used.
- 12-25 repetitions – Muscular Endurance Training is when lower intensities of force are being used with higher reps and minimal rest (<30 seconds) between sets.
- 6-12 repetitions – Strength Endurance Training is when higher levels of force are being used with lower repetitions and minimal rest (30-60 seconds) between sets.
- 6-12 repetitions – Hypertrophy Training is when you are trying to enlarge your muscles from an increase in volume used (weight). A rest period of 1-3 minutes between sets is key for muscle development. (Take note of the rest difference between hypertrophy training and strength endurance training.)
- 1-5 repetitions – Maximal Strength/Power Training is the maximal force that a muscle can produce in a single effort, regardless of how fast the load moves. A rest period of 2-5 minutes per set is used in this rep range.
As you can see, there are plenty of different rep ranges that can be used while training, as well as specific reasons why each range is used. However, not every client should train through all of these ranges, as the fewer amount of reps that are performed, the greater the risk of injury is. So, for example, someone with a sedentary lifestyle who is looking to lose weight and stay in shape should not be doing power exercises, as there is no functionality for them behind the exercises.
Meanwhile, a college athlete returning from a grueling season of football, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, etc. should not jump right into power training. Most of the time, athletes emerge from the season with less muscle than they began the season with, and there can be underlying stress fractures, general weakness, CNS fatigue, etc. Due to the rigors of practices and of games, their bodies become hostile environments for building strength and muscle. So, it is best for their bodies if these athletes start in either the muscular endurance or strength endurance phases.
As with any training program, you need to switch up the reps every 3-6 weeks depending on the goals and the frequency of training. Any person training in any rep scheme will plateau eventually. So, for maximal progress, be sure that your programs are kept fresh by changing the reps frequently.
To come full circle, let’s return back to that old saying about 3 sets of 10 reps to understand the thinking behind it. Most old school bodybuilders say this because that is right for the hypertrophy (muscle building) phase of working out. So, while it does actually make sense for a certain portion of the workout population, exercise science has proven that it is not always appropriate to train like that.
Hopefully this gave you a little insight into why you train the way that you do! Email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments.