Rep Range Adaptations

Author: Billy Snyder

Repetitions, aka Reps.  Each rep range has their place. Knowing what the goal is allows the the plan to be devised.  In this article, we will start with rep ranges and discuss what each range has to offer.

>10 Rep (<65% 1RM)

Reps this high develop muscular endurance via slow twitch muscle fibers.  This range does a great job in building the strength of tendons due to the time under tension. Muscles move tendons, tendons move bones.  When increasing weight too fast, tendonitis can be a result because of improper preparation. This is due to your muscular strength increasing faster than your tendons capacity.  Don't chase strength, nurture it for the long haul.

7-10 Reps (65-75% 1RM)

Reps in this range allow for volume to be high.  This is great for someone who is wanting to lose weight or gain weight, because the volume (volume= reps x sets), is high.  They typically start at the beginning of a lifting cycle, because building more muscle has the opportunity to build more strength. Makes senses.  This phase also would allow someone to lean out if that was their desire. However, their eating habits have to their resemble desire.  

Working with younger athletes, most of the reps in the weight room should be done in this range.  With their training age, being so young, a hypertrophy phase would be more beneficial than a strength phase.  They get a lot more volume done so learning the movements occur faster.  Weights are light enough for technique work but also for safety.  

4-6 Reps (75-85% 1RM)

The bread and butter of strength training is within these reps.  It is the foundation for strength.   Heavy enough for muscular tension to be high but also light enough for adequate volume to be achieved.  The majority of your training should be in this zone.  By majority, I mean over 50% of your monthly volume should be in this zone.

1-3 Reps (85-100% 1RM)

Low reps with heavy weights can peak strength but are like a jet's afterburner.  It should be used sparingly and done appropriately. The strength adaptations  due to the Central Nervous System (CNS) mechanisms that regulate muscular tension, improve anaerobic energy system, and synchronize coordination of motor units to generate powerful muscular forces.   Safety is also a big concern.  If a weight is near maximal, having spotters is definitely needed.  If lifting near maximal weight is done frequently, it can have negative side effects, A big side effect is a decrease in strength, counter to our goal to build strength, due to CNS fatigue.  Normally, these reps with heavy weight are employed at the end of the cycle during a peak for a competition or test, so that fitness stays high without fatigue.  There is an exception to this, with the conjugate method, made popular by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell.  Even with them, if you know the system, they don't break their records in training by 50 lbs.  No, they break them by 5 lbs so that their training remains optimal versus maximally.

There is a difference between testing and training.  The majority of the time, train, and test periodically.  The opposite should not be so.

In its simplistic form, to get stronger, just lift weights. Someone who begins lifting weights, will get stronger with little effort.  After a while, adaptations start to dwindle and it gets harder to have continual improvement.  To get exceptionally strong, train smart and optimally, and for goodness sake, train safely for continued growth.

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