For increasing strength, rep ranges are typically around 6-10. For increasing muscular size, 8-12. For endurance, 12+. For power development, reps are usually under 6 and explosive in execution.
As for rest periods, endurance or high rep exercise is usually on the lower end (30 seconds or less) to keep you working to build up that endurance (and if you’re training at high reps, that usually means you’re training with lower resistance and you can naturally recover a bit quicker than if you were going very heavy).
Strength and power rep ranges usually are longer in the 60 second to 2 minute, or even 3+ minute range to allow the muscle to recover between very heavy bouts of exercise. Muscular size rest periods usually vary, they can be as low as 30 seconds to as high as 60 or 90 seconds. There are some caveats and nuances to this (lots of science-y stuff), but for the most part it’s to allow enough recovery while still keeping the muscle working.
The one thing that remains relatively consistent no matter the goal is sets: the total amount of work. It’s usually in 3-5 set range, and can vary based on how often you’re training, what level of fitness you’re at, and if you’re scaling up or scaling down your workouts.
Also, the type of exercise and style of training plays a role. Take box jumps, for example. In CrossFit, you’ll see high reps for speed or time. They are used as a power move and a conditioning move. But traditional athletic trainers would argue it’s a power exercise and the reps should be very low. And bodybuilders, which would be another category, don’t typically even use them at all.
Here’s a good way to approach your reps, sets, and rest periods during a workout:
Want to build a leaner, stronger physique and less interested in being a professional athlete or OCR champion? Focus on strength and size reps (6-10 / 8-12) and rest periods (30 – 60 seconds on higher reps; 60, 90, 120 seconds on the lower reps) as the priority. Old school bodybuilding approach to exercise works best for this physique-driven goal. If you want a little more well-roundedness, work in the higher rep endurance stuff and even a few power moves but keep the focus on the other stuff.
Basic example: two-four weeks of low reps, high rest followed by two-fours weeks of high reps, lower rest. Or, alternate between low reps and high rep weeks.
Related FAQ: Is cardio the best way to lose weight?
Want to optimize your athleticism? A good base of strength and endurance will take you far, but smart programming for power (and agility: not mentioned here) would be wise. For exercises and following training plans that replicate your sport also makes sense. Example: OCR athletes, surfers, soccer players, etc.
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