The number of repetitions in the exercise

Read the main article: How to create a training program

This article is based on the recommendations of Christian Tibado, a weightlifter with extensive experience, and a specialist in the development of training programs.

One of the factors determining the success of any program is a properly selected training intensity.

Your body adapts to the loads that you set. While you are increasing weight on the bar, almost any system will allow you to progress. But nevertheless, for an optimal increase in mass or strength, you better choose a specialized scheme, for example, approaches of 1-3 repetitions are more effective for developing strength than from 12-15.

From the following table, select the working ranges for your exercise that are appropriate for your purpose. A good fat burning program should include a variety of approaches, so there is no specific data in this table.

GoalExercise N1 (for each muscle group)Exercise N2Exercise N3 (if there)Exercise N4 (if there)
Muscle PowerFunction: Relative or Absolute Strength1-3 reps per set3-5 reps per set3/2/1 wave5/1 contrast sets5x1 cluster setsFunction: absolute strength or functional hypertrophy3-5 reps per set6-8 reps per set6/4/2 wave7/5/3 waveSame as in Exercise N2Same as in Exercise N2
Muscle MassFunction: functional or general hypertrophy6-8 reps per set8-10 reps per set10-12 reps per setFunction: hypertrophy8-10 reps per set10-12 reps per setFunction: hypertrophy or strength endurance8-10 reps per set10-12 reps per set12-20 reps per setSame as in Exercise N3
Muscle ReliefVariesVariesVariesVaries

Research data 

StudyNumber of repetitionsHypertrophyForceEndurance
Weiss et al, 2000[1] [2]3-5 or 13-15 or 23-25There is no difference between the groupsBest result at 3-5 reps, worst at 23-25 ​​repsNot studied
Campos et al, 2000[3]3-5 or 9-11 or 20-28There is no difference between 3-5 and 9-11, but hypertrophy is lower at 20-28The best result in 3-5The best result in 20-28
Alcaraz et al, 2011[4]twice for 6 repetitions, but in one set – rest 30 seconds, in the other – 3 minutesThere is no difference between the groupsThere is no difference between the groupsNot studied
Mitchell et al, 2012[5]3 sets of 30% of 1RM (Repeated Maximum) or 3 sets of 80% of 1RM or 1 set of 80% of 1RMThere is no difference between the groupsThe best result in the 80% groupThe best result in the 30% group
Schoenfeld et al, 2014[6]2-4 or 8-12There is no difference between the groupsBest result in 2-4Not studied
Van Roie et al, 2014[7]10-15 or 80-100 or 60 at 20% 1RM, accompanied by 40% 1RM to failureThere is no difference between the groupsThe best result in 10-15 and the third groupOnly an increase of 80-100
Schoenfeld et al, 2015[8]8-12 or 25-35There is no difference between the groupsThe best result in 8-12The best result in 25-35

The number of repetitions in set for muscle growth.

Most scientific studies have found that total hypertrophy is higher when performing low rep training (less than 10-12 reps).

For groups with a low number of repetitions (3-5) and an average number of repetitions (9-11), there is significant hypertrophy of both red and white fibers, while in the group with a high number of repetitions (20-28); there are no significant changes relative to the control group observed.

Another study showed that the maximum protein synthesis in muscles is observed when using weights of approximately 80% of the repeated maximum, which corresponds to 8-12 repetitions to failure.

 The number of repetitions in set for the development of strength.

The 1RM graphs show that in the case of the “low repetition” (3-5) group, the strength increased significantly, the “mid rep” (9-11) group also became much stronger after training, however, it is still weaker than the low repetition, and even the “highly repetitive” group (20-28) became significantly stronger compared to the control group.

Especially in the leg press, the difference in strength between the high and low groups is very significant.

The number and speed of repetitions for the development of various physical qualities

The speed, or time, of performing repetitions is an important parameter of the load during strength training, which is not always used correctly. For example, in the circles of bodybuilders, it is widely believed that when working with a load exceeding 85% of the RM, weight lifting should be slow, but in fact this condition is not necessary.

Power athletes who develop explosive weight lifting can quickly work under load up to 95% of the repeated maximum (RM) and demonstrate a high level of energy production even under such a high load.

The whole point is to train the nervous system in order to activate all motor units for the shortest possible time. This effect is achieved due to the periodization of the strength training program and the transition from the training of intramuscular coordination (explosive work under medium and high load) to the training of intramuscular coordination (explosive work at maximum load or at least an attempt at explosive work).

See the table in the article Adaptation to physical activity

To develop maximum strength (i.e., work under a load of 70-100% of the RM (repeated maximum)), the number of repetitions should be small (from one to five).

See table N8 in the article Gradual increase in load

For exercises for developing power (i.e., working under a load of 50-80% of the RM), the number of repetitions should be from small to medium (from one to 10 dynamic repetitions).

For the development of short-term muscle endurance, a training workout with a number of repetitions from 10 to 30 is suitable, while for the training of medium-term muscle endurance, 30 to 60 continuous repetitions are required, and for the development of long-term muscle endurance, an even greater number of repetitions are required – up to 200.

The proposed number of repetitions may shock trainers who believe that 20 repetitions are enough to develop muscle endurance. However, doing 20 reps has little impact on overall performance in sports that require medium to long-term muscle stamina, such as rowing, canoeing, long-distance swimming and cross-country skiing.

Table N1. Relationship between the load and the possible number of repetitions performed to failure by athletes of two different types.

 Athlete with a high level of neuromuscular efficiency (power)Athlete with high metabolic efficiency (endurance)
% of repeated maximum (RM)RepetitionsRepetitions

From this table it also follows that the conversion tables of the repeated maximum are practically useless, since they do not take into account the individual characteristics of the athlete, which may be at one of the extreme points of the neuro-metabolic range.

Speed ​​is an important factor in strength training workout. To achieve maximum effect, the repetition rate should be high and explosive for most exercises, at least for the concentric phase. The proper use of speed is that the athlete uses force against resistance. For example, when an American football player, thrower or sprinter is working under high load (over 90% of the repeated maximum), the movement may look slow, but applying force against resistance is carried out at the highest possible speed.

Otherwise, the nervous system does not activate and does not activate with maximum frequency all motor units necessary to overcome resistance. Only as a result of a quick and energetic application of force is training to engage the fibers of rapidly contracting muscles. Strictly speaking, in accordance with the results of recent studies, which considered the fulfillment of a concentric effort to lift the weight at the maximum expected speed and at a speed less than half, when performing the movement at maximum speed for six weeks, there is a twofold increase in maximum force in comparison with an increase in maximum forces with a slow lifting of the weight, and also increases the speed of work at any load.

For this reason, muscle contraction rate plays a very important role in strength training. In order to achieve explosive effort, the athlete needs to concentrate on quickly activating the muscles, even when the bar moves slowly. Although most of the time the bar should move fast. Fast-contracting fibers are instantly activated only at a high contraction rate under heavy load (over 70% of the repeated maximum), which leads to an increase in maximum strength and power.

The repetition time also has a significant effect on the physiological response when performing training for strength, and this factor is directly related to the length of time the muscles are energized during the implementation of the approach. See Table N2.

Table N2. Training results in accordance with the change in the execution time of repetitions.

MUSCLE ACTIONExcentric PhaseIsometric Phase between Excentric and Concentric PhasesConcentric PhaseIsometric Phase between Concentric and Excentric Phases
PERFORMANCE TIMESlow (3-5 sec)Fast (<1 sec)MissingPresent (1-5 sec)Slow (3-5 sec)Fast (<1 sec)MissingPresent (1-2 sec)
THE TRAINING EFFECTHypertrophy increaseHypertrophy reductionHypertrophy reductionHypertrophy increaseHypertrophy increaseMaximum strength increaseMetabolic stress increaseActivation of rapidly contracting muscle fibers
Maximum strength increaseCyclic starting force increaseCyclic starting force increaseAcyclic starting force increaseMetabolic stress increaseTension increased  

Accordingly, the speed of movement should vary, depending on the stage of training. Table N3 shows the repetition time for each phase of the strength training program.

Table N3. Suggested exercise speed, based on training phase.

 Excentric PhaseIsometric Phase between Excentric and Concentric PhasesConcentric PhaseIsometric Phase between Concentric and Excentric PhasesProposed exercise speed
AASlowPresentSlow or QuickMissing3.0.2.0
HypSlowPresent or MissingQuickMissing4.1.1.0
LTMESlowPresent or MissingQuickPresent or Missing3.0.X.1
MTMEQuickMissing (Cyclic), Present (Acyclic)QuickPresent or Missing1.0.X.0
STMEQuickMissing (Cyclic), Present (Acyclic)QuickMissing1.0.X.0

Abbreviations: AA-anatomical adaptation, Hyp-hypertrophy, LTME-long-term muscle endurance, MTME-medium-term muscle endurance, STME-short-term muscle endurance, MP-maximum power, P-power, SE-strength endurance.

At a moderate speed of the concentric phase, metabolic stress and expression of muscle strength increase over a range of motion, and this speed can be used to increase the hypertrophic reaction to training. Moderate speed is used at the stage of anatomical adaptation, because in this situation the athlete controls movement better, and the muscles are under pressure for a longer period of time. The eccentric part of the weight lifting can last for three to four seconds, followed by a one-second pause for the transition from the eccentric phase to the concentric, and then two seconds fall on the concentric phase. Nevertheless, at the remaining stages of the annual plan, athletes should perform the concentric phase of strength exercises at high speed and in an explosive manner, since most sports require fast concentric muscle contractions.

The desired rate of muscle contraction should be as large as possible at stages where attention is paid to maximum strength, power, strength endurance and short-term muscle endurance. At the stage of maximum strength, athletes should slowly perform three to four eccentric actions, followed by explosive concentric action. At this stage, the athlete can control the transition from an eccentric to a concentric action. In fact, the best way to maximize concentric strength is to remove all reflex or flexible characteristics developed during the eccentric phase of working with weight due to a one-two second pause before performing the concentric phase. These techniques should be used at an early stage in the maximum strength training phase.

As an example, consider the bench press in a prone position. When performing this exercise, the concentric part consists in extending the arms, and returning the barbell to the chest level and stretching the chest muscles is an eccentric part. Simplified exercise is the following sequence: the athlete slowly bends his arms to bring the bar closer to his chest, then quickly returns it to its original position and starts the cycle again.

On the other hand, the eccentric part of the work can increase the strength of the subsequent concentric part. If the eccentric part is also performed quickly, as a result of which the so-called myotonic reflex appears. This reflex is the reason for the particular popularity of plyometric training in sports. In fact, as a result of plyometric training, the athlete’s performance is improved by improving the physiological properties of the main moving muscles to perform quick and explosive concentric actions.

When the athlete quickly lowers the barbell to the chest, neural mechanisms in the muscles are activated, and the elastic energy used during the concentric phase or barbell lifting phase is accumulated in the ligaments. Thus, a net increase in the generated concentric force can be achieved by a pause after the eccentric phase, as a result of which the positive influence of the eccentric phase is excluded. This approach makes it possible to standardize the range of motion of each repetition and does not allow the athlete to cunning and repel weight. As a result, due to the improvement of the technique, intermuscular coordination is improved.

This approach can also be used to help an athlete overcome a training plateau. The trainer must determine the priority, which can be deliberate maximization of concentric strength or imitation of a specific neuromuscular algorithm (as a rule, this action includes an eccentric and concentric phase). Ultimately, at the stage of maximum power, priority should be given not to the first, but to the second.

Repetition time is directly related to the duration of the approach, and represents the interval in which the muscles are energized during the repetition. If you multiply this period of time by the number of repetitions, then you can determine the total duration of the approach. For each stage of the training, there is an optimal way to perform each repetition, depending on the training effect, which is the goal of this stage. This specificity also applies to the duration of the approach, which depends on the involved energy system of the body. Table 4 shows the training effect for various options for the duration of the approach.

Table N4. The results of the training, depending on the duration of the approaches.

Approach (Sets) durationTraining effect
2-12 secondsIncrease in strength without an increase in hypertrophy (relative strength) and power
15-25 secondsStrength increase with an increase in hypertrophy (absolute strength)
30-60 secondsHypertrophy
6-15 seconds (series of approaches) 15-30 seconds (sets)Strength endurance
15-60 seconds (series of approaches) 30-120 seconds (sets)Short-term muscle endurance
1-4 minutes (series of approaches) 2-8 (sets)Medium-term muscular endurance
Over 8 minutesLong-term muscle endurance

Read also:

  • How many repetitions to do in the sets
  • The number of approaches per muscle group
  • Gradual increase in load
  • Training volume
  • Rest between exercises and sets
  • How many sets do
  • How often to train
  • Order of exercise
  • The best bulking training programs
  • Muscle relief workouts


[1] – Weiss, LW, Coney HD, Clark FC. Gross measures of exercise-induced muscular hypertrophy. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2000;

[2] – Weiss LW, Coney HD, Clark FC. Differential functional adaptations to short-term low-, moderate-, and high-repetition weight training. J Strength Cond Res. 1999;

[3] – Campos GE, Luecke TJ, Wendeln HK, Toma K, Hagerman FC, Murray TF, Ragg KE, Ratamess NA, Kraemer WJ, Staron RS. Muscular adaptations in response to three different resistance-training regimens: specificity of repetition maximum training zones. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002;

[4] – Alcaraz PE, Gomze PJ, Chavarrias M, Blazevich AJ. Similarity in adaptations to high-resistance circuit vs. traditional strength training in resistance-trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;

[5] – Mitchell CJ, Churchward-Venne TA, West DW, Burd NA, Breen L, Baker SK, Phillips SM. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. J Appl Physiol. 2012;

[6] – Schoenfeld BJ, Ratamess NA, Peterson MD, Contreras B, Sonmez GT, Alvar BA. Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;

[7] – Van Roie E, Delecluse C, Coudyzer W, Boonen S, Bautmans I. Strength training at high versus low external resistance in older adults: effects on muscle volume, muscle strength, and force-velocity characteristics. Exp Gerontol. 2013;

[8] – Schoenfeld BJ, Peterson MD, Ogborn D, Contreras B, Sonmez GT. Effects of Low- Versus High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015.

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