When most people go to the gym, they have a rep range that they favor above everything else. Some people love to just focus on keeping reps low, staying near their one rep max all the time.
Others like to increase the number of reps and focus on rep ranges around 6 to 10—this is probably the most common that you see in the gym on a daily basis.
Some may be focusing on endurance more than strength and muscle growth and prioritize very high rep ranges over 15.
While there is nothing wrong with having a preferred rep range, there is something that you should consider a mistake: always sticking to the exact same rep range for every workout, every single time you go to the gym.
How Rep Ranges Affect Physical Adaptations
To understand choosing the best rep range for strength and muscle growth, it is important to really get an understanding of how each different rep range is affecting your body. Ultimately physical adaptations fall into three different categories: strength, size (hypertrophy), and endurance.
By keeping reps low, in the 1 to 5 range, the physical adaptation most focused on is strength.
In the 8 to 12 rep range, the physical adaptation is muscle size and hypertrophy.
Anything above 15 reps is going to result in muscle endurance.
You’ll probably notice that there are reps that I didn’t point out. Reps between these basic ranges can be a mix of two physical adaptations (doing 6 or 7 reps is going to stimulate strength and hypertrophy to some extent, for example).
The Importance of Mixing Multiple Rep Ranges
At first glance, you may think that if you want to get stronger, you should only focus on doing 1-5 reps. If you want to bulk up and gain size, you should do 8-12 reps. But the truth is if you only focus on a single rep range every time you are not going to get the results you are looking for. You need to mix things up because every adaptation is important.
If your focus is to gain size, by adding rep ranges that build strength, you increase the ability to build endurance and size because you are able to use more weight. By increasing your endurance, you will be able to increase your muscle’s ability to handle more volume which ultimately means more growth.
By neglecting two out of 3 physical adaptations, you hinder your body’s natural ability to progress. If you don’t improve your strength you won’t be able to increase load progression. If you don’t increase muscle size, you lose the ability to gain strength since smaller muscles have a lower strength capacity. If you don’t work on endurance you lower volume toleration.
Specificity Is Not Insignificant
The importance of variation simply cannot be overlooked. But at the same time, there is nothing wrong with having specificity. If your goal is to gain muscle mass and get bigger, focusing a majority of your days training on rep ranges that are between 8 and 14 reps is recommended but some of your days should also include rep ranges to increase endurance and ranges for strength.
Prioritize the specific goals you have in mind, but remember to train in all rep ranges and utilize variation to your advantage.