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How Many Reps Should You Do for Strength?

So you're not too sure how many reps you should do to help you build strong muscles?

Well I can help you out in four words: Low Reps, High Weight (intensity)

Personally, I had been doing 4 sets of 5 reps for almost all my lifts, but you'll more commonly be told to do something like 5 sets of 5.

For your strength training you'll want to stick around 4 to 6 sets and do 1 to 6 repetitions each set, with at least a minute of rest in between each set (this depends on what YOU need rest-wise). If you're using sets with reps as low as 1 - 3, then you'll need to do some extra sets (6 or more total), especially if you do multiple sets with this low of reps.

But... but... you mean doing endless amounts of reps until failure isn't going to make me super strong?

No, not really, all you'll get from that is endurance strength and that's not comparable to your max strength.



You can mix it up though and do different sets with different reps, do whatever you want, something like:

  • 1st Set (6 reps)
  • 2nd Set (5 reps)
  • 3rd Set (4 reps)
  • 4th Set (3 reps)
  • 5th Set (2 reps)
  • 6th Set (1 rep).

Lower the weight for a count of two and then, with no pause at the bottom, lift the weight in a fast, explosive but controlled movement. Have fun with it; raise the weight each set, if you use an inverted pyramid like I just showed you above.

Do what makes the best strength gains for you, not some other guy. Keep reading and I'll tell you why this works.

Why Lower Reps?

The reason you need to do lower reps is because this will work the most amount of muscle fibers with each movement.

You have three main types of skeletal muscle fibers: Type I, Type IIa and Type IIx.

Type I are your smallest muscle fibers and they'll be what you're working hard if you do HIGH reps. These fibers last longer than any other fiber, but they're the weakest muscle fiber.

Type IIa fibers are a little bigger than Type I fibers and they're stronger. The downside is that they won't last as long.

Then you step up to your Type IIx fibers, these are your biggest and strongest muscle fibers. This is where your brute strength will mostly come from. The problem is that in seconds your strength starts to drop off in these fibers. They're great for explosive movements of power, but if you do too many reps, you'll notice a steep drop off in strength after the first few reps.

So, you'll want to do lower reps with fast, explosive movements (as you lift the weight), so that with each repetition you're using the maximum amount of muscle fibers (Type I, Type IIa AND Type IIx fibers with each movement). But you can't go easy and expect to trigger your Type IIx muscle fibers; you need to be lifting heavy weights and lifting them fast (concentric phase).

I'm not saying to go in and see what the biggest guy in the gym lifts; I mean a weight that's heavy for you, but a weight that you can handle, with good form. Why? Because your body will trigger your Type I fibers first, until it feels the force is heavy enough to call in the big boys. So there's the basic idea as to why you need to lift at low repetitions, with heavy weight.

Specific Strength Programs

If you've done the basic 4 or 5 sets of 5 for a while and want some massive strength gains, then maybe you should start listening to people like Pavel Tsatsouline and Chad Waterbury.

I was reading Pavel's book, The Naked Warrior, and I got to a section where he was talking about "freshness". He stressed that in order to train your body to be stronger you need to be doing each of your lifts when your body is fresh. Which would mean even lower repetitions and a nice amount of rest between each set.

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There were even tests done on a volunteer doing a bench press; they used a Fitrodyne unit to track the speed he moved the bar. Each time they tried it, by the time he got to his 3rd rep, he couldn't lift with the same amount of force as he could with his best rep. The speed he moved the bar started to decline at the third repetition every time, and went downhill from there. They also noted that the best repetition for power output was usually the second rep.

So you're fresh for your first rep and that rep gets your body warmed up for the second rep. Then when you go to do your third repetition, your muscles are already starting to lose their power. My thoughts would be that your Type IIb muscle fibers are slowly starting to give out at this point.

This is why Pavel recommends that you do multiple sets of 2, for great gains in strength. That's right, only two repetitions each set; I guess that's the average number of repetitions used by Russian power lifters as well. You'll just want to do a higher amount of sets, so that your overall rep volume is still high enough to work your body, like it's use to.

So for me, being that I'm use to doing 4 sets of 5, I'd want to do 10 sets of 2 to be working with the same rep volume. Volume is your sets times your reps; the overall amount of repetitions you do. (4x5= 20, 10x2= 20) But please don't try to do 2 sets of 10 reps and expect that to work the same; you'll be training the wrong type of muscle fiber and really not getting much of a workout.

And if you talk to Chad Waterbury, he'll probably tell you to do 10 sets of 3. Why? Because he's had great success with this setup, for himself and others. Pavel and Chad both recommend very low reps with higher amounts of sets for the same reasons.

He recommends you do one compound exercise for 10 sets of 3 and then the rest of your exercises for that day would be 4 sets of 6. Also, if you want to add explosive power, add some low weight/higher rep exercises in every day or so. Do something like 3 sets of 10 but do your reps as fast as you can. This will help you blast through sticking points. I plan on putting Pavel's suggestions and The Waterbury Method to the test in the near future and I hope you'll give it a try too.

So in closing, four words: LOW REPS - HEAVY WEIGHTS.

© 2007 Ben Guinter

How Many Reps Do YOU Do To Build Strength?

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 08, 2012:

Yeah, I think you've got the right idea, Jack.

That's a good rep range for your particular goal and progress is key. Once it's easy, with good form, increase the intensity.

jack on April 08, 2012:


i'm currently training for strength but also still wish for slight muscle size gains

i am doing 4 sets of 6 reps on my exercises (other than shrugs and calves), and i increase the weight by around 2.5kg once i can complete my 4 sets of 6 reps with good form.

should i stick to this?

many thanks


madgeste on March 08, 2012:

Hello All,

I've been doing 5 sets of 5 reps with the following exercises:

Workout A: Squats..Bench Press(Flat)...Babrbell Curls

Workout B: Chin Ups...Barbell Overhead Press...Dips

I switch between the two on mon, wed, fri(sat & sun off)..I try to use all compound movements(except for BB curls-my weak spot) and it seems to work great...I've noticed the stronger i get the bigger my muscles look...So i'm just an advocate of low reps...If you work to get stronger, heavy weights, your musclues will look bigger...Diet determines if you see the or not!!

BenJAMMIN2 on February 06, 2012:

I like how you defined the type IIx muscle fibers. This helps explain why heavy exposive lifts like power cleans and snatches are so hard to do in a repetitive manner. (not to mention you use your entire body for every 1 repetition). ;)

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 25, 2012:

Well NES2014,

You can use something that is going to be more of a challenge than those dumbbells and I know you have one... a body!

Try doing some close-grip chin ups (palms facing you) and some dips (don't lean forward) and you'll really target your biceps and triceps to build up some strong arms.

And it doesn't matter if you can't do a lot of them at first because low reps is really what you want for building strength. So try doing 3 to 5 sets of anywhere from 1 to 5 reps for each set.

Eventually you'll get strong enough that your body weight isn't a challenge anymore, but that's when you can start hanging chains over your shoulders or hanging weights from a weight belt.

Hopefully you have a pull up bar and a dip machine so that you can perform these exercises. And you can even do bench dips, with your feet up on another bench, if all else fails.

NES2014 on January 24, 2012:

well at school we don't have a lot of weights mainly dumbells I usually do 3x6 of 10 and

15lbs. I bench some usually only 95lbs. 3x5. I do some military presses 75lbs about 15 times and I do some preacher curls 25-30lbs mon-Fri 45mins every day and my arms have barely gotten bigger and ihavent gotten much stronger

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 24, 2012:

What kind of training do you do for your arms, NES2014? Like exercises, sets/reps and so on...

If you're lifting in the right rep ranges, then you're on the right track but let me know some more details and we'll see what's up.

NES2014 on January 24, 2012:

So like I found this because I have really strong legs I press usally 740-780 but my arms are not as strong and I really want to build some size and strength for them, we lift everyday in my schools gym class and I'm scared I'm over working my arms, think you could help me

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 21, 2012:

Hey Ken, I'd say 4 or 5 sets of 8-10 reps would be fine and a couple times a week would be decent, but you can always mix in other core exercises so that your body doesn't get use to them and you don't get bored. Here's more info from the source (my friend):

Steve, you'll want to go with 3x8 (if not 3x9-12) to really get into the rep range that will build up size in your arms. And I might as well send you over to Nick too, because he has amazing exercises! So check this one out:

But always remember that your triceps make up more of the size of your arm than your biceps, so be sure to train them a lot too!

Steve on January 20, 2012:

Also if u know any great exercises let me know

I do arm curls barbell

French press

Hammer curls

Dumbbell curls



Steve on January 20, 2012:

I am trying to make my arms bigger should I do 3x8 or 5x5

Ken on January 20, 2012:

I was going to ask about my core and seen your last comment and I looked up squat curls looks good how many reps & sets should I do? Is 3 times a week enough?

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 13, 2012:

Look up barbell curl squats on YouTube... that will really help you build a strong core!

The plank would be OK, but it focuses more on endurance... since you try to hold that position for a set amount of time. It'd almost be more beneficial to go from laying on your stomach, into the plank position for a few seconds, then back down, and up and down to complete your reps; from laying on the floor, up into the plank position back and forth...

that way you're getting bursts of tension in your abs, just like if you're kicking a ball. Your abs don't stay tense in one position while you play soccer, you know what I mean?

Gk on January 12, 2012:

I am doing core exercises like the plank to help me kick further how many sets should I do?

If u know any other good core exercises please tell me very little bit helps cheers

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 10, 2012:

Yeah those are great, GK! They will help you work on your form and give you some explosive hip power. Just be sure that you don't bounce off the box... go slowly, sit, then power back up.

Gk on January 09, 2012:

Thanks is box squats better than just squats to improve kicking distance?

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 09, 2012:

The lower reps (5x5) would probably benefit you more, Gk... since a kick is an explosive movement, it's really going to need to use fast twitch fibers.

Any movement where you push with your legs until your legs are straight will help you improve your kicking power. So squats, deadlifts and leg extensions will help... but if you can add some explosiveness to the movement it will help even more. Plyometrics like squat jumps and box jumps might be beneficial, and you could even do sprints up bleachers.

Gk on January 09, 2012:

I am a soccer goalkeeper trying to improve my kicking distance I am doing 6 exercises for my legs/lower back dong 8reps of 3 sets so to improve my power to kick further I should do 5 sets of 5? Also if u know any great exercises to help me improve that would be great thanks

Tony B. on January 04, 2012:

Thanks so much man, I really appreciate your feedback!! I'll keep in touch.

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 04, 2012:

Hey Tony B.,

That looks like a pretty good spread, since you're alternating between push and pull and then you hit your lower body. You should be able to do that workout, as long as you stay well rested.

I don't really choose weights based on % of 1RM because then you always have to keep checking your 1RM, right? It will always be changing, it's kind of risky to do and a solid % won't be as accurate.

I just go in and feel it out; if I'm struggling with the weight and it's making my form suffer, then I'm lifting too heavy. If I can lift the weight easily and I really don't feel challenged then I'm lifting too light. If I can lift the weight in good form but the last couple of reps are a tid bit of a challenge, then that's the weight I'd stick at until it feels easy.

That means your first time through your exercises you need to find that "sweet spot", the weight you want to start at... when you do find it, jot it down and keep these weights for the next time you workout so you know where to start next time.

And, unless I'm lifting really heavy (for low reps usually), I like a 60 second break... It gives you enough time to recoup without taking you out of "workout" mode. And if anyone tells you it's too long, look around the gym and watch other people... half of them are having 5 minute conversations between sets; you'll be done with your workout before they get through half of theirs!

And, if you find that even 60 seconds isn't enough, then superset exercises... do a set of exercise A, then right into a set of exercise B, then 60 second rest. That way you're even more rested for the next set of exercise A, when you start again. When you start lifting heavy - to build strength - you can take a 2 minute rest. You REALLY want to be fresh for these lifts.

Tony B. on January 04, 2012:

Hey Bendo I just posted a question up above and the one thing I left out was when training at the 9-12 rep range like let's say for benching how much time should I rest between sets? Some people say 30 secs. But when I try this approach it doesn't quite feel like I've recovered enough to crank out another 12 reps. More like maybe 8 if using the same weight and as I get deeper into my workout I seem to put up lower and lower numbers with that short of a break. I've noticed that 60-90 secs seems to work best for me. Should I just stick with that? Thanks man. Really!

Tony B. on January 04, 2012:

Hey there, I have read this post from the beginning. This is awesome information and I am thankful for it. I want to run down my routine to you and want to get your OPNION. I'm looking to get bigger first then strength second. Monday chest, tues. back, wed. shoulders, thurs. Bi's, fri. tri's, sat. legs, Sunday off. Then I repeat it each week. I try to go this route so each group of muscles has time to recover between days. I.E. chest hits tri's, pecs, and shoulders. But I don't directly work shoulders or tri's until wed. or Friday. Does the routine seem like it is spread out ok? Also once a week versus twice a week was another dilemma. When I go to the gym I tear that muscle group up what ever day it is. I train it hard since its only getting 1 "direct" day of focus. I know tri's get hit a little on shoulder day just as Bi's get hit on back day but I try to solo out one day a week for each body part.

Now moving on to rep range. I've noticed that you say for size to keep it to the 9-12 rep range. So for my Monday's would my chest workout be 3x9-12 flat bench with ( what percent of my 1rep max?) then 3x9-12 incline (?%1rm) decline 3x9-12 (?%1rm)

Then I do flyes on all three levels as well. Once again for flyes am I keeping it at 3x9-12? Thanks for any help and advice you have to offer. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Great article!!

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 04, 2012:

Sure, if you're a sprinter, matt! Think about it in terms of the muscle fibers. Your biggest and strongest muscle fibers give out really fast, but produce the most power.

So, if you train with heavy weight at low reps, then you're targeting the same type of muscle fibers that a sprinter wants to train.

But, if you do longer distance runs, you'll end up working against yourself at both ends. Your body knows what type of muscle fibers it needs and how much.

So, if you run really long distances, your body will see the "brute strength" fibers as excess weight, since you'll really be training your endurance fibers when you run.

So match your lifting (rep range) up with the type of running you do and you won't lose any of your weight lifting work when you run... in fact, it will help you run faster!

matt on January 03, 2012:

I'm a runner and don't want to get big but build strength in my arms in chest. Will lifting heavy weights with low reps help improve my running times?

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on December 16, 2011:

That's awesome, The Beginner 2011... glad to hear things are working out for you!

If you really want to stay put, then the easiest way to stay at one size would be to keep doing the exact things that got you there. Once you get to your goal, keep doing the same workouts, but DO NOT raise the weight or use different rep ranges or anything... do it at the exact weights/reps/exercises you were doing when you reached your goal.

Yes, this will get boring, but you will hold onto your results. You could switch things up in terms of exerises, but you risk slight changes in size, since all exercises will work you slightly different. But it's really up to you once you get there! Who knows, you might change your mind and be OK with a little more size.

And Arnold presses are a great exercise that I don't feel is too far advanced for you. Just start out with lighter weights at first, so that you can practice the motion in good form, and then work your way up to the heavier weights, as you improve.

The Beginner 2011 on December 15, 2011:

Hi Bendo13!

It's me, the beginner 2011.Thank you very much for you wonderful advice. I have been working out the way you told me to, and i see a great progress, and it's only around 10 days but i can see and feel my muscles are growing fast. Thank you, Sir!

I have a couple of questions to ask you this time, please! My dream goal would be: my arms are 14 to 15 inche big; and my chest would be 42 to 43 inche big. with the ways you taught me, i know i will hit my goal in a short time. The thing is i prefer not to get bigger than the figure above. Therefore, how do i keep it last long and stoned? When i hit my goal, should i go to the gym and work out all groups of muscles in the same day with light weights, high reps(5,6 days/week)? Please, teach me the right way to keep my muscles at the same measure for awhile. And my second question is as a beginner should i exercise the " Arnold shoulder press " or i should wait until my shoulder get bigger then do that press? Thank you very much for your time and replying, Sir!

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on December 10, 2011:

Thanks, Rayca... and that's awesome that the rep range is helping you keep your muscle (even build muscle) as you diet. It's hard to do, but it is possible and lifting heavy with low reps will definitely give you what you're looking for! Thanks for reading!

Rayca on December 09, 2011:

Nice article. I stumbled on it because I'm currently lifting in the 2-4 rep. range and have noticed what seems to be an increase in size (clothes, pump, etc.), however I'm on a strict diet so I was confused. I was just trying to retain my strength gains while dieting so as not to lose muscle while cutting fat. I didn't think I could actually build on this scheme. Also, I'm a female (older female, at that) and I'm sure not lookin to "tone" my smaller body. I'm lookin to get STRONG and have great muscle mass, which I do. --Thanks.

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on December 05, 2011:

Hey The Beginner 2011, if you want strength without a lot of size then definitely stick with the lower rep range (5x5 works great). 7-8 reps won't add a ton of size, but they will a little, along with some strength.

Your 3x12 is targeting size a bit more... but here's what I'd do.

Workout two muscle groups a day... and workout maybe 4 days a week, all exercises get 5 sets of 5.

You could do a chest/upper back day, a tricep/bicep day, ab/lower back day, and a legs/shoulders day. That way you're getting plenty of rest and your muscles will be fresh for your heavy lifts. Trust me; once you switch over to this you'll feel the extra muscle growth for the first week or two (the soreness).

Try that out for a month or two and see how you like the results.

The Beginner 2011 on December 05, 2011:

Hi Hub ! I got to say that you have written down all the good information for everyone. Thank you!I have a question , please help me out! I just started working out for three weeks. I have been exercising the whole body (chest,shoulders,legs,tricepts,bicepts),each exercise i do 3 sets of 12 reps , 5 to 6 days a week . I feel good and the muscles do grow , too.But after reading your article , i think my muscles not growing fast enough. I would like to gain some weight and stronger muscles, too. However, i don't want to be huge. My question is should i do one day 3 sets of 12 reps , and the second day 5 sets of 5 reps with heavier weights and is it a good idea if i work out 6 days/ week ? Or should i do 3 sets of 7,8 reps every day? And is it okay if i work out all the muscles in one day or i should split them out ? The last thing is would 5 set of 5 with heavier weights make bicepts short ?Thank you very much! Please , reply when you have time.

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on November 02, 2011:

Hey luke, if size is really want you want then you might want to hit up the 9-12 range... but if you want some brute strength then definitely try out the 5x5.

Try to keep your workouts under an hour so that you can workout at full intensity and not bog down on your last exercises. If you're setting aside days just for one muscle group, then in that time you could easily do 3 or 4 exercises per muscle group.

But when I'm in the gym I like to superset with antagonistic pairs (muscles that work in opposite of each other) or a muscle that's on the opposite side of the body. Like biceps supersetted with triceps or bicep and hamstring exercises. You'll get a lot more done in less time and still get a great workout.

luke on November 02, 2011:

hey mate great article filled in a lot of blanks, i have been doin 4 sets of 8 reps but not happy with my size gains so gunna give the 5x5 ago. so my question is how many exercises per muscle group with this rep range should i be doing? thanks...

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on August 28, 2011:

Hey lou sosa, I would do your plyometrics on a different day because your strength training will take a lot out of you and so will your plyometrics. You want to be fresh for all your workouts so you don't want to add to much in there.

But don't worry about bulking up too huge because there are some powerlifters that are actually pretty tiny when compared to a bodybuilder, but they are powerful! Through good form and consistent workouts that work your brute strength fibers you can gain strength without size.

You can build a lot of strength, while avoiding putting on too much size, by sticking to the 1-5 rep range. Power cleans and clean and jerks are great exercises that deal with explosive movements and they incorporate a lot of your muscles, all over your body. You want to use compound movements like this when focusing on brute strength exercises for martial arts, because as you know you have to use your whole body. So why not train with your body as a whole, right?

Let it work together to build a solid body for you. Some other exercises that have an explosive nature are push presses, maybe even front squat push presses, squat jumps (plyometric), push ups with a clap (plyometrics), squats/deadlifts/bench presses all with chains or those heavy rubber bands and you could even do squatting rows.

Hopefully that helps push you in the right direction!

lou sosa on August 27, 2011:

hello im in the martial arts..i would like to really increase my strength but keep my size lean and i want to incorporate medicine ball and plyos for explosiveness...i would like to know do i do these on the same day ? what kind of power exercises would you recommend for overall strength for mma/martial arts? would you recommend reps of 2 or 4 or ? and how many sets to really increase power for mma martial arts and to still keep lean and how do i incorporate the plyo/medicine ball workout with the power exercises ? on different day or same day ? do i do them together in the same workout or in a different workout ? thanks

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on August 05, 2011:

Glad to help, al!

al on August 05, 2011:

i mean i want to get bigger and stronger thanks

al on August 05, 2011:

thanks im really bigger but also stronger soo thanks a lot man im glad i found your site thanks again

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on August 04, 2011:

Don't gorget to work your lower body too, al! There's a whole lot of muscles down there and doing things like squats and deadlifts will really boost your growth hormones to help you gain all over.

al on August 04, 2011:

ima try working my upper body 2 times a week monday 9 12 reps friday 4 6 rep rang thanks for the help

al on August 04, 2011:

thanks a lot im really skinny soo ill try that out thanks a lot i really needed that help

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on August 03, 2011:

al, you'll probably want to stick to the 6-12 rep range then... you'll still get some strength gains, but you'll really be working on size.

6 to 8 reps will give you a good amount of strength with some size

9 to 12 will give you a good amount of size with some strength

it seems like you want size a little more than strength so why don't you try out something like 6 sets of 9? Take some "before" pics, maybe measure your arms and chest and then try that out for a month or two before you check your results.

If your body is responding well to it then stick with it.

al on August 03, 2011:

how many reps and sets should i do to get bigger muscle mass and get stronger also so they show more

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 29, 2011:

Yeah DailyHealthBlitz, it's definitely better to mix things up so that your results don't stall out. Lower reps will really help build that brute strength but, as you said, it can be risky.

But something to think about... a lot of professional competitors don't ever lift at their maximal levels while they train. They stay a bit below it, use good form, put in the work, grease the groove and always leave a little on deck. When it comes time to compete, THEN they go all out and their body is ready for much more than they thought.

DailyHealthBlitz from US on July 29, 2011:

Ex-powerlifter here. I started out using 5x5 and it worked up to a point. Later on I mixed it up more, doing heavy doubles and triples mixed in with speed work at 60-70% of my max. This seemed more effective, but I seemed to be more injury prone. Not sure if was me getting older or the training. Now retired, my joints are happier with higher reps.

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 08, 2011:

I've never trained my calves on a stepper but yes most calf machines have you putting the weight on your toes. You need to be able to really flex through the full range of motion with your calves so you need your heel kind of out there in the air.

Standing calf raise machines and seated calf raise machines have flat bars you put your toes on to use them. And on the leg press machine you just extend your legs straight and then move your feet down so your heels aren't touching the foot plate anymore. On the leg press machine I don't even move the safety bars when I do them, just incase your foot slips.

But with a sled push you'd just be working your calves in a natural way as you push forward, because most of your power is coming from your legs.

They can be hard to build, but if you keep training them directly, and indirectly, they'll grow... not so much in size, but in strength.

ricky on July 08, 2011:

people say i have stand on my toes on the edge of a stepper or something...will that make a difference or is that just as good as using flat surface...i hear calves are there hardest muscle to build

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 06, 2011:

That's awesome, ricky! If you're doing stuff like squats and cleans then your calves are probably getting worked pretty well but you can always work them directly. I find that mine respond better to like the 15-20 rep range, otherwise I just keep adding weight because 5 or so reps really does nothing, in terms of feeling it.

You could do standing calf raises, seated calf raises, calf raises on a leg press machine. You can also angle your toes outward while you do them to target your inner calves and angle your toes inward on a different set to target your outer calves.

If you can do any sled work, pushing a sled with weight on it for a distance, then that will help you get some good functional calf work too.

ricky on July 06, 2011:

thanks man im already getting stronger....any advise on calves

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on June 17, 2011:

I'm a fan of combat sports too!

Be sure to lift in quick bursts to really work on your power so that you can build strength as well as hold onto your speed.

Doing lifts with chains or bands can also help you train yourself to lift faster as it will get heavier the farther into the movement you go.

Good luck in your sports!

Ricky on June 16, 2011:

thanks man cause im trying out for wrestling next year in high school and i really wonna get stronger but not to big cause im also in boxing {love combat sports)

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on June 16, 2011:

It's really hard to make predictions like that ricky because it's based on so many factors. A 50 pound gain would be harder with curls and tricep curls because they are more isolation exercises on smaller muscle groups. But you could possibly boost your bench press by 50 pounds in 6 months, since it's a compound movement involving more than one muscle group.

You could rest 2 to 3 minutes in between each set to ensure that your muscles are fresh and can handle the weight you want to lift for every set. If you're worried that it would make your workouts too long then you can do supersets where you do one exercise, then do a different exercise right after it and then you rest. You just have to pair your supersets so that the exercises don't compete with each other. Some good superset pairs are upper body exercises with lower body exercises... or pulling exercises with pushing exercises.

ricky on June 16, 2011:

thanks man and one more question...if i was to do what you say to do 4 sets and 5 reps would i gain 50 pounds in all of my maxs including bench, curls, tricep curls in 3-6 months...and how many secs. do i rest between each set

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on June 16, 2011:

Everyone is different ricky and some people do assume that when you don't feel the soreness you use to when you started then you're not working hard enough.

But do you really think powerlifters and bodybuilders walk around every day of their lives sore as sore can be because they got in good workouts? I feel that your body gets better at healing itself quickly and it doesn't mean that it's plateaud when you don't feel the soreness.

What you need to look at is your results from week to week, month to month. If you're still going up in your lifts (with or without soreness) then you're still making progress. If you're not making progress then you just need to try different workouts, different grips, different orders of workouts, get more rest and push yourself harder. If you are still making progress then you've just built yourself into a finely tuned machine that heals itself quickly.

ricky on June 16, 2011:

what does it mean when i workout and the next day or the day after that i feel no soreness at all

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on June 14, 2011:

Yeah ricky, you can do that or you can do a reverse pyramid if you want to stay at that weight.. just do as many reps you can manage for the set amount of sets you have. Like you might end up doing a set of 5, then a set of 4, then a set of 3, then a set of 2 and then finish with one rep on your last set.

Yeah Chris, in the introduction I mention I'm talking about max strength. Those other areas are great to learn about, and I mention them in other areas of writing, but this is all about max strength. Thanks for reading though!

Chris Fry from Cardiff, Wales (UK) on June 14, 2011:

people here are confusing strength with muscle gain which are 2 different things. Strength is multifaceted - i.e. it is composed of strength endurance, strength speed (power) and maximal strength. To increase max strength use low reps and high weight, for strength endurance use 12+ reps and low weight, and for strength speed (power) use medium reps medium weight but perform contractions at high velocity. To increase muscle size use 8-12reps of med/high intensity. From a sporting perspective rarely is increased muscle size advantageous. Also, the burn felt during exercise is not lactic acid but accumulation of hydrogen ions (bit of a common exercise misconception). Good hub though!

ricky on June 14, 2011:

ok so if i do 5 reps on my 1st set what if i cant do another 5 in my 2nd i take off alittle weight just enough to do another 5

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 30, 2011:

Yeah it really does keep you chugging along in terms of strength, Keith! All you need is to swap out some exercises, maybe do them in a different order or do supporting lifts and you'll always avoid plateaus.

Keith on May 30, 2011:

I like doing 5 sets of five reps. Im an old powerlifter from the eighties. I can no longer push the weight I once did but with 5 sets of 5 reps and changing my routine around Lifting doesn't seem to get stall.

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 30, 2011:

No problem, monkey768!

monkey768 on April 30, 2011:

Ok thanks!

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 29, 2011:

What is your goal, Monkey768?

If you are really doing 265 reps on the bench press then all you are really working on is your endurance... which is a type of strength I guess.

But your endurance muscles are the smallest muscle fibers, so you're not going to add much for size. And with high reps like that so you're not going to boost your brute strength or your max lifts at all.

So if you want a bit of size added on and a good amount brute strength then you need to re-read this article because low reps and high intensity is what you want to go for.

Monkey768 on April 29, 2011:

Hey i was wondering if what i do now: 2 sets of 55reps at 70ibs and 1 set of 55 reps at 40 ibs on benchlift and then i do 4 sets of 25 reps at 25ibs. i was wondering is what i do is okay

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 24, 2011:

You could use your 2 rep max for that Tbird575, but in that case you'd need a few minutes of rest in between each set, otherwise you wouldn't be fresh enough to exert that much strength again so soon.

If you're crunched for time you could possibly shortnen the breaks in between sets and then aim for a weight that is your 3 or 4 rep max. This will ensure that you have enough strength to finish your last reps, you won't need as much of a break in between and you'll be able to increase the weight if you can handle it for your last few sets.

With either option I'm sure that focusing on some brute strength lifts with low reps of 2 will help you break out of your plateau.

You can also add in some supporting lifts for the smaller muscle groups that help in the lifts that you've stalled out. Like dips for benching, hyperextensions for deadlifts and box steps ups for squats.

Tbird575 on January 24, 2011:

Ive been on and 8-6-4 rep scheme for my major lifts for a few months now, I say great gains from this. but now im not increasing my lifts in anything. so I was curious with the 10 sets of 2 reps. should the weight be something I can get 2 times only? nd not be able to get a third rep. if 215 is my 2 rep max would I use that for all 10 sets?


Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on October 26, 2010:

That's great that you two are all about staying fit, I love getting new readers!

It's hard for a woman to really get "bulky" or too muscular unless they use something illegal so no worries there. If strength is both of your goals then you're on the right track. There are many exercises you can do with weights or just your body. You should check out my articles on pistols (single leg squats) and one arm pushups.. great power moves!

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on October 26, 2010:

We just 'found' you due to you being one of today's Featured Hubbers (congratulations). This hub is of particular interest to us because we are both interested in exercise to preseve (or build) bone density - and one of us works as a Pilates instructor.

What we have studied recently does agree with your view that not so many reps are needed - 2 can be sufficient - but the reps need to be with a weight that challenges your existing muscle level.

Pat does excercises that use her own weight while Tricia favours using hand weights. Neither of us wants to look really muscular, but we want to be fit!

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on September 13, 2010:

Thanks for reading, Bor09! Personally I still do low reps and high weight for my biceps if I'm trying to gain strength...

I stick to the 5-8 range for smaller muscles like my biceps because even though you want to focus on hitting those type II fibers sometimes your smaller muscles respond better to slightly higher reps.

Try your bicep exercises at sets of 5 with heavier weight and see if you can't spark some new growth in your arms. If you're not satisfied then bump your reps up a tiny bit.

Bor09 on September 13, 2010:

Hey, just read the article, really interesting and helpful considering I've been going with 10/8/6 on my chest exercises trying to gain mass, so I'm planning on switching to the 5/5/5/5/5.

A quick question though, on Mondays I do Chest and tris, Wednesdays are Bis and back, and Fridays are shoulders.

When I do my biceps, should I always be doing low reps/ high weight? Because with my barbell curls and preacher curls I've been doing 3x10 and with dumbells I've been doing 4x12 each arm alternating. Any help would be great, thanks.

Wayne M on July 09, 2010:

Awesome :-) will give it a go and report back. Thanks!

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 08, 2010:

Sounds good, Wayne!

As you get more training session under your belt and aren't really a novice anymore it doesn't hurt to add in more training sessions. But to start out you kind of want to see how the training effects you first... see if you need extra days off. It's good to test the waters first.

If you get a couple months in and feel like maybe you could be doing more and you're not overly sore on your days off then go ahead and add in another lower body day.

Maybe break your two lower body days up front/back... like one day you'll focus on abs and quads... and the other day you focus on lower back, hamstrings and calves.

This is of course after you've tested the waters with your new 3 days/week workout...

But if you add in the day you can have it something like..

Mon - upper body pushing exercises

Tues - lower body (ham/calf/lowerback)

Wed - OFF

Thurs - upper body pulling exercises

Fri - lower body (quads/abs)

Sat - OFF

Sun - OFF

Wayne M on July 08, 2010:

Thanks! that helped a great deal. I will give the new routine and techniques a try and report back in a couple of weeks!

Last question, is there any advantage to training more than i am? (cant really get much advise over here, gyms are pretty poor in this area of the UK!)

thanks again


Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 07, 2010:

Hey Wayne, if you're only lifting Mon, Wed & Fri then you'd have a hard time over training unless you were putting in a couple hours each time.

If your training sessions are only around 45 - an hour then you're doing good with your schedule.

Just break up the body parts you work... some people like to break things up by push/pull or upper body/lower body..

you could do pushing exercises for your upper body on monday.. anything the requires you to push the weight away from you to move it

Then on wednesday you could work your legs and lower body..

then on friday you can work your upper body but doing pulling exercises... anything that requires you to pull to get the weight to move.

Just some basic suggestions to keep you from overtraining body parts, I hope that helps!

Wayne M on July 07, 2010:

Brilliant article! Like most I have been looking for answers to a few blank spots and this covers it.

I do have a question though, I am relatively new to weights and I ve spent the last 6/7 weeks experimenting with different reps/weights/sets but don't feel I ve gained any strength (hence why I will be giving the methods mentioned here a go). My only remaining 'unknown' is how often to train.. I currently do mon, wed, fri on, rest off. But I'm not sure if I'm under or over training myself... what would you say is a good routine?

Thanks, wayne

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 22, 2010:

Don't worry valeriebelew, it's hard for a woman to "bulk up" naturally without the use of illegal substances.

There's no real rep range for toning because all toning means is that you're getting your body fat percentage low enough so that you can see the contour of the muscles below it.

But it does help to strengthen the muscles so that they have a nice shape when they are revealed and women usually do like to stay in the higher rep range.

The logic behind that is you're working more of your endurance muscle fibers, which are smaller than your brute strength fibers.

valeriebelew from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA on May 22, 2010:

For the female up there, I think you are talking about strength training, and larger muscles, not toning small bodies like most of us women want to do. I read this hub out of curiosity, and in order to learn something, and I did, but I am not in the market for bigger muscles. More reps is right for me, but you are correct in your writing about strength building. (: v

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 20, 2010:

Thanks for reading izettl, it's not always easy for guys but it can be difficult for women to pack on muscle...

It shouldn't be difficult to increase your strength once you learn the basics... sure you need to increase the calories you intake if you want to gain muscle but it has to be high quality calories..

But the focus of this blog/article/hub was to let people know that if they want STRENGTH then they have to focus on a certain rep range... Brute strength, true max strength only happens in the first few reps and you have to train in that rep range to build that kind of strength..

The reason for lifting fast is so that you ensure that your muscle fibers don't give out before you finish your set..

Sure you can injure yourself if you use poor form, but that's a given with any style of lifting. Explosive movements aren't your enemy if you practice control and form and don't let your ego load the bar up for you.

Anyway... all I should have said is there's a difference between building a strong muscle and building a bigger muscle.. it's all in how you train and what type of fibers that muscle consists of..

L Izett from The Great Northwest on May 20, 2010:

with a decent diet almost any guy can beef up with weights. It's not so easy for a woman and that is the true test. If a training system works to build muscle for a woman then it will work even that much better for a man. So here's what I did to build muscle back in my weight lifting days: followed programs like Slow Burn and Mike Mentzer's training style. I stuck with the basics,not a ton of cardio (not a fan and never noticed a difference in my body when I did a lot of it). I'm 6 ft tall and a woman so I had my work cut out for me but those training styles really worked for me. Haven't been in a gym for a while and may never lift weights again (because of my Rheumatoid arthritis), but I do believe in a work smarter and not harder mentality. I agree you have to lift heavy (or slow)to get strong. Seen too many injuries because people did fast explsosive lifting on the way up so I don't agree with that one. I liked the sloe aspect because it was like meditation for me. Good hub.

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 29, 2010:

Sounds good Zach, keep me updated!

Zach C on April 29, 2010:

hey i'm 25 and i actually never lifted before and just started a few days back, ima try this plan out and tell you how it works for me!

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 03, 2010:

Thanks for reading Sean!

Chad's method is definitely one to look into...

Sean on April 03, 2010:


I've been looking into Chad's plan for a while now, certainly looks like there's fruit to be picked there. Very good descriptions here, great article.

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on November 03, 2009:

Thanks AL, I plan to start writing some new fitness blogs soon.

AL on November 03, 2009:

A lot of my blanks have been filled by your article and makes a lot of sense. Keep the good work up!

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on October 15, 2009:

Everyone's different Nicolas.. but read this.

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on October 15, 2009:

Just telling you what I've done for years to build strength in mine. Ask your gym instructor about the different types of muscle fibers. Sets of 25 will help you gain endurance strength and sure you'll feel the burn of lactic acid more but it's not going to build brute strength like lower reps will. The muscle will activate with lower reps as long as you're doing enough sets and enough weight to raise the overall volume. Just focus on your forearm muscles as you do the exercise and really squeeze.

Nicolás on October 15, 2009:

the intructor of my gym told me that for working strength in my forearm i needed to do sets of 25 reps because that muscles was of resistance and if i do few reps like u told me, the muscle wont be activate. thanks for ur opinion

Nicolás on October 12, 2009:

heyy thank u a lot, it realy helps me!!

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on September 10, 2009:

Hey Nicolas,

Personally I try not to do too many isolation exercises like that because your forearms are going to get worked during a lot of the other exercises you do.. especially if you do exercises like barbell deadlifts or even pull ups. (I like reverse curls too)

But if you really want to do them.. then I'd recommend you starting out with 6 sets of 6-8 (to keep you from using too heavy of a weight) and see how you like that. Start with a light weight because it's a small muscle and you don't want to injure yourself or perform with bad form. I say 6 sets so that you get a little higher volume and you will probably feel the lactic acid burn as you do this exercise.

Just focus on flexing your forearms hard as you do this and let the dumbbell roll down into your fingers when you're doing the regular wrist curls.

Also, make sure to do these last in your workouts so that you don't hold yourself back in any of your other exercises because your forearms are cooked.

Nicolás on September 10, 2009:

thankss, soo more or less how many reverse and wrist curls may i do???(sets and reps)

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on August 26, 2009:

Thanks Nicolas..

If you want brute strength you'll have to use lower reps and heavy weight! 25 reps will tire out your muscles, give you a good burn and boost your endurance strength. You should try doing some heavy farmer's walks, maybe some reverse curls or wrist curls... that's if you want to focus mostly on your grip. I'll tell you my favorite exercise for building up a good grip: Deadlifts! These will work more than just your grip BUT you have to improve your grip if you want to keep deadlifting at higher weights. So if you start deadlifting heavy, at low reps, for a while.. I'm certain your grip strength will improve.

Nicolás on August 26, 2009:

first of all i like a lot your articles, the are very usefull. i want to know the set and reps for my forearm and wrest strenght. whe i was working volume, i made 6 sets of 25 reps, but now i want strenght.

Research Analyst on July 27, 2009:

I always wondered how many reps should be done for strength, because I have been told that strength training is good for women who want to sculpt their bodies and lose weight with out the worry of gaining to much muscle. Thanks for the explaination.

joe on July 12, 2009:

great article ... even thought many says that low rep like 4 and less are bad

but you're right

great article once again:)


Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 22, 2009:

Thanks Finn! I'm glad you're getting something out of what I wrote.. I'll try to write more hubs once I get more time!

Finn on May 22, 2009:

Cool thanks!

Brilliant article by the way, it's just the kind of thing I've been searching for for ages.

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 21, 2009:

Hey Finn, that can vary a bit but I like to do a lot of compound movements so then a lot of your muscles will get indirectly worked throughout the week. And then I'll only directly work each muscle group once or twice a week, especially if I'm really lifting heavy.

Finn on May 21, 2009:

how many times a week would you want to exercise each muscle group with this kind of workout?

Ben Guinter (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 04, 2009:

Hey Mac Don, personally with the smaller muscles I try to keep a little higher reps with them than I do with my other lifts. Just seems to work better for me, I'm not sure what Pavel's or Chad's thoughts are on this. It might still work well for shrugs, but I'd probably use higher reps with your ab exercises.

Mac Don on January 04, 2009:

I am going to try sets of 3 but does this apply for all muscles? What about abs or shrugs?

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