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Principle #2  - Explaining Reps

The easiest way to understand how many repetitions you should be using in your sets is first of all you must understand that no matter how many reps you are going to be doing, you need to be going until fatigue.  The differences in training will depend on differences in the number of reps per set different people use and the rest between sets.  No matter how many sets you choose to do the critical factor in weight training is where you hit your fatigue point.  

The easiest way to explain this is as a continuum.  On one side we have endurance athletes who train with high reps(15-25 reps) and low weights.  On the other end of the continuum we have power lifters who train with low reps (1-6 reps) and heavy weights.  In the middle we have Bodybuilders who train somewhere in the 8-12 rep range.  This is the ideal range for muscular hypertrophy. (see Fig. 2)  Also note the differences in rest times in Fig.  2.

It is important when weight training to have a target rep range.  (e.g.  8-12 reps per set) in order to make sure you fatigue somewhere within this range.  This way you are always trying to reach fatigue, not just doing a certain number of reps each time you do a set.  For example, in the first week if you can only do 10 reps of 150 pounds, that is perfect if your rep range is 8-12 reps.  But if by week three you can do 12 reps of 150 pounds it is time to move up the weight.  But for another example if you can do only six reps it is time to move down the weight (Neil Little, KNSS 2110, lecture notes, 1997).