You’re at the gym. You scan the weights and choose a set of dumbbells for bicep curls. After the repetitions are completed you re-rack the weights. But how did you choose that weight? Why did you end on that specific number of repetitions? Was it arbitrary, or was there valid reasoning behind it?
You take a look around the gym and see your fellow members curling, pushing, and pulling weights. Some repeat the movement for a short time (1-5 reps), some long (8-12 reps), and others even longer (+15 reps). Each are effective in their own right, but how do you make the distinction?
Step one is to start with your desired range of repetitions. Without choosing this desired range for movement, the weight selected becomes arbitrary. How you choose depends on your fitness goal. The chart below will help in your repetition selection process.
Strength/Power: 1-5 repetitions
Hypertrophy: 8-12 repetitions
Endurance: 15+ repetitions
Based on your goal the desired range of repetitions is known. For instance, if your goal is to build muscle (hypertrophy) your repetitions should fall within the 8-12 range. If your goal is for endurance, the range reaches beyond 15 completed repetitions.
Now that you have determined your desired number of repetitions you will then select the appropriate weight for the exercise. Regardless of your exercise goal and desired repetition range the chosen weight should be performed no less than the lowest number in the range and no more than the highest number in the range.
If, say, during the bicep curl you choose twenty-pound dumbbells with a goal of hypertrophy, the minimum number of repetitions you should be able to complete is eight. The most amount of completed repetitions should then be 12. If the number of repetitions completed falls below the desired range, the weight is too heavy; if you surpass the desired number of repetitions, the weight is too light. Pick a weight where you fall within your range.
Your fitness goal will determine your repetition range. Your repetition range will determine the weight used on an exercise. The last couple of repetitions should result in a “burn” of the muscle. They are the repetitions that truly count and will help reach and exceed your fitness goal.