Updated: Oct 10, 2021
Have you wondered what the best rep and set range for building muscle is? I have wondered this, I decided to dive into the research and find the answer.
Varying the amount of reps and sets you do can alter the goal of the workout, such as building muscle, improving endurance, and getting stronger. Based on research, the best rep and set range for building muscle is between 6-12 reps and 3-6 sets.
As mentioned, varying your rep range and set range can alter the outcome of the workout, reducing the reps, increasing the sets, and increasing the weight can primarily improve strength, while increasing the reps and reducing the weight can primarily enhance endurance.
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Effect of Rep/Set Range on Muscle
Although rep range is not as important as other factors such as eccentric training, it is still an important factor to optimise when training.
Providing you train to failure, most rep and set ranges will have a similar effect on muscle, meaning no matter the rep range, it will help you grow muscle.
However, some rep and set ranges will help improve certain characteristics, such as strength and endurance.
Below are the best rep ranges for improving strength, building muscle, and enhancing endurance.
Improving Strength: 1-6 reps and 3-6 sets
Building Muscle Size: 6-12 reps and 2-3 sets
Enhancing Endurance: 15+ reps and 1-2 sets
Sets with very low reps (1-3 reps) seem to be too short to match the hypertrophy of higher rep sets (6-12), but they increase the strength increase due to high CNS activation.
High rep count sets (30-40+ reps) result in central nervous system exhaustion, decreasing muscle hypertrophy and strength gains, but they recruit slow-twitch muscle fibres, improving muscular endurance in the long-term.
Though, this is all mainly just theory, the real world research explored in the section below may suggest different.
What Is the Best Rep Range?
In general, I would recommend doing a variety of rep ranges.
For example; changing from strength training (2-6 reps) one week, to endurance training (15+ reps) the next week, then hypertrophy training (6-12 reps) the week after.
By varying your workouts rep ranges, you can extract the advantages of each rep range while avoiding the disadvantages.
However, some early data shows that individuals who change their rep ranges gain a little more muscle than those who do not. (1)
Further Reading: The benefits of exercise variation
If you perform two quad exercises, for example, you may do a lower rep barbell back squat and a higher rep leg extension in the same session or within the same week.
In general, compound exercises benefit from fewer repetitions, whereas isolation exercises benefit from greater reps.
Try to avoid over-optimising your workouts, providing you're training to muscle failure and utilise intensity techniques, you'll grow muscle, get stronger, and improve endurance.
Remember, sets are also a factor you could optimise, I explain this in more detail below.
What Is the Best Set Range?
Set range is based on the rep range used in your workouts. Following the guidelines below will help further improve your workouts effectiveness.
If you reduce your rep range (such as when strength training), you should increase your sets. If you increase your rep range, you should decrease your sets.
For example; at a rep range of 2-6 reps, you should do between 3-6 sets. At a rep range of 6-12 reps, 2-3 sets should be used. If you're doing 15+ reps, you should do 1-2 sets.
Written by Billy White
Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.
He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.
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This evidence-based analysis of ideal rep and set ranges features 1 reference, listed below.
1. Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Ogborn D, Galpin A, Krieger J, Sonmez GT. Effects of Varied Versus Constant Loading Zones on Muscular Adaptations in Trained Men. Int J Sports Med. (2016) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
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