Rep ranges…this is an epic battle field in the fitness world. Here is the traditional thinking: 4-6 reps for strength, 8-12 for hypertrophy, 15 and over; fat loss (aka toning).
This type of thinking creates the following picture on the gym floor: Big (aka fat) dudes moving a decent amount of weights for a few reps, with long breaks; pretty lean and muscular guys and girls training using 10-12 reps, and on the other end of the spectrum – the skinny fat guys and misinformed girls, slaving away at sets of 30 on the single arm triceps kickback.
You can probably guess my preference from the previous sentence, but let me give you the science behind which rep range will do what…
Low reps do indeed work well to build strength, although 4-6 is a bit high, think more like 1-4. The downside of this type of training is that: A) It takes a long time, as you need to rest for 3-5 minutes between sets in order to replenish Creatine; and B) It is tough on the joints and the central nervous system.
6-12 reps work almost as well in terms of building strength, while only taking up 1/3 of the time to train. In addition to the killer time savings, this rep range is also superior with regards to hypertrophy, also known as #gains.
15 + reps will build strength endurance, which can be of interest to certain types of athletes such as boxers, swimmers and track and field athletes who need to perform at a high level for 60 seconds and over. This is not a fat burning range.
This is important, so repeat after me: There is NO fat burning rep range. Muscles contract and relax, that is all. They do not have a fat loss or growth mode.
The difference between fat loss and muscle gain is made in the kitchen. Muscle can only grow when there is a calorie surplus, fat can only be lost in an energy deficit. The sole purpose of training is to keep muscle on, so that your metabolism does not drop.
From hereon in, we can conclude that the vast majority of trainees will feel right at home completing anywhere between 6 and 12 reps, with 60 – 90 second breaks between sets.
The notable exceptions are calves and forearms, as those are endurance muscles. Here, one could go up to 30-40 reps per set (ouch)!
Hope this helps!
All the best..