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How to Tell if You're Doing Too Many (or Too Few!) Reps

Doing the right number of reps is critical for your success. But could you be doing too many or too few? Here’s how to tell.

When it comes to planning a proper workout program plan, one of the key factors that you’ll need to consider is how many reps you are doing. A rep is moving through an exercise from start to finish. You’ll do so many reps in a row before resting and those total reps will then be classified as a set.

Reps play carefully into the total volume of the workout program and getting the right volume is integral to ensuring you are making progress and not overtraining.

So how do you know if you are doing the right number? Let’s look at some things to know.

Your Goals And Progress

First, consider your goals and progress. If you are primarily aiming to improve your strength level, you’ll want to be doing about 3-6 reps per set. This is so that you can lift a maximum amount of weight with each set you do, which is what lends to improved strength development.

If muscle size is your goal, the rep range gets a bit higher, into the 8-12 rep range. This is the "sweet spot" for most people to bed.

If you want muscle endurance and fatigue resistance, then try going into the 12-15 rep range. Rarely do you ever need to go beyond 15 reps unless you are doing a very specific protocol that is designed this way.

Many beginners will do 20 plus reps thinking this is the best way to "tone" their body, but the truth is, at this point, all you’re doing is burning a few calories. You won’t be reaping many physical benefits from that exercise because the weight simply won’t be heavy enough at this rep level to provide benefit.

How You Feel After Each Workout Session

Another thing to consider is how you feel after each workout session. Are you energized leaving the gym? Or are you feeling very drained? Do you bounce back quite quickly between workout sessions or do you need to rest for days before you start feeling well again?

If you are feeling quite tired upon leaving the gym and your recovery seems to be quite a lengthy progress, this is a good sign you may be doing too many reps, likely overall.

Meaning, it may not be that you are doing too many reps per exercise, but rather, you are doing too many reps across all exercises. Cutting back on how many exercises you are doing or how many total sets you are doing may help.

If you are doing too many reps total, there is a very good chance that your progress will be significantly hindered because of this.

How Hard is the Set?

Finally, the last thing to consider is how hard the set is when you get to the end of the rep range. Do you hit 8 reps and feel like you could keep going? If so, this is a good indication that at that rep range, you need to be lifting a heavier weight.

So your choice now becomes one of two things: increase the total number of reps you are doing with that weight so that it now becomes challenging or increase the weight so that by the time you are hitting that number of reps, you feel it’s very hard.

So there you have a closer look at how many reps you should be doing and how to tell if you are doing too many or too few. Use this information next time you perform your workout program.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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