How many reps should you be doing in your workout?

People often ask how many reps they should be doing during a workout. I actually had two people ask me this question this past week… two very different people. One, a 20-year old athlete/runner who is currently lifting 12-16 reps per set and wants to get stronger, and the other, a 70-year old gentleman who is lifting 8 reps per exercise and wants to change up his workout.

strength training - how many reps should you do

There are three basic ways to strength train:

Training for Muscle Endurance

It is recommended that a person training for muscle endurance perform 12 to 16 reps of each exercise, and, depending on the intensity, rest for 30-90 seconds between exercises. Generally, 12 reps can be completed with about 70% of maximum resistance (1RM = 1 rep max) and 16 reps can be completed with about 60% of max resistance. Once a person is able to perform 16 controlled reps at a given weight, the weight should be increased by 5%. This training technique works the targeted muscle to fatigue and while it does produce gains in muscle strength, they are typically less than the gains that occur in muscle endurance.

You could, of course, perform more than 16 reps, but it is said that performing the same exercise with light weights for over 2 minutes is inefficient as it has limited benefit for muscle development.

Training for muscle endurance is ideal for individuals who want to improve their fitness level, older adults who want to maintain their muscular strength and improve quality of life, and athletes who perform endurance events (marathon, hiking excursion, cross country skiing, etc.). Muscle endurance training can be done in a circuit strength training format where different muscle groups are targeted, thereby allowing for minimal rest between exercises.

Muscle Strength

Muscle strength is measured by maximal force a muscle can produce (1 rep max). Training for muscle strength focuses on higher intensities and less reps.Typically, a program for improved muscle strength will consist of 4 to 8 reps (at 80%-90% of 1RM) of each muscle with a 3-4 minute recovery between sets and 72 hours between workouts that target the same muscle group.

For example, a person may train the back and chest muscles on Monday and Thursday; shoulders and legs on Tuesday and Friday, and biceps, triceps, and abs on Wednesday and Saturday. Once 9 reps can be performed at a given weight, the load should be increased by 5%.

Muscle Hypertrophy

Muscle hypertrophy is the physiological process of muscle-fiber enlargement. This kind of training falls between the two training techniques mentioned above and is usually performed by bodybuilders. Due to the overlapping intensities, this kind of training will produce significant gains in both muscle strength and endurance.

It is recommended that exercisers training for muscle hypertrophy perform 8-12 reps at 70%-80% of 1RM with little rest (30-60 seconds) between sets.Bodybuilders will perform four or more different exercises per muscle group and may complete 3-4 sets of each exercise.

For example, a set that targets the chest may consist of 10 chest presses on a flat bench, 10 flyes, 10 chest presses on an incline bench, and 10 push ups.

A set that targets the triceps may consist of 12 reps each of triceps pushdowns, skull crushers, close-hand push ups, and dips.



To sum up, my advice to the young man who asked how he could get stronger was to increase his weight load to a resistance that he could not do more than 8 reps with. Once he can perform 9 controlled reps with that weight, increase the load another 5%.

My advice to the 70-year old golfer who is completing 8 reps at a weight that he said he probably could not do much more than 8 reps with was to either decrease the weight and try to do 12-16 reps OR do his 8 reps at the weight he is currently using and then drop the weight by 20% and do a few more reps (known as drop sets).

Note: I am neither one of these men’s trainer. I know their basic health history because we are friends and they asked for my professional advice in conversation.

Source: ACE Personal Training Manual, images from

How many reps do you typically perform in your sets?

Have you ever done drop sets? They are killer!

Keep in touch!

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Faith & Fitness Friday: Christmas joy!


This post is getting out a little late on Friday but it is GREAT one for a “Faith and Fitness Friday.”

Niki from Overwhelmed Heart is hosting The #CoreofChristmas challenge with a few other pretty inspiring bloggers (CourtneyTiffany, and Bobbi).

How it works:

- Follow these ladies on Instagram and/or Twitter (@niki.ferguson @courtd83_fit@runninghutch and @nhershoes).

- They will be posting a different core exercise and bible verse to read every day.

- Take a photo or video of yourself doing the pose for the day and put the verse of the day in the comment and tag #coreofChristmas! 

- Feel the Christmas joy!

Here is todays:

Boat Pose and Galatians 5:22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” -Galatians 5:22-23

Galatians 5 22

I just discovered this challenge today on Instagram, so I am coming in a little late and am going to start tomorrow! Will you join in?

I am really excited for this challenge because the focus is on Jesus Christ and keeping your eyes on Him during the craziness and busyness of the holidays. And there is an added fitness component so SCORE!

Speaking of keeping your focus on Jesus, check out my Christmas post from last year, around this same time…

Keep the Christ in CHRISTmas: a joyous little poem I wrote

How do you keep focused and calm during the holidays?

Will you join in the challenge?

Keep in touch!

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20 miles in November and sticking with your routine

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I am happy to report the I met my goal of running 20 miles in November for the Pile on the Miles Challenge hosted by Run Eat Repeat.

This is my second year doing the challenge and last year I set the same goal and came up short. I got my last 5 miles in this past weekend to meet my goal. Woohoo! Just made it!

Since it is Tuesday, I am linking up with The Fit Switch and Jill Conyers for the Dish the Fit! Today’s topic fits in nicely with this post as it is about sharing a fave fitness accomplishmentContinue reading

Gratitude and a Few Black Friday Fitness Deals around the web

Hello and happy day before Thanksgiving! It started snowing here this morning. Luckily, I won’t be doing any major traveling until Friday.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I just wanted to say thank you for reading my blog. :) It takes quite a bit of time and effort to create blog posts, and I don’t even do it nearly as much as some people, and I really appreciate the readers and comments! So, THANK YOU!

gratitude changes everything

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Fitness Networking and a Job in the Fitness Industry!

I spent  a couple days in Arlington, Virginia this past week. I lived in Arlington for a year after college and always enjoy visiting the DC area, which is not all that often anymore.

I took the 3 and a half hour trip down on Wednesday afternoon and stayed with a friend from college. On Thursday morning, I  headed to a “Meeting of the Minds” with Fitness Directors from various country clubs.

car #selfie

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#PileontheMiles Check-in and 2 Little Motivational Stories with a BIG Message

We are over halfway through November, are you ready for the Holiday season!? I am. :) I decorated this past weekend, have been listening to Christmas music on Pandora since November 1, and started my Christmas shopping on Etsy.

The blog world is full of challenges and ways to help you stay on track and motivated over the Holidays. Check out my post about Fun things to do in the Fitness Blogosphere this Holiday season!


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What do you think about when you run? {#DISHTHEFIT link-up}

Have you noticed the Fit Dish Link-Up button on my sidebar? What about the Pile on the Miles button?

That’s right friends, I decided to Pile on the Miles again this month with Monica (from Run Eat Repeat). I did this last year and set a goal for myself to complete 20 miles in November. Last year, I failed.

This year, I have a plan! I will run on Saturdays and one day during the week… I am bound to hit 5 miles a week and reach my goal of 20. I thought long and hard about that plan, haha!  Continue reading