Heavy Weights, Fewer Reps: Does it Build Muscle?

Hey Davey,

Using free weights, I currently stick to 3 sets of 10 reps. For some exercises, I’d like to increase the weight that I’m lifting. But I am finding that I can’t quite manage 3 sets of 10. Instead, I can squeeze out 3 sets of 8.

Will I build more muscle by increasing the weight and dropping the reps from 10 to 8, or should I stick with the lower weight and increase the reps to 12 or 14?


Hey Gareth,

Your question is actually a very common one – and I’m happy to share some insight.

In general, here are the rep ranges that trainers will recommend for various goals:

  • Low reps (1 – 6): Builds strength
  • Medium reps (7 to 12): Builds size and strength
  • High reps (12 – 15): Builds endurance

Since you’re looking to increase muscle size, 10 reps is a great target for you. Moving into higher rep ranges (like 12 or 14) means building endurance more than size.

Of course, we know that muscles only grow when they’re forced to grow – and that means you’ll constantly have to overload your muscles with more and more resistance. In other words, you’ll need to progress to heavier dumbbells or add heavier weight plates.

As you add more resistance, it becomes harder to maintain your 10 rep target for each set. But that’s fine. Keep pushing yourself and eventually you’ll reach the 10 rep target – and then you’ll be ready to add even more resistance, thereby starting the whole process all over again.

I hope that helps!


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  1. my shakeweight is fine collecting dust, my ABS are great

  2. Dear Davey,

    What’s the fastest and most effective way to reduce abdominal fat and a thinner waist?

    Thanks awfully
    Jeff P
    Honolulu, Hi

    • Get a good gym trainer and a nutritionist at your gym center, and do exactly what they tell you to do! I lost 10 pounds of belly fat in two months. Every person being different, it is important to get a plan adapted to you. But the key of success is commitment, and focus on the training AND the diet! Not easy but it works!

  3. Thanks Davey, that’s kind of what I thought, but is good to have someone confirm that for me.
    When I hit the gym tomorrow I’ll be looking for those heavier weight plates!!!
    I’ll keep an eye out for you when you’re over here in the UK for Manchester Pride this August.
    Gareth xox

  4. oh good one!!!thanks..from brazil!

  5. I just wanna know how exactly is this picture inapropriate? How? You always have good pictures here.

  6. Can I get a clarification on this topic? Do the number of sets change depending on the goal # of reps?

  7. Hi Dave,
    I am new at your site, there is a lot of good information. Thanks for sharing.
    I am a male 45 y/o 150 lbs, 5’7″, almost a defined six pack, almost there. My goal is to increase lean mass without losing my almost six pack. I would like to get to 160, I started eating a surplus, not counting calories but trying to eat enough protein to obtain my goal, I have been eating a lot but nutritious food only, eggs, brown rice, whole wheat bread, peanuts, vegetables, about 4 or 5 portions of fruit, etc, is it too much? I am using the overload technique and since I don’t have a lot of weights, I am increasing reps but at home with dumb bells and body resistance, what would you recommend in order for me to gain more lean mass?
    Thank you.

    • You actually need to count calories Carlos. That is an absolute, non-negotiable aspect of gaining lean mass.
      Take an excess of calories if you want fast gains with some fat, which you can always shred in 2 months of cardio. Your current diet is almost certainly a calorie-deficient one. You will not build muscle that way