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?
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!