A Guide To Repetitions For Strength, Mass And Endurance

If you are one of the many.

You are probably also wondering about an essential thing in calisthenics workout.

The amount of repetitions.

Honestly, I wish there was an easy way to explain it. I wish I could tell you: “Just do an X amount of repetitions and you will achieve your goals”.

 

But there isn’t.

The truth is repetitions and the amount of sets required differ per person.

It depends on your overall muscle composition and on your goals among many other factors.

 

Still, there are generally accepted ranges of repetitions which you can stick to.

The research on this is still lashing out in the dark, mostly.

The good news? We have a lot of evidence from people actually doing and experimenting themselves.

Here is what you need to know when it comes to repetitions.

 

 

Repetitions-Calisthenics

 

Strength, Mass And Endurance

 

Strength and endurance are like a marathon runner and a power lifter.

Two ends of a continuum.

Strength is achieved through low amounts of repetitions where 1 repetition max shows your current highest level of strength.

Endurance is achieved through choosing easier exercises which are low in strength requirements and high in volume.

 

A power lifter for example lifts 3 times his or her own body weight in 1 rep.

A marathon runner is far from able to do this, but can run for hours at an end without serious fatigue.

One focuses on being able to generate as much power as possible in one move, while the other focuses on generating low amounts of power to do many moves.

 

There are therefore 5 points which you can take away from this comparison:

1. You can’t be a marathon runner and a powerlifter at the same time without losing at either the strength or endurance side.

2. If you want to develop strength you need to focus on lower reps and higher resistance, just like a powerlifter does.

3. If you want to be both a powerlifter and a marathon runner, you will need to find a balance between low repetitions and strength or high repetitions and endurance.

4. If your focus is on muscle mass (hyperthrophy) don’t be a powerlifter and don’t be a marathon runner.

5. Your repetitions under a certain load determine your muscle composition or what your muscles are capable of.

Note: I personally believe that muscle mass should never be your main objective. Mass should always be a result of or achieved in combination with instead of the reason for.

 

 

Sets-And-reps-For-calisthenics-exercises

 

3 Types Of Muscle Fibers For Endurance And/Or Strength

 

Your body is composed of three sets of muscle fibers:

Slow twitch, adaptable and fast twitch fibers.

 

Slow twitch fibers have a high capacity for endurance and have the least potential for hyperthrophy.

Ever seen a muscular marathon runner? Probably not.

That’s why.

 

Fast twitch fibers fatigue very fast.

They can also contract very fast and are the primary fiber developed in power and strength fields like powerlifting.

Where an explosive activation of the muscles is required.

 

Powerlifter Calisthenics

 

And adaptable fibers are somewhere in between

They can do both strength and endurance and will be used for whatever they are required.

 

Some people have more slow twitch fibers than others and the same goes for fast twitch fibers.

This means your body will simply react better to certain respones or types of training than other bodies.

A marathon runner might both be genetically more of a slow twitch guy, but he also needs to simulate his slow twitch muscles.

Simply having them in a higher quantity, doesn’t mean that he will actually be better at running a marathon than a powerlifter with mostly fast twitch cells who has been training day in day out.

 

This example does not mean that you are either slow of fast twitch, you need both fibers and you have both.

Some muscle groups have more than others and will respond to a certain type of training better than others.

In general the characteristics of your exercise determine your overall amount eventually.

So it’s not slow twitch or fast twitch, it’s not black or white, it’s both, but it larger or smaller amounts, depending on what you do with your body.

 

So genetics play their role, but only to the extent at which they are expressed.

And guess who determines that?

You.

 

 

The right amount of reps and sets for calisthenics

 

The Best Rep Range For Strength, Mass And Endurance

 

So how does this all relate to actual repetitions?

If you want to increase strength you should stick to a 1-5 rep range in a progression that requires at least 80-100% of your maximum strength in 1 rep.

If you want to increase endurance you should stick to rep range higher than 12, in a progression that requires around 60% or less of your strength in 1 rep.

For hyperthrophy you will need to stick between a 5-12 rep range in which you will also have strength gains and endurance gains, this will usually be at around 70-80% of your maximum strength in 1 rep.

 

Which rep range is the best?

It honestly depends on you goals and how your body responds to different impulses.

Sometimes doing less reps at a high resistance of a certain move can really take you to the next level.

Other times doing more reps at a lower resistance does the same.

 

There are too many factors in play (Time under tension, muscle fibers, speed etc.) to simply say that the stated amount of repetitions will determine EVERYTHING.

But they are definitely important for your overall results (See diagram below).

 

Reps-and-sets-calisthenics

 

Source: Overcoming Gravity

 

These reps are the amount of reps in a single set.

You might do multiple sets of a certain type of rep range.

Usually 3-5 sets of a 5-8 rep range before the muscle fatigue is too much for proper execution (See table).

 

Reps and sets CalisthenicsSource: The Poliquin Principles

 

 

Reps And Putting Those Reps To The Test

 

I’m presenting you guys with a oversimplication, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Knowing what repetition range you should stick to can be essential for getting the results you want.

Especially if all other factors such as dieting and resting and your overall hormones are in check.

So start experimenting with your rep ranges.

 

Set clear goals for what you want to achieve.

Because that’s exactly what’s at stake if you are just doing endurance while your goal is to gain strength.

Having this knowledge, can be pretty exciting, because now you can get serious.

 

So if you want to be a marathon runner, more of less.

If you want to be a powerlifter, less of more.

And if you want to master calisthenics, put those reps to the test.

 

Beast mode ON!

 

 

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40 thoughts on “A Guide To Repetitions For Strength, Mass And Endurance

  1. Bar brother. I wanted to ask u about the training methods i am so confused!circuit training. Interval training .giant set. Superset ect… What should i do to get bigger(hypertrophy)?what s the best method?people say that methods are involved in the topics of strength endurance and hypertrophy.sometimes i do circuit training of the chest for example several types of push ups for rep range of 10-20 does that mean that i don t train for hypertrophy and i am training for endurance?? I m stuck what should i do?or should i do a premade workout routine??thanks in advance

    1. Hey Chahine,

      Great question.

      You can find a great basic training plan on the website here: http://www.barbrothersgroningen.com/calisthenics-workout-plan/

      As a beginner, focusing fully on hyperthrophy will eventually come at a price, I would recommend building a strong base first, but if that’s what you want then go for it. Sticking to the reps given in this post will yield the best results in general.

      About 5 sets of 12 reps or in a circuit. A circuit will put more emphasis on your also building endurance. Generally if you are a beginner almost everything will get you bigger in the short term.

      Check out the plan. It’s a great place to start.

      Beast mode ON!

  2. Thanks for your response!i will try that (but i m not a beginner i mastered all the basics which made workouts and this rep range easy really so i was confused that i m doing endurance instead of hypertrophy which is my goal ????

    1. Hey Chahine,

      More than welcome!

      Haha, I know it’s not always easy. Take into account too that different body parts have different compositions and therefore might have different numbers.

      But I’m sure you’ll discover this ;). And make sure you eat plenty.

      Beast mode ON!

  3. Hey bar brother. Greetings from India. I have been training bodyweight for some time. I love it and I think it’s one of the best approach to fitness. I am working on some personal goals but alongside I do want to initiate hypertrophy during my main muscle building workouts. I usually follow a circuit of 5 different exercises
    ( different progressions) with minimum rest ( for intensity) and do the whole circuit for about 5 times. My question is about rep ranges. Should I attempt around 20 – 25 ( as al kavadlo suggests but for lesser sets) or around 15 and progressing to harder moves. My goal being to Increase muscle mass.
    Also does circuit training structure benefit more than traditional (example :3 sets wide push up 3 sets close grip push ups ; finishing one exercise after another)
    Thanks a lot

    1. Hey Ojoj,

      Welcome to the movement.

      For muscle mass, I’d recommend going for 15 reps and then moving on to harder moves. 20-25 will be more endurance, but it depends on the muscles you train, whether you are a more slow or fast twitch dominant guy and of course on how your diet is composed.

      No, circuits will usually put you in a higher heartrate and are usually more time efficient. But for moves which require high levels of neurological adaptation and concentration, taking a bit more time for rest is essential. As a beginner however that’s not really something you need to worry about.

      Beast mode ON!

      Beast mode ON!

  4. hey bar brother greeting from Jack. I have been doing body weight for about 3 month and it’s great but the exercise has become a bit easy and my goal was to train for strength. for instance when I begin I barely do 5-6 rep which is good for strength but now I can now do 15 push up’ so how can I make 80% of my Max strength in one rep. thank you BEAST MODE

  5. Hey bar brother! Thanks for this great advice but I have still one question: My goal ist to generate strength an muscle mass. 10 pull ups are no problem (10-14 are possible), but how many pull ups should I do in the first round of your lets go routine. If I do 12 in the first round, I barely can do 8 in the second. Should I try to do the same reps every round (but then the first round isnt so hard, just the second an third) or should I try to do maximum in the first round, even if it means to go down in reps in the second and third round.

    1. Hey Joe,

      Thanks for your message and great question!

      Try to spread the pull ups over all those cycles. So if you can do 16 in total, divide it by 3-4. That way you’ll keep proper form in the final rounds, which is much more essential for muscular development than doing more reps with shitty form.

      Spread it out, if doing 10 full ones in every round is too hard, you clearly need to regress to an easier variation after those 10 reps. So let’s say you do 10 repetitions in the first round and discover you can just do 5 in the next, then try to regress to pull up eccentrics for the remaining reps. That’s another way to approach it.

      So there are two options. 1) Spread out the reps over the required amount of cycles 2) Regress to an easier variation for the remaining repetitions.

      Goodluck my friend!

      Beast mode ON!

  6. Hey Bar Brothers! Ive been doing calisthenics for a year now and ive done great progress, but now im feeling kind of stuck and wanted to try a different routine (ive done routines 1 min30sec rest btw excersice and 2 min btw sets) but now i tried a routine of 5 excersices of 10rep with no rest in btw and felt my chest huge, what am i earning with this type of excersice (no rest btw excersices) more endurance or hipertrophy? (I would like to have the 3 of them haha i know you cant hace everything but something middle) how should i base my routine? This is something that has been bothering me for about 3 months please if you answer me i would owe you some much

    1. Hey Juan,

      Great stuff!

      The hugeness of your chest doesn’t really say a lot, it just says that there is a lot of blood flow going there. But in terms of muscular adaptation it is just 1 of many indicators. So don’t confuse having a pump with doing something good.

      The secret is progressive overload, consistently. Nothing more, nothing less. How? By increasing the complexity of the drills you do. Chin up > pull up > muscle up > one arm chin up for example.

      Beast mode ON!

  7. Hey Rich, my name is Mark, and I have a question regarding strength training. I wanted to know should I always stick to 3 to 6 reps even when I become intermediate

    1. Hey Mark,

      Great question.

      The words, ‘always’ and ‘never’ rarely represent the complexity of training.

      So no, it all depends on your overall goals and how your body responds to different types of intensity.

      Not to mention, recovery etc.

      But it’s a good point of reference to use with regard to strength training. If you are really operating at a high motor unit activation you will rarely get more than 5 reps out of a give drill, if you get more out of the drill you know you aren’t following a progression that requires the highest activation.

      Hope this clarifies things for you.

      Beast mode ON!

        1. Hey Mark,

          Great question.

          You are then building mainly the anterior side of your body. Or the front, at the same time you aren’t targeting the back, which will lead to imbalances down the road.

          So I wouldn’t recommend you doing just that. ALWAYS balance pushing with pulling.

          For overall hypertrophy one of the key factors is ‘mechanical tension’, not metabolic stress. So reducing resting time and breaking a sweat doesn’t tell you so much about ‘actual muscle gain’ even if you feel a pump.

          You can read more about it here: http://www.barbrothersgroningen.com/muscle-growth-calisthenics/

          Beast mode ON!

          1. Thanks Rich, I also wanted to know how long should I rest if I do 5 sets of 12 diamond pushups. And what does increasing the reps do for the body?

  8. And say I did 3 to 5 sets of 10- 12 pushups but on the last set i do failure what is that building and how often should I push my muscles to failure

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