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.





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.





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?




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).




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

  1. Hey bro,
    I’m super excited about starting the 12week workout plan – Ive been working out for the last month doing push ups and pull ups etc. nothing too crazy, just warming up after a few inactive years. Ive been doing handstands and climbing things for years just cos it’s fun so calisthenics really appeals to me. I understand the concept behind rep numbers, just one question: when doing a full body workout, is it correct to presume that after the last cycle all the muscle groups should be equally tired? If they are not will I just adjust rep numbers of individual excercises till everything is worked out equally?

    1. Hey Will,

      Awesome stuff and great question! Impressive man and good job working on those handstands, definitely an important movement.

      No, this has everything to do with how well balanced your muscle groups are. Don’t confuse the feeling of tiredness with having done a good workout.

      You can also be completely exhausted from doing a bad workout and not exhausted from doing a good workout. Balance is definitely important and try to balance all muscle groups, but usually most people have let’s say stronger legs than arms, in that case your progressions will also determine the amount of exhaustion. More, you might want to have more endurance in your legs and more strength in your arms. So it really depends on your goals.

      If you want to balance everything, focus on working on those different parts, if you feel like you need to work your legs more or other parts more, you definitely can. With this regard, there isn’t a right or wrong, it’s more what your body needs and what you think it needs.

      Hope this makes sense ;).

      Beast mode ON!

  2. So how would you apply this to Calisthenics since the resistance isn’t the same and you can measure a specific 1RM since you are lifting a weight.

    1. Hey Joshua,

      This is indeed a more complex thing, than when doing regular weights. Thankfully in body weight workout there is something referred to as a ‘progression’. Simply a more difficult or easier version of a certain exercise.

      Initially you have to determine where your level of strength and a certain routine or progression intersect. Depending on your strength you’ll be able to do let’s say 1-5 reps. In that case you’ll know that you have work to do in that progression. Over time you will become stronger and you can move on to a more difficult progression. So let’s take a diamond push up or a regular push up as example.

      Let’s say you can do 3 push ups, this means that there is a lot of progress in terms of push ups. So you train and eventually you hit 4-5 sets of 5 push ups, at that point, you’ll know, that in terms of pure strength you are meeting the requirements. At that point you move on to diamonds for example, again work up to those minimum requirements and move on to 1 arms or other progressions. That way you keep moving up difficulty levels instead of adding an extra kilogram of weight you are using gravity and biomechanics to increase the difficulty. This is purely based upon strength goals, if you want more mass you’ll most likely need to enter a higher rep range.

      I hope this make sense. When you are basically just starting off, the 6 month plan takes most of this into account, but you can always make you adaptations.

      Beast mode ON!

  3. Thank you for another great post.

    I have recently started training calisthenics so your blog post have been a great help.

    My goal is right in the middle of the two: I train Krav Maga also, and so I need both endurance and strength.

    What would be the best way to train for this? Should I mix it up throughout the week, with some days focusing on endurance and some on strength, or would it be better to cycle my workouts on a say a monthly basis?

    I’m still very new to this, and with all the information out there it can become a bit confusing 🙁

    Thank you again for your awesome blog posts, looking forward to seeing more.



    1. Hey Graeme,

      Awesome! I’m happy to help!

      With regard to your question, nothing is inherently good or bad, necessarily. If you want to have both, I suggest mix it up. Have a clear set of goals. For example 5 muscle ups, be specific. Just saying I want strength or endurance is still too broad. The more specific your goal the easier it will be for you to determine your approach.

      If you know you want 5 muscle ups, but right now can only do 5 pull ups, you know you’ll need to do some strength work. In a 1-5 rep range. If you want to do let’s say 5 minutes of non-stop rope jumping, but you can just do 1, you’ll know you need to work on that endurance. It really boils down to those goals ;).

      I can completely understand that it’s all quite confusing, just take what works for you right now and experiment with the information you get. Eventually you’ll start digesting all this stuff and things will start to become relatable. It just takes time and you’ll need to chew down on stuff.

      Appreciate the positive message.

      Beast mode ON!

  4. I understand this concept in weightlifting , heavy weights/low reps versus low weight/higher reps depending on your goals. I am new to calisthenics and having trouble wrapping my head around the same concept. If I am doing a push-up or a pull-up the weight never changes its always my body weight. So how does doing three reps focus on strength and 15 reps focus on endurance when the weight does not change? Do I simply do more sets? Slower reps?

    1. Hey Joe,

      Great question.

      With regard to calisthenics it boils down to progressions.

      For the push ups it’s for example: push up on the knees, regular push up, decline push up and eventually a handstand push up. As you notice, you basically use gravity to your advantage to increase the load. That way you increase the required level of strength.

      The same goes for pull ups. Basically you start with hanging, then you move on to a more active hang, then a pull up and eventually a muscle up.

      So true, the weight of a push up or a pull up doesn’t change, but if you move on to a handstand push up or a muscle up, it does, simply because you are changing how your body is moved. More…doing exercises more controlled and slow, definitely has the same effect, up to a certain point, beyond which there is very little benefit, but it becomes an endurance thing. Doing more sets of a light exercise won’t improve your strength, but endurance. Because you are operating at let’s say 40-50% of your 1 rep maximum strength.

      Hope this makes sense!

      Beast mode ON!

  5. slow twitch/fast twitch what i have? how can i find it?? and can i change slow twitch to fast twitch .. and what is best for gain mass??

    1. It’s more complicated than that. Fast twitch muscle fibres are the fibres that are initially contracted using the breakdown of creatine phosphate until blood can carry enough oxygen to the mitochondria for the ATP required by the slow twitch muscle to be used. Nobody is one or the other. Domestic chickens are mostly fast twitch because their meet is white and contains les myoglobin, while cows have slow more slow twitch. Everyone has both slow and fast twitch, but in different ratios. You need both. Having fewer fast twitch fibres will mean you are doing more strength and less endurance and vice versa. For more hypertrophy (gaining mass) you want a healthy balance of both which means you’re not doing strength training (low rep range) as often, and you’re not doing endurance (high rep range)as often. You should be in the 6-12 or 15 rep range for maximum hypertrophy. Check out FitnessFAQs on YouTube. He has videos pertaining to this very thing, and he explains it better. He has a degree in physiotherapy and kinesiology, so it’s safe to say he knows what he’s talking about.

      1. Hey Sean,

        I completely agree. That’s why I mentioned throughout the article multiple times that this is a gross simplification.

        It’s definitely not the case that you are either fast or slow, but a combination of in addition to having different compositions per muscle group.

        Still, there is much more, think about your overall body mechanics, the prerequisites for certain exercises and ranges of motion. With regard to hyperthrophy, still it’s questionable. Again, muscle fibers just play a part.

        I love that guy! Haha, I know ;). He has amazing videos.

        Thanks for sharing your views on this. And I completely agree that this is a simplification of reality. But to fully explain the complexity of that reality would be far beyond the interest of the readers here and would most likely only lead to confusion.

        Beast mode ON!

  6. Great article! But a few questions come to mind. For hypertrophy, what would be an example of a set rep scheme applicable to calisthenics? and how much total time under tension? I looked all over for a definitive answer but I hope an expert like you can help me!

    1. Hey XC,

      Haha, welcome to the magic world of reps and sets where everyone says something else. It’s because potentially everything can work. But you are looking for the best method of course (Just like me ;D).

      A good scheme for hyperthrophy would be a 3-5 set 5-12 rep scheme with the proper progression.

      With regard to time under tension, usually around 2-3 seconds down/up – 3 seconds hold – 2-3 down/up.

      This will also differ per muscle group and per individual. But in MOST cases this will give you the best results, but only in combination with a proper diet. And take note that beyond a certain point, becoming bigger has very little benefit.

      Beast mode ON!

      1. Thanks man!!! I’ll definitely try this method. Im curious by what you mean by beyong a certain point, becoming bigger has very little benefit? Does more muscle stop me from doing specific skills like hanstands, planche or human flag?

  7. Hi Bar Brother.
    Is it possible to let me try the 6 month calisthenics program and also what im gonna need to do the

  8. trying the 6 months by bar brothers groningen now i have this questions.
    1. I find that month 1 y the 6 months program is easy for me should i continue to the second month.
    2. I believe that 3 days a week is too little how much days should i train to get maximun results and how i split them
    3. How many cycles should i do in order to get big and shredded i know they are different aproach but i want definition with some muscle after i master the moves and become a calishtenics freak i will bulk (by the way i do the renegade diet)
    4. In month 3 that we are doing 2 routines per day how should i do them.
    5. How many hiit sessions should i incorporate to the workout.
    6. I want your personal opinion im 140lbs 18 years old with 13% i believe i cant see my abs but i sant to know if i should bulk

    1. Hey Carlos,

      1. If the first month is too easy, continue with the second month.

      2. Maximum is very much an individual thing, some people get maximum results from training 3 times a week and some people from training 5 times a week, then there is maximum results over a short period of time and over a long period of time. There are too many variables here, those three days are meant for beginners, mainly from a physical and psychological point of view. So to answer your second question, find out what works best for you at this point ;). If 3 days are not enough do 4, if 4 is not enough do 5, but make sure you have at least 1-2 rest days during your week. This is essential for both strength and gains. More isn’t always better.

      3. Again, very much an individual thing. Read my post on repetitions, strength and endurance, your get some answers there. Good job on doing the renegade diet, it’s definitely a great tool in your toolbox.

      4. One after the other, or in whatever combination you prefer.

      5. Again, this depends on your overall goals, the workout itself could be a hiit session depending on your resting time between exercises and sets. Take into account however that you will be doing more cardio then strength work if you choose to minimize rest times.

      6. I don’t have a visual of your abs so it’s pretty difficult for me to say, but if you are at 13%, it’s definitely worth getting to between 8-10 and bulking from there. The benefits of doing so are too many to mention.

      Those were quite a few questions and as you might have noticed there is no-one-size-fits-all when it comes to training. Every body is different, there are principles, but you have to find your own unique maximum within those principles.

      Beast mode ON!

  9. Hey bro! I’m more than happy of being enrolled in this group. your posts are amazing and I have achived many goal as easy as read and put in practice. I had a 3 month old injury in my left shoulder. After reading your injuries post and putting it in practice I’m almost fully recovered in just 3 weeks. Thank you very much and keep going! ! By the way I’m a 40 years old lady

    1. Hey Darling,

      I’m very happy to read that you’ve been reaping the benefits :D.

      Thanks for the positive feedback and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them!

      Well, guess you are proving the fact that age is just a number.

      Beast mode ON!

  10. calisthenics wont make you stronger because now i can do each advanced move for at least 15 reps and strength is 3 o 5 reps and so you cant get strength
    adding weight will better get me to the gym cuz i have nothing heavy enough and if i have i will adapt to it

  11. 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:

      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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

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