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.
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.
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 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 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!