Lift Within a Range for Best Results

Tuesday March 24, 2015

Recently, I worked with a few clients who were previously taught to perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions when strength training.  When I first started strength training seriously (back in college), I learned and performed the same protocol of 3 sets of 10 repetitions.  Now, there is nothing terribly wrong with performing 3 set of 10 reps, however, as I became more knowledgeable about the benefits of lifting within a range (e.g. 4-6, 8-12, or 12-15 reps) as opposed to a specific number (e.g. 10 reps) my resistance training program evolved and I began to experience better training results.

The guideline for performing repetitions within a range of 8-12 using appropriate resistance is also the standard strength training protocol for both the 2006 and 2010 American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription.

So, what’s the limitation of lifting to a specific number versus within a range?  Well, many of us have heard that performing resistance training exercises requires both physical and mental effort.  In other words, your ability to lift a certain resistance relies on your physical capability and also mental belief that you can lift the resistance.  By choosing a resistance and specific number of reps, you will eventually develop the physical strength to achieve that specific number of reps.  Mentally, anything beyond that specific number may not register as necessary to achieve because you’ve already reached your target goal (i.e. 10 reps).  Now, by setting a range (e.g. 8-12), you now have two lifting goals; the bottom of your range (i.e. 8) and the top of your range (e.g.12).  By having these lifting goals, you are more inclined to use an appropriate resistance where you can achieve between 8-12 reps.  Additionally, so that you will constantly challenge yourself appropriately, once you are able to reach the top of your range (e.g. 12) with good form, a weight increase of 2.5-5lbs should still allow for you to perform the lower end of your range in the future.

When performing this resistance on the lower end (e.g. 8 reps), your physical and mental abilities are now focused on getting to 9 reps, 10 reps, 11 reps etc.

The bottom line:

Lifting within a repetition range is an excellent way to help you improve your muscular strength and endurance by consistently challenging your physical and mental efforts.

By: Patrick Service, CPT