Best Rep Range To Build Muscle: Pushing through muscle growth limits

By Ire | Lifting Tips

Mar 23

Question: Hey Ire, what is the best rep range to build muscle mass?

Answer (TLDR): Lift enough weight to make 8-12 reps challenging on 1-1-3 tempo.


Lifting weights creates micro-tears in muscle tissue. Because muscle is made out of protein, we need to consume enough protein in order to recover those tears. Whenever your body is repairing muscle tissue, your muscle fibers get a little bit bigger (as long as there is enough protein in our diet).

Therefore, our goal is to achieve a perfect amount of muscle micro-tears.

  • If we lift heavy (strength training), we are not going to create enough muscle tears. That is because you will not be able to lift that weight enough times to create the “burning effect” during exercise
  • When you lift too light, you will not challenge muscle enough in order to create tears. Yes, you can lift the weight many dozen times, but at the end you are primarily working on muscle endurance.

Therefore, best rep range to build muscle is somewhere in between strength and endurance training.

Best rep range to build muscle. Muscular guy lifting weight in the gym

The ideal rep range for different goals:

Strength Training: 1-5 reps per set
Hypertrophy: 8-12 reps per set
Endurance: 15+ reps per set

“Ok, 8-12 it is, great article Ire…see you later”

Wow, wow… hold your horses. If it was that easy, there would be no need to write an entire article on it. Rule on 8-12 reps is just a rule of thumb. People often take it too literally. There are many other things that you should consider if you are serious about starting to change your body appearance.

Lets talk about:
1. How many sets and difference between muscle groups
2. Exercise selection?
3. How to preform these repetitions for perfect “micro-tearing effect”?

1. How many sets per muscle group?

So I know I should do 8-12 repetitions per set. But how many sets per exercise? How many exercises per muscle group?

Answer is that it all depends on the muscle group. First of all you need to realize that muscle groups are different sizes. Your legs are way bigger than your arms. That is because you have bigger muscles in your legs compared to your arms. Legs need to support more weight due to the fact, we walk with them every day. Therefore, amount of sets, reps and exercises should vary depending on muscle group we train.

Instead of asking how many sets per exercise, you should be wondering about Total Amount of Repetition per Muscle Group.

Back: 150-200
Abdominals: 40-80
Legs: 210-350
Arms: 120-150
Chest: 150-200
Shoulder: 120-150

Knowing that repetition should be from 8-12 per set, you can now determinate the number of sets by yourself.

Back day today?  Let’s say you do 10 repetitions per set. That will lead you to do 15-20 total sets. But what about different exercises? 15-20 sets of the same exercise, or how does it work?

two guys with a lot of built muscle enjoying a day in the nature

2. Exercise selection

I like to consider all the factor when it comes to selecting amount of exercises per muscle group. Things like:

  • How to target every muscle in that group?
  • How to add bilateral and unilateral training?
  • What is the purpose of this muscle group and how to train that?

Therefore, how many exercises and what kinds of exercises depends on the muscle group you train. It requires quite a bit of anatomy reading and a lot of planning. That is why I wrote specific guides on each muscle group.

These next 6 articles will put a thought and purpose behind your:

3. How to perform repetitions for maximal muscle growth?

Training for mass will not be the same as training for strength. Even exercises will generally be different. When training for maximal muscle growth, we need to find new ways to make the repetition harder.

Time under tension

Time under tension matters! When performing a single repetition, we need to focus on correct tempo during a lift. Each exercise consists of three stages:

1. Concentric (From A-B)
2. Full contraction (B)
3. Eccentric (From Z-B)

Biceps curls demonstrating point from A to B

Recommended tempo for maximal hypertrophy is:

Concentric – 1 second
Full Contraction – hold for 1 second
Eccentric – 3 seconds

Performing each repetition with enough weight to be in 8-12 rep range will bring burn you never felt before.


Best rep range to build muscle goes way beyond just a number. We need to consider amount of sets, types of exercises and tempo. Combining that with enough protein intake and you will be on a good way to build the body you never had. Because the body you never had attract things (and girls) you’ve never had.


About the Author

Hey, my name is Ire.I am a Personal Trainer/ Strength Coach based in Stockholm, Sweden.When you don't find me in the gym, I will most likely be on a Track and Field stadium throwing around a discus.