Is there any point in doing more than 1-5 reps?

So I walked into a gym. Not like a real gym but like one of those that you see on TV like bigcityfitness or 100hourfitness or universefitness or whatever, you know.

I see a bunch of people doing like a million reps with not much weight or really any rest between sets if you can even call them separate sets. Do all these people have secret sauce that I’m missing and I’m the one doing it wrong?

Most people don’t do any reps. They go about their day flabby and listless missing out on the exhilaration to be had at the gym. They say they don’t like to sweat and stink, or they say they don’t have the time but a bit of time wet, sweaty, and stinky is how you get to a great workout. Some people, just slip into the gym for one rep or maybe five, a good job that. A select few, those that stretch themselves, those that are willing to go all the way, they do all the reps. In the gym they take anything the comes at them, endlessly pumping away, working all their parts, they are the truly elite, the top, and bottom, of the heap so to speak.

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1-5 reps? Yeah, I do more than that. Usually aim for 8-12. Anything heavier I’d risk hurting my wrist or something, anything lighter I would shoot past 16 reps

I don’t think they’re doing it right, though they might be training for something specific, like CrossFit.

I also think you’re not doing much of anything right.

The book I use (includes both nutrition and workout) has three phases of working out at the gym:

  1. Circuit training: two or three circuits of 10 exercises, with up to 20 reps, for three weeks.
  2. SuperSets: A and B workouts, with up to 12 reps, for three weeks.
  3. Heavy lifting: A, B, and C workouts, 5x5’s, for three weeks.

None of these should take more than 75 minutes or so.

I’m off the book, since I work out at home now.

She Be a Poet: The reps all go to eleven. Look, right across the gym, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
colonelsmoothie: Oh, I see. And most reps go up to ten?
She Be a Poet: Exactly.
colonelsmoothie: Does that mean it’s better? Is it any stronger?
She Be a Poet: Well, it’s one more, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be repping at ten. You lift ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your reps. Where can you go from there? Where?
colonelsmoothie: I don’t know.
She Be a Poet: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
colonelsmoothie: Put it up to eleven.
She Be a Poet: Eleven. Exactly. One more rep.
colonelsmoothie: Why don’t you just put on more weight and make ten be the top rep and make that a little harder?
She Be a Poet: [pause] These go to eleven.


The “virutally no weight, a gazillion reps” thing is something I remember was talked about with Adam Archuleta when he was drafted. It was supposed to be the new way to workout, and even back then it had critics.

IMO, stick to traditional workouts.

A lot depends on your goals. If endurance is a goal, then more reps is the way to go.

Who is stronger? The guy benching 250 for 1 rep or the guy benching 12.5 for 20 reps?

Might note that both are essentially doing the same amount of work

Assuming their arms are the same length.

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General theory:

15+ reps: endurance, sustainably in athletic or labor endeavors.

5-15 reps: hypertrophy, making muscles bigger

1-5 reps: strength, the ability to lift/move a lot of weight

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The truth:

There is no correct answer. Lines get blurry between the three objectives. Starting at the low point: as you get stronger, you will get bigger. Conversely, as you get bigger, you’ll get stronger.

There is a point of diminishing returns, though. If you are doing reps to get bigger, you just can’t keep adding reps. Otherwise, I could curl a can of corn a 1,000 times a day and I’d ahve huge biceps.

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Huh, that sounds pretty familiar. Where have I seen something ninja-like that before?

I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand.

I posted the general theory so I could address them in my next post.