How Many Reps to Build Muscle (BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES!)

What’s up guys? Jeff Cavalier of athleanx.com.


What is the perfect number for body weight exercise for you to do to get the best results from it? It’s a good question here guys is a tricky question. Actually I’m setting you up because that answer should be, it depends and it’s going to depend on a lot of things. When you’re, when you’re working body weight exercises into programming, you have to take into account a lot of different things. Namely the strength level of the person you’re programming it for and secondly their body weight because the body weight is acting as the resistance but there’s so many times there’s so many programs that I’d come across where I see specific numbers being laid out there for you to do on a body weight exercise and it’s doing one of two things. We know it’s doing the service to you but it’s doing it in one of two ways.

Either it’s setting the bar too low cause if it’s recommending 20 pull ups and you can do 30 guess what, you’re not really getting pushed hard enough to cause a in adaptive response. If it’s saying 20 pull ups and you can only do three, guess what you’re being set up for failure, right to fail in a bad way. So what we want to do is I wanted to kind of dip into some of our programming tactics here. One of the ones we use throughout a lot of our NXT program, we observe our advanced monthly program that we have. A lot of our guys have already graduated from x one and x two and also a lot of foundation of what we do with the athletes zero program, which just allowed it to help guys build muscle much more than any other body weight program out there.

So it’s this tactic that we have here. Basically it’s a multiplier effect. So the way you want to really do this, and this is kind of cool because you can actually take a bio exercise by the time this video is done, challenge a buddy and see who does a better job on their, uh, on, on getting to this, this number. I’ll show you how we calculate it. So you take your body of exercise, the first thing you want to do is you want to do that exercise to failure. So whether we’re talking about pushups or whether we’re talking about pull-ups or we’re talking about dips, you want to do your first set, give me your best effort that you’ve gotten. Now, the cool thing again is it may vary from day to day. We know that some days we show up to the gym feeling great, being able to, uh, give us your best effort.

And other days, not so much. So we want to make sure that we’re talking apples to apples. We want to make sure that on the day that you’ve got your best, that we’re going to get the best out of you. So you take your first set, you do it to failure, warm up really, really quickly. You do your first step to failure. Once we got that number, let’s say it’s pushups and I get 50 out, okay, that’s my number. Now how do we get a workout off of that? Well, we look for three different stages or four. We basically got a solid effort. A solid proof for me is a basically a c plus and a c plus B minus c. Plus. We’ve got B minus probably we’ve got 150 so if you do 150 pushups for that workout, and again, the parameter of rest time is important too and I always say, let’s keep this in a minute and a or under.

If you’re ready to go faster then let it go. If your need all 90 seconds then go on 90 seconds. So 150 reps in a of a pushup, it’s a decent effort, not bad. If you want to get like a little blood flow, if you take that number to five times the amount, now you’re up to 250 okay, now you get into a pretty solid workout. That’s a really a pro level workout like we’d like to call it a good, a good effort better than this. This is about a B. If you come here, we got an a minus effort. You’re in the range, you’re going seven times that amount. Give me 350 pushups in that workout. Again, not resting any more than 90 seconds at any one time, but cranking out those reps until you reached 350 okay. There’s a nice solid elite effort, a really good effort.

But if you want to go extreme here we call beast mode. You want to go piece mode 10 times that amount. Can you do 500 pushups? And again, you want to make a workout out of it. Challenge a friend. So both of you get over here, you both do your, your uh, first rep take it. It’s going to play out exactly as I showed you before. You might do 50, he might do 20, but 20 was challenging for him. She are on an equal playing field. So now you both take your numbers and you try to get to, let’s say you set the number of seven for the day, but each year we’re going after the seven times your number. So this guy’s going after three 50. The 20 is going after a a 140 and see who can get there faster. Cause. Now we’ve got the other variable, which is time.

You know what, how much work can be done and not amount of time. So you see guys, when you’re looking at body weight exercises and programming, body weight exercises, you have to consider much more than just the a number. No one can tell you a specific number because they’re going to be limiting you. And as I said, they’re doing you a disservice in their programming. If you want to get the most out of your workouts, you got to be challenging yourself. You’ve got to be working against yourself. Yeah, you can throw in your friend for motivation, you know for a bet, but you’re challenging. You’re working against yourself. You’re working against yourself on that specific day and what your best effort was and where you can take your body. And guys, that’s what we do here at athlete. Next, we push you to the limits and we do it with you and amongst yourselves.

In other words, you’re taking them yourself. You’re setting the bar for yourself and you’re beating yourself. We set challenges up every step of the way to ensure that you do that. It’s a great way to take your results and your workouts to the next level because you’re tapping into that competitive inner drive that allows us never even exposed. When we train, we sort of go through the motions and that’s not the best way to get results. If you want to see the best results, guys, if you want to see it in a body weight only format, then I’d say you got to try the athlete and zero program guys, no bars, no advantage, no bands, no ball. That’s our tagline. That’s it’s there for a reason. There’s literally nothing you use and there’s no bullshit. You got to bring your best effort every single day to get the most out of it.

If you have equipment you want to push yourself that way and then again work your way through. It’s a progression x one x two you join NXT, it’s next level training so you can find all that out the next.com I think you might find this valuable though. Never look at specific reps. The same again, when you’re thinking about body weight training, and instead start thinking about how you can set the bar and then raise that bar every single step of the way until you can smash it. All right. Good job guys. I’ll be back here again a real soon. Leave me a comment and thumbs up below if you like this and whatever else you’d like to see, and I’ll bring it to you.

77 thoughts on “How Many Reps to Build Muscle (BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES!)

  1. Mr. J1S says:

    if u can do 50 pushups 3 times. then u could’ve done alot more reps in that 1st set. i can do 50 pushups but on my 2nd and 3rd reps im probably gonna do like 20 then 15. 

    • Steven Osborne says:

      Try knelling on a folded towel, start with 20 second intervals, perform 12 push ups, stop to rest until the 20 seconds timer beeps, then perform 12 more reps, rest the remaining time until the timer beeps, do 12 push ups, etc, etc. for 20 minutes straight. The rep number can be bigger or smaller. Try this for 20 minutes without stopping the timed sets. Happy work outs

  2. Austin Hendrickson says:

    I’m sorry but if 50 push-ups is failure, there is no way you can do 500 push-ups, resting only 90 seconds between sets. If 50 is failure, the next set is going to be less and the next set even less, etc. And saying 150 push-ups is good for a blood pump? Then why in the Athlean-X1 training program would we have push-ups in sets of 3???

    • tdylan says:

      @mr.knowitall Hopefully I’m understanding your question. Let’s break it down
      – (1) One of the points Jeff made was that we’re not always “on.” One day, we may get 20 reps before failing. Another day we may get 15. Another day, we feel great and get 30. So it varies from day to day. 

      – (2) Let’s say you walk up with “I’m going to go 5x.” You then get 20 reps. You need 100 reps TOTAL, so you have 80 more to do as quickly as possible. Not “100 more in addition to the 20 that I just did.” That’s my understanding of it.

      – (3) With regard to redetermining your rep range each time, I think that’s a personal choice. What if the first time you determined it, you were pretty tired, didn’t rest well, and hadn’t eaten well? Those factors mean that the number you got wasn’t your best. So if you hold yourself to that (low) standard, you’re cheating yourself. On the flip side, what if you were feeling beastly that day? The number you got was you at your prime. You’re not always going to feel that great, so it’s not necessarily ideal to hold yourself to that high standard. I think this is something only you can know. If you determine the rep range each time, you will constantly be pushing yourself based on how you feel that day. However, if you hold yourself to a rep range from a time when you were feeling great, you will be holding yourself to a higher standard. But if it was a rep range from a time when you were “out of it,” it will be a lower standard. Only you can “gut check” yourself and know “this was a good/bad day.”

    • tofsen12345 says:

      My warm up before full workout is about 110 push ups to get my blood pumping so you cant do 150 push ups and call it a full workout for a whole day because like he said its a good blood pump but of course your chest will get little tired so if you are going to do a chest workout dont do this as warm up but if its not chest day then you can do this as warm up… sry for bad english?

    • El León says:

      ALSO IMPORTANT: determining the number of REPS PER (bodyweight) SET for optimal muscle growth: if we take into account Time under Tension (approx. 40-60 seconds), and respectively the concentric (2 sec) and eccentric (4 sec) movements, a single set should be 7-10 reps for optimal muscle growth. That’s the way I distribute my total number of reps (ascertainable via Athlean-X method) into sets.

  3. Alfie Fairs says:

    Just so everyone is clear: the initial challenge of doing the exercise to failure is just to find the ideal number to set as a benchmark which you can then use to multiply and find a decent number of reps to challenge you individually. *They are not in one set, you just need to reach the total number of reps without resting more than 90 seconds, that does not mean maxing out in every set*

  4. Sacrifice Battlegrounds says:

    Many people don’t understand how to do progressive overload with calisthenics. To build muscle you must also focus on increasing time under tension (minimum of 30 seconds up to crazy 1-2 minutes), decreasing rest time (2-3 min to 30 seconds), decreasing momentum (increase time for eccentric movement), changing the variation to make the exercise harder (e.g. standard pushups to one arm push ups). This is what has helped me. If you’re training for strength try and do hard variations like repetitions of 3-5 of one arm pushups. If you’re training to gain size do as many as you can of easier variations like the standard push up. You can get some real functional body strength without the extra bulk compared to weight training. After all, in my opinion its about efficiency, what’s the strongest you can be with the least amount of weight gain. Of course aesthetics are important too but more of athlete aesthetics not body building (excess and useless size except for the mere appearance). In the end, each his own.

  5. vta international says:

    Are you kidding me ? 3 x 50 pushups with 90 sec rest period? That’s a beast mode… I’m in best form of my life and I just did 1×30 1×20 1×15 and died. Something is wrong here.

Leave a Reply