When it comes to working out and building muscle, I need you to stop counting reps. In this video, I am going to explain why counting the number of reps you are doing, as well as your rep range goals, is counterintuitive to the gains that you are seeking. There is something that you should be doing instead that will help you to get the most out of every workout that you do.

By targeting a specific number of reps, you are setting yourself up for subpar results and lower quality repetitions. So, instead of thinking how many reps you are going to do to build muscle, I want you to think about generalities; in general I can pick up a weight that is heavy enough to fall in the 1-7 rep range. The next rep range requires a moderate weight that falls within 8-14. A lighter weight would have me looking for 15-30 repetitions. The last number of reps, above 30 reps, requires a super light weight.

Every single one of these ranges will build muscle. In the lowest rep range, the benefit that I get is that there is extremely high tension which means that I do not have to go to absolute failure. I can increase muscle growth thanks to that tension. As your rep range increases, failure is even more important as tension starts to go down.

Failure is defined as not being able to perform a rep of an exercise in good form. That means, if you were performing a curl; you are not doing what looks like a good morning in order to swing the weight up.

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In terms of getting to a specific rep number, our body often self-corrects. If we achieve a difficult rep lower than the number goal, then we start to shortchange or cheat our next reps until we reach that last number. By doing this, you are leaving gains on the table. Instead of performing effective receptions throughout the entirety of the set, you are limiting the number of them that you are doing.

If I chose a weight that causes me to fail absolutely in the rep range that I am looking for, we know that the overload for growth is going to occur in the last 3 or so reps. However, when it comes to effective reps in these ranges, it doesn’t mean that the early reps can’t be effective too. In fact, these can be extremely effective if you a performing each rep with good intention to create a more solid mind-muscle-connection. By establishing a better mind-muscle-connection, you can better perform the later reps for overload. When you are trying to get better at performing an exercise, that connection between the brain and the muscle in order to better feel the muscles that you are working.

Not only that, but you will have a better feeling of what failure is and be able to utilize those last few reps to create the overload necessary for muscle growth. So, don’t think that the early reps are just throw away reps – use them to get better at the exercise so that you can better perform each repetition, especially as you get closer and closer to failure. This will make those last, effective reps, even more effective.

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Again, it is extremely important to think about these rep ranges as generalities. Instead of focusing on a specific number, a mindset that will leave you with subpar results, you want to focus on the intention of each rep. When I head into my workouts, I don’t look for the reps that I am doing; I am looking to reach a range based on the weight I am choosing and taking it to failure.

I mentioned earlier that you can still build muscle in the rep range above 30 repetitions. With such light weight, the tension is extremely low as well. In this case, you need to incur a large amount of volume. With low intensity, volume is important to build muscle.

It doesn’t matter what rep range you choose to work towards, you can still build muscle. The important aspect of each one, however, is to make sure that you are putting in a high level of effort into each repetition. I’ve always said to stop counting reps, but make the reps count. With high intention comes the most muscle gains as you create a greater mind-muscle-connection with your earlier reps and a tension overload in the later reps of the range you are working within.

For a science-backed workout program that explains how to make each repetition effective to build ripped athletic muscle, make sure to head to the ATHLEAN-X website using the link below and find the program that is best suited to match your training goals.

For more videos on how to build muscle most effectively, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on YouTube via the link below and remember to turn on your notifications so that you never miss a video when it’s published.

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39 thoughts on “How Many Reps to Build Muscle (COMMON MISTAKE)”
  1. “FAST ACTION” Q&A* – Leave your most burning question about this video or any other training, PT or nutrition question within the first 2 hours of this video’s release (AS A SEPARATE COMMENT!!) and I will pick 8 to get a detailed reply from me right here in the comments. Answers will be posted within the first 24-48 hours of you leaving the question. Good luck!

    1. is the 15 second intervl time ideal or ok to go up to 1 minutes if needed? I have tried the 15 seconds for the first time today but sometimes need a bit more time to get myself back together, but the good news, I am feeling it still, what a workout.

    2. Sir how could you help me, i am experiencing TOS right now, I dont have any idea on how to treat this thing.

    3. Fırst of all Thank You for ur effort and content! Can you make a short video about slow and fast twitching muscle fibres and how to trigger/train them.

  2. The gym I instruct at typically uses a lot of high rep resistance band strength training exercises. It’s common for people to still hold their band by the end. I’ve started talking about how it’s the last 5 reps before muscle failure is the most important, so if they never drop, most likely they never found those 5 reps.

  3. I’ve been focusing on the targeted muscles until I can no longer flex them without recruiting others and it has worked wonders. Thank you, Jeff!

    1. Same – I focus on form and really have that mind to muscle connection. Really changed me a couple of kilograms

    2. @Memoli I’m currently on week eight of AthleanX Max Size. It is an absolute killer! Pardon the earlier typo.

  4. I can’t stop counting. Three sets of ten are my general goal for how much I should reach but I do try to focus on technique while counting. When I get to a point where I am able to move up the weight I still count. If I can’t feel anything at a lower count I raise the count. I can calf-raise 470lbs in three sets of ten without many issues. I can lean back with over 230lbs in three sets of twenty without much of an issue. But I do focus on how I’m doing these reps because sometimes I do stop at, say, seven reps on the last set but I start getting sloppy. I can stop and rest for a few seconds and then go through those last few reps with good technique.

    1. Here’s a quote from Jeff’s comment reply:
      ” It’s not the absolute “counting” of the reps that becomes problematic, it’s that the majority of lifters will make the mistake of finding themselves focusing on the goal rep and lose sight of the journey to get there. “Make your reps count” is a much more effective mindset long term for making gains. “

  5. Hi Jeff and Jesse, Thanks for all your great content!
    How do high doses of antihistamines in people with allergies and chronic hives affect muscle development and overall athletic performance?

  6. These are GREAT tutorials – thank you. Just had double Inguinal surgery so have to take some time off (about 6 weeks)… excited to ease my way back into the gym and your program!!

  7. Yup
    I’ve adopted the go for moderate weight and go to near failure on every set and not worrying about where I end up. Usually I’m getting between 10 and 15.i find this is keeping me away from injury and too much fatigue as well. Cheers Jeff.

  8. I have been training with bands for the last five months. I guess that they could be considered “light resistance” compared to weights. I can tell that my gains, especially postural nature, have been amazing. I have been gaining control over a lot of movement patterns through “lighter resistance”. Thank you Jeff.

    1. I’ve been using bands since the outbreak started and I’ve experienced amazing gains. But I don’t think bands are for light resistance only. If you use heavy bands or multiple bands at once or be creative, bands can be pretty hardcore too, unless you are one of those world’s strongest men, or women.

    2. It’s nice to hear other people’s experiences on top of Jeff saying it. I’m going to try it. Thank you for your comment

    3. @Seth Taylor Currently my goal is to restore mobility, strengthen all my weaknesses and postural issues. That being said, I use a medium band (18 kg) for the heavier exercises like split squats, and a light band (9kg) or a very light tubing (5kg) for more corrective exercises, including face pulls. Take into consideration that you can manipulate the resistance for any band. Hope that helps.

  9. Through your vids and a few other YTers , I have focused on mainly the stretch and the contraction.I do count rep goals, but if I dont hit them as you said no worries, I know the reps made were HQ.Thanks for the content.

  10. Stopped counting months ago, I just do one rep till fail. Just to pay for the day and to feel better, exercise is hard! Thanks Jeff and crew

  11. I never count reps. Instead I focus on perfectly executing the exercise. Mind to muscle connection, and feeling the contraction, going to failiure and beyond on every set. Anywhere from 5 to 25 reps. And my gains have been incredible

    1. Exactly only do the number you can comfortably do with fullest control and stability for the right movement patterns aka technique

    2. @Joe Schmo He doesn’t count, doesn’t mean he can’t subconsciously know around where he lands. Plus 5-25 is such a huge gap that it’s a safe estimate

  12. Can we just appreciate the fact that Jeff provides us with top notch fitness knowledge for free. Thank you for everything and keep up the great work!

    1. @Toby J
      Ain’t matter, he doesn’t need to invent the information to give it for free.

      Jeff’s a physical therapist with a master degree, are we gonna discard his PT info cuz he didn’t invent it?

  13. Jeff your videos have changed my life!
    I’m down 90+lbs, My strength is always increasing, and i constantly see and feel progress being made. My appreciation for what you do is beyond words for me. What you do truly makes a difference. Thank you so very much. Please keep up the highly knowledgeable videos and I’ll keep learning and making progress. Many blessings to you and yours good sir.

  14. I love videos like this–a wee taste of exercise-physio class. Jeff’s not just dumping a training program on us; he’s giving us the “why” behind it. Ya leave having learned something! Thank you, Coach!

  15. Thank you! So glad someone came out and said this directly. I suspect tracking number is for beginners who would quit at 3 because tracking effort and failure is tough for them. However, watching the number is helpful for tracking progress – but should never be the only variable.

  16. A rep goal can help to create mental focus, almost as a slight distraction from the effort as you get close to failure. On a hard set, I think a good approach is to focus on rep quality rather than number until you get to a feeling of failure, then to squeeze out another 3 or 5 reps using a count – without letting form completely deteriorate.

  17. food kills my gains, i just don’t eat enough but i’ll keep trying! i count reps for 1 thing only, to see if i did more than last time, i always go to failure no matter what.

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