What Are the Benefits of High Reps?

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A woman is lifting light weights on a stability ball. (Image: LiudmylaSupynska/iStock/Getty Images)

Low resistance high repetition programs are widely associated with muscular endurance benefits. According the National Strength and Conditioning Association there may be other motives for including high repetitions in your weightlifting program. For novice weightlifters and athletes alike there are potential advantages for high repetitions. Your success reaching weightlifting goals will only be as good as the match between your goals and your program . Your fitness level, training experience, and program schedule will determine how high repetitions effect you.

History

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Traditionally, there is a continuum in which a high-resistance low repetition program primarily increases muscular strength and a low-resistance high repetition program increases muscle endurance. More accurately, the training benefit is blended at any given repetition level. Repetition ranges have a direct relationship to the load lifted. Twelve to 15 repetitions of a light load, eight to 10 repetitions of a moderate load, and three to five repetitions of heavy loads for endurance, hypertrophy, and strength, respectively, are recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. Resistance training protocols with ranges over 15, including 20 and 30 or more repetitions per set, are utilized in research though are less prescribed for exercise programs. Training at either end of the continuum of extreme high weight or extreme high repetitions carries more risk of injury.

Benefit Overview

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The American College of Sports Medicine promotes resistance training for the physical benefits of increased strength, endurance, and improved body composition. Further, self-confidence, injury reduction, performance enhancement, and reduced risk of falls are by-products of resistance training. Muscle tone and definition are common goals of resistance training exercisers. These benefits are made possible by a variety of resistance training protocols including that of high repetition. If local muscle endurance is your goal high repetition training will be optimal.

Significance

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Reluctance to resistance train is often tied to a fear that muscles will hypertrophy or add bulk. Decreased body fat, increased strength and muscle endurance, without increases of body mass are all result of high volume, that is low weight and high repetition, resistance training programs. For women who don't want to lift heavy weights for fear of gaining weight high repetition training may be a more palpable option.

Function

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Beginners and intermediate exercisers will experience the best results. If you are either de-conditioned or inexperienced with resistance training, high repetition training will result in strength and endurance benefits no different than moderate or low repetition protocols. Athletes with lower pre-training status experienced greater benefits from high repetition training while those with higher pre-training status required higher load resistance training to achieve similar benefits. Once you've established a foundation of strength, however, you may need heavier weights for further progress.

Further Considerations

Even advanced athletes whose primary goals are strength and power can benefit from low weight and high repetition applications. When training intensities go up risk of injury also goes up. By allowing athletes to continue their training frequency and volume but avoiding training heavy every day, athletes can achieve their goals while remaining injury free. Strategic timing of heavy, moderate, and light load days within an athlete's schedule are recommended.

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