If you look around any gym, you’re likely to find a wide discrepancy between the number of reps that different people are lifting. But if you’re not sure what the difference is between high reps and low reps and how it all applies to your fitness goals, you’re not alone. 

A lot of people aren’t even aware that the way they are working out is not getting them any closer to the results they want, in spite of their effort. Understanding the different benefits of high vs. low reps will ensure that your workouts are worth the time. Below are the recommendations according to researchers and fitness experts.

Use Low Reps to Increase Strength

When it comes to increasing strength, low reps with heavy weight is the way to go. Scientifically speaking, there are two ways to improve strength: increase muscle size or increase the brain’s efficiency in controlling the muscles, which is called neuromuscular adaptation. 

While the first way seems pretty obvious and intuitive, neuromuscular adaptation isn’t a concept that most people are familiar with. If you think about how a powerlifter trains for a competition, with low reps of heavy weight, they are working on muscular control as well as building the muscle. 

The best low-rep strength building exercises are compound movements that use free weights. While you can definitely build strength using machines like the leg press, free weights allow you to build strength in the kinds of movements you are more likely to perform when you step away from the machine in other athletic activities or in everyday life. 

Use High Reps to Increase Muscle Mass

If your goal is to bulk up, a higher rep count is the way to go. The ideal range is somewhere between 10 and 25 reps. Long sets with high reps means more time that muscles are under stress. This gives the muscle fibers more time to break down which eventually leads to muscle growth. 


High-rep sets are most effective when you do them at the end of your workout, when your muscles are able to get the most blood flow and, hence, the most muscle-building nutrients. Finally, if you’re trying to increase muscle mass, it’s important that you regularly increase the weight that you’re lifting. 

Use Low Reps to Speed Up Fat Loss

Low reps with heavy weight is not only the way to go for increasing your strength, but is also ideal for burning fat. While low reps with low weight have been found to be equally effective at burning fat, using heavier weights has the added benefits of preserving muscle mass and increasing strength.

Use High Reps to Improve Endurance

If you want to increase your endurance, train with high reps and low weights. Keep in mind, however, that your endurance can also be increased by improving other skills and functions like aerobic fitness.

While there are specific recommendations for specific fitness qualities, keep in mind that you can combine lifting strategies in your overall routine. After all, few people are looking to improve just one aspect of their fitness. But knowing where each strategy applies will help you to dial in your workouts and see better results. 

Regardless of how you’re lifting, the most important thing is that you do it safely. Remember that building strength, increasing muscle, burning fat, and improving endurance all take time and recovery is just as important as the reps you do. Whatever your fitness goals, it pays to work out safer, smarter, and enjoy the journey!