I have said repeatedly that most of the people lifting weights in the gym use too many reps and not enough weight. What is the perfect number of repetitions? Before I give you my answer, let us define the reason we are lifting weights.

The purpose of lifting weights is to gain strength in a safe injury-free manner. Nothing more.

What causes injuries?

  1. Lifting too much weight.
  2. Poor form.

Too much weight is easy enough to understand. If you don’t have the strength to move the weight, it can come crashing down on you. Not good. Poor form will often surface when you are tired and especially in the later reps.

What causes strength gains?

  1. Challenging yourself to lift more weight than you could previously. This might mean more weight, more reps, or even more sets.

When you are staring at a weight that you do not feel confident that you can do 3 perfect reps, you FEAR that weight. Any weight that solicits a FEAR reaction should be avoided or you should have someone spot you. On the flip side, if you see a weight that you can easily lift for more than 10 reps, you don’t RESPECT the weight. When you do not RESPECT the weight, your mind will wander and increase the probability of poor form and injury. You also sacrifice strength gains by lifting a weight beneath your potential.

I love using 5 repetitions. I have some padding from FEAR and I RESPECT the weight.

If you FEAR the weight, lower the weight.

If you don’t RESPECT the weight, increase the weight.

Beginners can handle a few more repetitions because the novelty of the movement will keep their minds from wandering. Once that novelty is gone, only the novelty of increasing weight, changing tempo, or changing exercises will keep the mind focused on lifting in a safe manner.

And ladies need not be concerned about bulking up on heavier weights.

Note that I am not a Certified Trainer. I consider this to be a common-sense rule for healthy individuals. Injured individuals doing physical therapy may require higher reps.