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 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 you are going to do to , 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 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.

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 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.

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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    50 replies to "How Many Reps to Build Muscle (COMMON MISTAKE)"

    • ATHLEAN-X™

      “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!

      • TC DA

        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.

      • Sean Ashley

        Talk about deloading

      • Jeson T. Andrande

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

      • Gürkan Sisman

        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.

      • Adarsh dubey vlogs (GYM & FITNESS TIPS)

        Can you teach me sir

    • Heath Roush

      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.

    • Socialist Professor

      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!

      • testing 123

        ya right. show us pics before and after

      • MXKXVELI

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

      • Socialist Professor

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

      • Death Star Delts

        @Socialist Professor i don’t think there’s any program named max strength

      • Mee

        @testing 123 you’re one negative individual 💯

    • egyptwns89_2

      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.

      • Num Num

        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. “

    • Eagle Peak

      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?

    • Jim Jim

      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!!

      • Danny Spitzer

        I just had single inguinal hernia surgery in early July

    • jontc1

      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.

    • Daniel Mulero

      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.

      • J.D. Mc.

        @ATHLEAN-X™ Jeff, can you hook up some deals on apparel for black friday? 🙏🏻

      • Sean Z

        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.

      • Evrett

        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

      • Seth Taylor

        Whats a set of bands you would recommend?

      • Daniel Mulero

        @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.

    • TripleM__QGTM

      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.

    • John Killingbeck

      I’m a trainer and been counting reps for over 40 years. I’ve tried not counting reps, especially during my workouts but now it’s automatic. If I look at someone else in the gym, I automatically count his reps without even realizing I’m doing it at first. I will continue trying but I’m not sure how successful I’ll be. It’s crazy I know. 😂

      • ATHLEAN-X™

        You’ll always “count” the reps. It’s inevitable since our brains are wired to work “towards” something objective rather than subjective. The point is however, to realize that the goal of your set will shift (as will your mindset) depending on where on the spectrum of weight you are performing the exercise and your goals for training at the moment. The actual rep number matters far less than optimizing the entire path of reps to that last rep as well as knowing what the goal of your training is on a bigger scale.

      • Sydney Amparo Cabrillo Serrano

        It’s just the same with me. After 45 years of exercising and 38 years as a trainer/instructor counting is an automatic reaction. Yet, by now I usually concentrate more on the intensity of each repetition, trying to execute it as if it were the only one that counts and then just see how many reps I will be able to make till failure…

      • BANTY MECH

        @ATHLEAN-X™ best answer. You’re a legend

    • Kris

      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

      • David

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

      • Joe Schmo

        How do you know it’s 5-25? You don’t count, right?

      • Power Jet Fork

        @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

    • Haden Hunt

      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!

      • Joseph1NJ

        Free? It’s a business, and yes he’s deserving of his compensation.

      • Toby J

        He didn’t exactly invent the information.

      • TC DA

        totally agree

      • Num Num

        @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?

    • J.D. Mc.

      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.

    • George Gougouropoulos

      George from Greece here. I really appreciate the gold nuggets of exercise wisdom that i get, each and every time i watch one of your videos. I went through surgery for a herniated disk which involved facetectomy on one of the lumbar vertebrae and it did not go well. I kept exercising and kept body fat under control but the affected leg never felt quite right and is notably weaker plus my hamstrings are always in need of streching. What would you suggest for the lot of people as myself? Thanks in advance.

      • Num Num

        Watch these videos
        “How to Fix a Bulging Disc (NO SURGERY!) – Athleanx”
        “Back Pain + Exercises (HERNIATED DISCS & WEIGHT LIFTING!) – Athleanx”

        Search athleanx imbalance

    • Kim Decker

      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!

    • Mike TUcker

      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.

    • Skeptic Medic

      I did Jeff’s 100 rest/pause workout a few days ago for chest and back, then one of his arm wokrouts. Man, I have not been this sore in a looong time. I have been lifting for forty years and that was one of the best days I have ever had. It is sort of a Dorian Yates HIT spinoff, which always worked, at least for me. Thanks, Jeff. I was done with weights and kettlebells in forty mins. Jeff has very good advice, and the good thing is you can just take bits and pieces and make it your own. That 100 rest/pause means you are done with, say, bench, in two minutes. Then you can just do another chest exercise if you want, or not. Pretty awesome way to change things up and get motivated.

      • Text me+①(⑦①⑨)⑤⑧②⑤⑨⑧⑦

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      • Text me+①(⑦①⑨)⑤⑧②⑤⑨⑧⑦

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    • jambojack

      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.

    • Tyler Chute

      This guy consistently puts out amazing FREE content. It’s unreal how much you can learn from his channel. Keep up the amazing work Jeff! 🙌

    • MkE89

      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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