How Many Reps Should Women Do?

The myth that weight training makes women bulky must die.

Today, I’ll put another nail in the coffin by answering the question “How many reps should women do?”

You see, depending upon who you speak to, you’ll hear totally conflicting answers to this question.

Because despite the advancements made in the sport and fitness industries over the last thirty years, it seems there are many trainers still preaching outdated advice regarding weight training for women, and just as many females still feeling totally lost with weight training in 2016 as there were back in 1986.

It needn’t be the case.

Today I’ll look at:

  • How many reps should women do to tone up?
  • What will happen if women train in the wrong rep range?
  • What are the myths surrounding the various aspects of rep ranges for women?

Let’s get stuck in, girls…

weight training for women

How Many Reps Should Women Do?

Let’s begin by answering the big question.

If your goal is to get in shape – i.e. you’re trying to look firmer, leaner and be stronger – you should be training across a variety of different rep ranges, all explained below.

  • 1-5 reps will build strength with a secondary benefit of boosting neuromuscular connection, aka mind/muscle connection.
  • 8-12 reps will increase hypertrophy (muscle growth) with a secondary benefit of building strength.
  • 15-25 reps will improve muscular endurance with a secondary benefit of hypertrophy (muscle growth).

You’ll find all of them useful, although your main working area will be the 8-12 range.

weight training for women

How Many Reps Should Women Do To Tone Up?

I know.

This goes against what that lycra-clad, stick-thin, salad-eating motherfucker at your local gym tells you, right?

According to that lady, you need to:

“Stick to really light weights and do very high reps to tone up. Heavy stuff is just for the guys.”

That advice is so epically bullshit it could only be more epic if it were delivered to you by a shark-bear driving a tank. While it was on fire.

You see, your muscles are only capable of growing – hypertrophy – or shrinking – atrophy.

They do not know how to “tone.”

How “toned” you look depends on how much body fat you are carrying, and your diet is more responsible for that than your training ever will be.

So forget the nonsense about toning. Are you in the gym to build muscle, or to lose muscle? You’re in the gym to build muscle, so focus on that.

APPLY THIS TIP: Make the majority of your reps fall into the 8-12 rep range, occasionally shooting for 1-5 and 20+ rep sets.

how many reps should women do

Training In The Wrong Rep Range

This outdated advice leads to another of the big myths surrounding weight training for women – using weights which are not even challenging them.

Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, training with weights which cause muscle failure has been shown to boost results by as much as 60%, so this idea that you must use “easy” weights is really holding you back.

And that’s because this myth plays on fear.

By fear I mean the idea that getting your rep range wrong will leave you walking out of the gym today like The Hulk in a bra.how many reps should women do to tone up

Again, this is total nonsense!

The female body releases far less testosterone than the male body.

Testosterone is the key hormone in the muscle building process.

So it’s ludicrous to suggest that women need to go lighter when training with weights. If anything, women are at a biological disadvantage – in terms of muscle growth – from the second they enter the free weights area. You need to work your ass off.

APPLY THIS TIP: Use a weight which causes muscle failure by the end of your set.

how many reps should women do
That’s a 120kg calf press by website member Tammy.

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References:

1. Burd, N. A., et al. “Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise In Young Men”. PLoS ONE 5(8): e12033, 2010.

3 thoughts on “How Many Reps Should Women Do?”

  1. Pingback: Russ Howe PTI
  2. Russ I have a question please.
    I totally get the three different rep ranges and alternating them, my question is, how many weeks should you work on each rep range, eg 3 weeks doing 20 range, 3 weeks 1-5, 3 weeks 8-12 or have I totally got the wrong idea? Many thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Nicky,
      If your main goal is to boost lean muscle, spend the bulk of your time working in that 8-12 rep range. I like to alternate my training frequently to keep things feeling fresh, so I’d be more inclined to go with something like 2wks @ 8-12, 2wks @1-5 reps, 2wks @ 8-12 reps, 2wks @ 15+ reps. Your main rep range should be used more frequently than either of the others.

      Russ

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