Will low reps get you strong?

A lot of people who we see on a day to day basis often have the same burning question when it comes to lifting: “Will high weight and low reps make you stronger?” The answer to this question is more complicated than you might think. Here, we’re going to have a look at this in a bit of depth, but take note that this article mainly applies to compound exercises, such as your bench press or squat.

High Weight

Firstly, we have to define what is actually meant by high weight. For most of you reading this, you may think that a 150kg squat is really heavy, in fact its likely too much for you to lift. If we then asked some competitive power lifters what they thought of lifting that weight, then the chances are they’ll laugh and tell us 150kg is “nothing but a peanut”.

What we’re trying to get across here is that the phrase high weight is simply relative to what you can lift: if you have a bench press PR of 100kg, then chances are that a heavy weight for you is 75kg or more. On the other hand, if you can bench 200kg (don’t worry, we’re talking hypothetically) then a heavy weight for you is likely to be 150kg or more.

To sum this up:

  • A heavy weight is relative to your own strength
  • It is typically at least 75% of your PR (or one rep max)

So does this mean you should train at 75% or 100% of your PR? Well you ideally want to be training within that range, sometimes nearer 75% and sometimes very close to your PR. Like with most things, variety is the spice of life, and the key to getting stronger.

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Low reps

So you’ve heard from your local gym rat that low reps is the way to go for getting strong: only bodybuilders lift for high reps and they’re all weak. Now we won’t lie to you, there is some truth in this, but again we need to explore it a little bit more. Most people in the gym, which probably includes you, like to train for at least 10 reps. They love to train for that pump and feel the burn: sadly, it’s not really going to get them or you much stronger.

Most scholars out there agree that the rep ranges you choose will benefit you in different ways

  • 1-5 Reps: Strength
  • 6-8 Reps: Strength and Hypertrophy
  • 9-12 Reps: Hypertrophy
  • Higher Reps: Endurance

As you can see, the two areas which are best for promoting strength are the 1-5 and 6-8 rep ranges. Now we imagine that most of you reading this probably weren’t aware that 8 reps could be good for building strength as it doesn’t really seem low, so hopefully this clears things up for you.

Now, like we said with the weight you should be using, you should be mixing up your rep ranges as well. Putting two and two together, we can see that there’s a pretty obvious link that arises: you aren’t going to be lifting 95% of your one rep max for 8 reps. There’s also not much point in trying to lift 80% of your one rep max for 2 reps as it will be far too easy. Which leads us on to our final point

How many reps for a given weight

  • 1 rep = 100%
  • 2 reps = 92-95%
  • 3 reps = 90-93%
  • 4 reps = 87-90%
  • 5 reps = 85-87%
  • 6 reps = 82-85%
  • 7 reps = 80-83%
  • 8 reps = 75-80%

Note: This is estimated and can vary depending on your levels of endurance. It is however a very good indicator for how much weight you should be lifting depending on your recommended number of reps.


We hope that we’ve now cleared up for what exactly is meant by high weight low reps and you can make some educated decisions on how much weight you should be lifting. Like we said, you should eventually use a variety of rep ranges to achieve your goals and become a stronger person. If you are after a programme to help start you out, check out the EHF Beginner Programme, which is full of information and guidance.

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Our Top 5 Gym Tracks – Nov 2014

Beyond The Flames – Killswitch Engage

This month we’ve been reminiscent of our metal-head youth. Back in 2000’s Killswitch Engage was one of the biggest metal bands on the planet and their melodic riffs are sure to get you pumped! Off their newest album from 2013, this hits all the right notes.

Check it out here: https://play.spotify.com/track/4ZqoKveUcVr33IPF7B98h6

Afterglow – Wilkinson

This was one of the big Drum and Bass hits of 2013 and the fast tempo really helps push out that last rep. It’s also great for that walk to the gym whilst the caffeine from your pre-workout is kicking in.

Animals – Martin Garrix

This was undeniably one of the biggest ever EDM hits. There’s one way to get the best out of this track:

  1. Wait for the drop
  2. Hit your PB

It helped one of our team finally lift that 90kg over head press and it can work for you too!

Check it out here: https://play.spotify.com/track/28GieRAflAHypFfEimSaxa

Bubble Butt – Major Lazer

We know a lot of our female readers are after a bubble butt, so slap on this track and start squatting! Be warned, you might start singing out lout with this one.

Check it out here: https://play.spotify.com/track/4xCaJLW83kRSWIuNpHCQwR

Workout – Andy C

The name pretty much says it all. The second DnB track on this list, it packs a punch. From one of the guys that brought the genre to the mainstream, this will make you rush to hit the gym with its dirty, dirty drop.


We’d love to know what music gets you guys pumped so feel free to leave a comment below. You never know, it could feature in our next month’s top 5 tracks!

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/militaryhealth/