Why Doing Fewer Reps in the Gym Can Yield the Same Strength Gains

Front squat with barbell
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Banging out those last reps in the name of strength-building may not be productive after all. Researchers at CUNY Lehman College in New York took a group of generally fit men and put them on a three-times-a-week strength protocol. They were instructed to do either a minimal, medium, or max number of reps of upper and lower body exercises.

After two months, participants showed virtually equal strength gains. The high-volume group did score better in one area, though: muscle size.

“For muscle growth, volume is a key driver,” says author and exercise scientist Brad Schoenfeld. “But high-volume training can quickly lead to overtraining—when the workload exceeds the body’s ability to recover.”

Find balance by alternating volume every month: Week one, go high-volume for muscle growth, then bring it down for three weeks.