Best Rep Ranges For Squats (Science-Backed)

the best rep range for squats depends on training goal

It’s important to know that not all squat workouts are created equal.  In fact, the rep ranges that we use for our squats play a large role in determining the outcome of our squat training. 

So, what are the best rep ranges for squats? The best rep range for squats depends on our training goal.  If leg hypertrophy is the goal, then 6 to 12 reps for squats is the best rep range. If leg strength is the goal, then 1 to 5 reps for squats is the best rep range. However, we should also consider sets and load to control for total volume.

In this article I’ll…

  • Discuss the best rep ranges based on your training goals
  • Provide sample workouts for each of these training goals, including how squat reps change
  • Mention important variables that you may be neglecting outside of ‘rep ranges’; and,
  • Answer some frequently asked questions related to squat reps.

Best Squat Rep Ranges For Muscle Growth/Hypertrophy, & Bulking

he best squat rep ranges for building size are higher repetitions between 6-12 reps

Muscle Growth/Hypertrophy

The best squat rep ranges for building size are higher repetitions between 6-12 reps. This is because when we’re performing higher repetitions it is easier to accumulate more total volume – which is an important driver of muscle hypertrophy.

Studies also suggest that other factors that are important for hypertrophy are:

  1. Increased time under tension (how much time a specific muscle is under tension)
  1. Metabolic stress (Taking a muscle/exercise to near failure)

Both of these can be addressed when performing higher repetitions (6-12 reps), so long as you’re using a load where by the end of the rep range you’re feeling close to your fatigue limit.

However, you’ll likely not induce a lot of muscle growth with just simply doing 1 set of 6-12 reps.  

So as you can see, we need to take into account not just reps, but sets and load as well.  This is where the concept of “total volume” comes into play.

Why Total Volume Is More Important Than Reps

When we’re discussing total volume, we are referring to the equation of sets x reps x load, and therefore any of these variables can be manipulated to increase the amount of total volume that is being performed.

However, if we’re looking to increase our total volume as much as possible (without compromising recovery) the easiest variables to manipulate are going to be the sets and reps. 

This is why it is typical to see weekly changes in sets and reps more often than changes in just the load on the bar, when performing hypertrophy training. 

For example, doing 3 sets of 10 reps at 100lbs on week 1, and then 4 sets of 12 reps at 100lbs on week 2.  This is the same load, but higher total volume by increasing both sets and reps.

However, it’s also important to understand that as long as total volume is equated, we can still achieve hypertrophy with slightly lower reps and increased sets and/or loads. 

This is because the main driver of hypertrophy is total volume and not necessarily the amount of reps that we do. 

For example, in theory we can induce a similar type of muscle growth with the following two workouts, so long as at the end of the rep range we feel like we’re close to our fatigue limit: 

  • 6 sets of 6 reps at 150lbs (5400lbs of total volume)
  • 6 sets of 8 reps at 113lbs (5424lbs of total volume)  

Takeaway: In order to increase our potential for muscle growth/hypertrophy we need to be getting in enough total volume with time under tension, and using weights that are challenging enough that the final reps require a moderate-to-high amount of effort.  Considering reps is only one part of the equation.

To learn more about the advantages of performing higher repetitions, check out my other articles on:

Want to get advice on programming, technique, or competing? Speak with one of our coaches.

Sample Squat Workouts For Muscle Growth & Hypertrophy

sample squat workouts for muscle growth and hypertrophy

The goal with muscle growth and hypertrophy workouts is to manipulate at least one variable week-to-week to increase total volume and challenge the muscles involved in the squat with the amount of time under tension and metabolic stress that accumulates.

Example #1: Increasing Both Reps and Intensity (Load)

  • Week 1: 3×8 @ 65-70%
  • Week 2: 3×10 @ weight from week 1
  • Week 3: 3×8 @ 68-73%
  • Week 4: 3×10 @ weight from week 3

Example #2:  Increasing Reps

  • Week 1: 3×8 @ 68-72%
  • Week 2: 3×10 @ 68-72%
  • Week 3:3×12 @ 68-72%
  • Week 4: 3xAMRAP @ 68-72%

Example #3:  Increasing Sets and Intensity (Load)

  • Week 1: 1×8 @ RPE 7; 2×8 @ 10% less weight
  • Week 2: 1×8 @ RPE 7.5-8; 3×8 @ 10% less weight
  • Week 3: 1×8 @ RPE 8; 4×8 @ 10% less weight
  • Week 4: 1×8 @ RPE 8.5-9; 5×8 @ 10-15% less weight

Best Squat Rep Ranges For Max Strength

best squat rep ranges for max strength

The best squat rep range for those training with the primary goal of developing as much strength as possible is between 1 to 5 reps. This rep range is not set in stone, but is usually recommended because this rep range will allow us to lift weights that are challenging enough in weight to produce high amounts of force production.

When we’re training for max strength we are teaching the neuromuscular system to refine it’s processes (increasing firing rate, more force production, better motor recruitment strategies) so that our muscles can exert more force to lift heavier weights. 

While hypertrophy training is increasing muscular size, strength training is refining the processes for the muscle to perform better.

To stimulate the necessary changes in the neuromuscular system to become stronger, we need to spend more time squatting with heavier loads (85% and up) – but we know that when we’re working with this amount of weight, we’re limited by the number of repetitions that we can do. 

For this reason, we typically program strength training with a higher number of sets than reps to get more experience teaching the muscles how to refine their processes under heavy loads, without pushing past our abilities and performing reps to the point of breakdowns in technique. 

Takeaway: All in all, there’s nothing magical about this rep range for squats.  It is used simply because we are generally only able to perform 1 to 5 repetitions when using the loads necessary (85% or more) to encourage adaptation in the neuromuscular system to gain strength.

If you’re a powerlifter, check out my article on:

Sample Squat Workouts For Max Strength

When programming squats for max strength we will have more variation in the total volume week-to-week than if we were training for hypertrophy, because we will be increasing load and sometimes sets, but we will most likely be decreasing repetitions. 

Therefore, it is common for total volume to fluctuate when training for strength, with the ultimate goal being to increase our performance under heavy loads.

Increasing Weight

  • Week 1:  4×3 @ 80-83%
  • Week 2: 4×3 @ 82-85%
  • Week 3: 4×3 @ 84-87%
  • Week 4: 4×3 @ 86-89%

Increasing Sets and Weight, Decreasing Reps

  • Week 1: 4×5 @ 80-83%
  • Week 2: 4×4 @ 83-85%
  • Week 3: 5×4 @ 83-85%
  • Week 4: 5×3 @ 85-90%

Increasing Weight, Decreasing Reps

  • Week 1: 3×4 @ 83-85%
  • Week 2: 3×3 @ 85-87%
  • Week 3: 3×2 @ 87-89%
  • Week 4: 3×1 @ 89-93%

How To Progress Your Rep Ranges For Squats To Avoid Plateauing 

how to progress your rep ranges for squats to avoid plateauing

To continue progressing our squats and to avoid plateauing we need to challenge ourselves enough to stimulate our body to adapt – without pushing too hard and impacting our recovery. 

Continuing to progress our volume (sets x reps) and intensity (load) is the key to presenting enough stimulus to encourage muscle growth/hypertrophy or maximal strength (depending on our rep ranges/load used). 

Once we stop presenting enough stimulus, our body will stop adapting and it will result in a plateau where minimal to no progression is happening.

When a plateau arises, despite our best efforts to continue to challenge ourselves, it is often best to change our approach. 

If we’ve been hammering the volume for a while now, it may be best to lower our repetitions and focus on strength gain for the next 4-6 weeks. 

Or perhaps we’ve been doing strictly strength-focused work, and it’s time to add in some volume to give our body another stimulus to kickstart some progression.

When a plateau occurs, it’s best to switch up our stimulus to challenge the muscles in a new way that is still beneficial towards our goals.  Best way to switch up the stimulus?  Switch up the rep ranges.

Even if our primary goal is hypertrophy, we will still benefit from going through a strength phase to increase the amount of force this newfound muscle mass can exert, which will only help us to increase further in size in the future. 

Likewise, we will still include higher rep blocks in our program even if our primary goal is to increase strength because we may have capped out on the amount of strength our current level of muscle mass is able to produce.  Therefore we may need to build additional size to increase strength further.

For these reasons, hypertrophy and strength training go hand in hand. 

But that doesn’t mean that we have to shift away from our primary goal. Instead, we will include both styles of training into our program but in the correct ratios (2:1) to bring about our desired changes. 

For example, if our primary goal is hypertrophy this may look like 8 weeks of squats for hypertrophy, with 4 weeks of squats for strength. Or if the primary goal is strength, then 8 weeks of squats for strength, with 4 weeks of squats for hypertrophy.

To learn more about beating a plateau, check out our article for 9 Tips To Break Through A Squat Plateau.

Squatting Reps Need To Take Into Account Total Volume

squatting reps need to take into account total volume

Total volume (sets x reps x load) is one of the main drivers of hypertrophy, and it allows us to quantify how much we’re challenging our muscles week-to-week when we’re training for strength – therefore it is important to take into account.

Tracking our total volume is important for success whether we’re training for hypertrophy or for strength because we need to know how much total volume (sets x reps x load) we need to introduce to progressively overload our muscles and encourage the desired adaptations.

It also gives us an idea of how much volume we’re able to handle before our recovery starts to become impacted. 

If we notice that we’re nearing our maximal recoverable volume (the most volume we can successfully recover from), then that’s a good indication that it may be time to consider a deload to prevent injury and promote recovery. 

If we’re only manipulating our repetitions but never considering that reps are only one part of the equation, then we may be limiting our progress by not seeing the full picture. 

Takeaway: The best results will happen when we factor in the loads we’re using and the amount of sets being performed, to get a true representation of how much total volume we’re currently getting and how to progress.

Related Article: Squat Pyramid: What Is It, How To Do It, and Common Mistakes

Rep Ranges For Squats: Frequently Asked Questions 

Are High Reps Or Low Reps Better For Squatting? 

One is not always better than the other; instead, it depends on what we’re trying to accomplish with our squats. If we’re looking for muscle growth or hypertrophy then we’re better off with higher repetitions; but if we’re looking for strength gain, then lower repetitions are our best bet.

What Is The Best Rep Range For Front Squats?

The best rep range for front squats depends on our primary goal with the movement. If we’re looking to build strength in the front squat for weightlifting or other sports, then lower reps are a better option; but if we’re including front squats as an accessory to the back squat, then higher repetitions may be best.

What Is The Best Rep Range For Goblet Squats?

Goblet squats are typically included as a tool to add extra volume to our legs without overly fatiguing them because they are done with lighter weights than a barbell squat; therefore, the best rep range is typically a higher range like 8-12 reps.

What Is The Best Rep Range For Back Squats?

The best rep range for back squats depends on what we want to accomplish with the movement – if strength gain is our main goal, then 1-6 reps is best; but if muscle gain is our primary goal, then 8-12 reps may be best.

About The Author

Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker has a passion for competing and coaching in both powerlifting and weightlifting. She uses her knowledge from her Kinesiology Degree, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition certification to coach athletes and lifestyle clients for performance in training and nutrition. Connect with her on Instagram.