Knowing how many reps of squats I should do is important to hit your strength goals. And 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.
Table of Contents
How Many Reps Of Squats Should I Do?
If muscle endurance is your goal, do 8-12 reps in 1 to 3 sets. If muscle growth and size are your goals, do 6-12 reps in 2 to 4 sets. If maximal strength is your goal, do 1-5 reps in 4 to 6 sets.
Asking a question this way is just a layman's way of talking about rep ranges. I've found these ranges work well for many people but not everyone.
Let's dive into more details of the rep ranges so you can customize your program for your goals, strengths, and weaknesses.
Best Squat Rep Ranges For Muscle Growth/Hypertrophy, & Bulking
The best squat rep ranges for building size are higher repetitions between 6-12 reps. This is because when 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:
- Increased time under tension (how much time a specific muscle is under tension)
- 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 you’re feeling close to your fatigue limit by the end of the rep range.
However, you’ll likely not induce much muscle growth by simply doing 1 set of 6-12 reps.
So as you can see, we need to consider not just reps but also sets and loads. This is where the concept of “total volume” comes into play.
Why Total Volume Is More Important Than Reps
When discussing total volume, we refer to the equation of sets x reps x load. Therefore, any of these variables can be manipulated to increase the total volume being performed.
However, if we’re looking to increase our total volume as much as possible (without compromising recovery), the easiest variables to manipulate will 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 4 sets of 12 reps at 100lbs on week 2. This is the same load but a 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:
- The Benefits Of High Rep Squats (Science-Backed)
- The Benefits Of High Rep Bench Press (Science-Backed)
- The Benefits Of High Rep Deadlift (Science-Backed)
Want to get advice on programming, technique, or competing? Speak with one of our coaches.
Sample Squat Workouts For Muscle Growth & 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
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 increases muscular size, strength training refines 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 more 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 can generally only 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. Still, 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.
- 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
To continue progressing our squats and avoid plateauing, we must 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, resulting in a plateau where minimal to no progression is happening.
When a plateau arises, it is often best to change our approach despite our best efforts to continue to challenge ourselves.
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 toward our goals. What is the best way to switch up the stimulus? 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 increase 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 we must shift away from our primary goal. Instead, we will include both training styles in 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.
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 training for hypertrophy or 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 can handle before our recovery becomes impacted.
Suppose we notice that we’re nearing our maximal recoverable volume (the most volume we can successfully recover from). In that case, that’s a good indication that it may be time to consider a deload to prevent injury and promote recovery.
Suppose we’re only manipulating our repetitions but never considering that reps are only one part of the equation. In that case, we may limit 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 number 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 include 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.
Understanding the question, “How many reps of squats should I do?” is vital to align your squat training with your goals effectively. Rep ranges for squats significantly vary based on what you're aiming for:
- For muscle endurance, targeting 8-12 reps in 1 to 3 sets is optimal.
- If you're focusing on muscle growth and size, 6-12 reps across 2 to 4 sets are ideal.
- And for those chasing maximal strength, it's best to stick with 1-5 reps spread over 4 to 6 sets.
However, it's crucial to note that these recommended rep ranges aren't one-size-fits-all.
It's also essential to understand that the total volume (sets x reps x load) often plays a more crucial role than merely focusing on reps. By manipulating any of these variables, you can increase the total volume performed.
By tailoring rep ranges and the concept of total volume to fit your unique strengths, weaknesses, and objectives, you can get the most out of your workout.
Understanding the importance of total volume over reps allows you to create a more sophisticated and responsive training plan that aligns perfectly with your goals.
About The Author
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.