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How Many Reps Should an Athlete Do in Strength Training?

For an athlete, the goal of strength training is to better prepare the athlete for sport. With that (as we’ve maybe mentioned), getting stronger and being able to produce more force is certainly going to prepare an athlete. That said, there are many different ways to get stronger and definitions of “strong.”

For example, if an athlete can squat 225lb for 8 reps, does that make that athlete more or less strong than an athlete that can squat 315lb for 1 rep? You could argue there are calculations for things like this, and you’d be right, but that’s missing the real question – how are we measuring strength?

Do we care more about 1-rep strength or about 8-rep strength?? Like most things in life, the answer lies somewhere in between.

As we’ve mentioned before, we want athletes to be able to produce lots of force. Therefore, you could certainly argue that the most “absolute” weight lifted is what we’re after – AKA 1-rep strength.

However, oftentimes athletes have to be able to produce force for more than just “1 rep” or, in this case, more than just 1-3 seconds. Sometimes they must produce force over the course of 5-10 seconds.

You, therefore, could argue that we should care more about strength in the 6-8 rep range, where the goal is still getting stronger but for longer efforts.

And finally, we can discuss strength when an athlete is gassed (end of the game/match). Having the ability to keep going and have the strength and endurance to produce force still when fatigue has built up is very important.

So, should we train athletes by having them “burn out” every movement for endless reps to prepare them?

If you’re following at this point, it may be clear that all of these aspects of strength are important for the athlete, and so it’s important that they are implemented in a quality strength-training program.

Because the goal of a strength-training program for an athlete is to better prepare the athlete for sport, making sure to address each of these qualities of strength is a must.

This doesn’t mean we throw the entire kitchen sink at the athlete and say, “get better!” Rather we must layer each of these qualities of strength in with each other so the athlete can adapt, recover, and be better because of it.

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