Low reps vs. High reps – which is better for kettlebell workouts?

Low reps vs. High reps – which is better for kettlebell workouts?

Ever notice how in the traditional fitness world the rep ranges are about 8-12 or 12-20 per set?

And in “Kettlebell Land” the reps are lower – usually A LOT lower – 1-3 and 3-6?

Ever wonder which world/land is “right?”

I think it’s safe to say that most of us got our start in strength training with 3 sets of 10 (3×10).

Everything was 3×10. 

Doesn’t matter what it was.

Then we found out about 1×8-12. Or 1×12-20.

And then 5×5.

Or some general permutation of the above sequence.

The truth is, there’s a time and a place for ALL rep ranges.

Here they are:

LOW REPS (1-6 reps per set)

1- Learning new skills

2- Managing fatigue while training those skills

3- Tendon training with very heavy weights

4- Maximum strength training

5- Building “smart” muscle – muscle that’s strong not just big (“myofibrillar hypertrophy”)

6- Training your Type 2x and 2a fast-twitch muscle fibers (the ones we lose at a rate of 10% per decade after age 30)

7- Training explosively for power

8- Training for speed

HIGH REPS (8-20+ reps per set)

1- Building muscle mass for the sake of muscle mass (“sarcoplasmic hypertrophy” – mainstream bodybuilding)

2- Strength endurance

3- Tendon training (VERY high reps with light weights)

4- Increase blood flow (circulation) and capillary density

5- Endurance training

6- Rehabilitation / Restoration

7- Low skill, highly familiar exercises, like push ups

8- Low skill, single joint training, like biceps curls / triceps extensions

9- Cardio-respiratory training (improve function / health of heart & lungs)

I’m sure there’s more in each category, but those are what came to me off the top of my head.

So, which is better? 

YES. 😀

As you can see, it depends on your goals.

For example, I use very high reps in my restoration and rehab protocols, like the P3 Protocol found inside “The Sore Joint Solution.” It works like gang-busters.

For most strength training and “just enough” drug free muscle building, I prefer lower reps because you can keep your technique intact for the most part, and accumulate a lot of sets, especially when you’re working “against the clock” – 

That is to say, you have a fixed time period.

(That’s also very good for burning body fat – depending on how little or much you need to rest.)

For example: You can run the gamut from 1-9 reps with the Clean + Press in ‘THE GIANT’ if you start with 3.0 and work your way through 1.2.

(Guys are actually shocked at how much muscular and lean their bodies get from the higher reps in 1.2.)

Furthermore, as you become more skilled in a lift – the more familiar it becomes to you –

The more you can up the reps – “surf” that rep continuum from low to high.

Kettlebell MAXIMORUM has you doing sets of 6 and 7 with your old 5RM Clean + Press, starting in week 8 and multiple sets of 10 with your Snatch 10RM in week 12 in order to build strength, muscle, and burn fat, while improving your conditioning. (It’s a 12-week program).

And “The King-Sized Killer” starts you with 1 rep and has you doing 15 reps with your old 7-8RM in week 9 of the 1.0, to improve your strength/power endurance and pull off some body fat.

So, as you can see, low reps or high reps?

The answer depends on your goals. 

Generally speaking though, for most who are novice and intermediate KB users, I recommend staying in the 1-6 range and just building up your skill and capacity by adding more sets.

Hope this helps.

If you need a new kettlebell program, I’ll leave links to some of my most popular ones in the description below.

Stay Strong


SWING HARD! https://salutis.kartra.com/page/SWING-HARD-2 

  • GOAL: Improve conditioning, burn fat
  • 10 x “Swing Only” programs
  • 3x week, 15 to 30 minute workouts
  • Exercises used: 2-H Swing, 1-H Swing
  • Single kettlebell

Kettlebell GHFL https://go.chasingstrength.com/kettlebell-ghfl-4/ 

  • GOAL: Burn stomach fat without dieting
  • 12-week program
  • 3x week, 20 to 30 minute workouts
  • Exercises used, Novice: 2-H Swing, 1-H Swing
  • Exercises used, Intermediate: Snatch, Single KB Thruster (Front Squat-to-Press)
  • Exercises used, Advanced:Double KB Snatch, Double KB Thruster, Double KB Clean + Push Press, Double KB Clean + Jerk
  • Single (Novice & Intermediate) and double kettlebell (Advanced)

The King-Sized Killer https://cart.chasingstrength.com/ksk2 

  • GOAL: Improve conditioning, burn fat, get stronger
  • 3x “Snatch Only” programs
  • 3x week, 20 minute workouts
  • Exercises used: Snatch
  • Single kettlebell

‘THE GIANT’  https://salutis.kartra.com/page/oWP219 

  • GOAL: Get stronger, burn fat, build muscle, improve conditioning
  • 5x “Clean + Press Only” programs
  • 3x week, 20 to 30 minutes
  • Exercises used: Single KB Clean + Press, Double KB Clean + Press
  • Single or double kettlebell

Kettlebell HARD! https://cart.chasingstrength.com/hard3b 

  • GOAL: Burn fat, build muscle, improve conditioning
  • 20x 6-12 week complex programs
  • 18x 6-12 week chain programs
  • 3x week, 10 to 30 minutes
  • Double kettlebell
  • Exercises used: Swing, Clean, Press, Front Squat, Snatch, Push Press, Jerk, Rows, Lunges

Kettlebell MAXIMORUM  https://go.chasingstrength.com/kettlebell-maximorum-e/ 

  • GOAL: Recomp – Build strength and muscle, lose body fat, improve conditioning
  • Exercises used: Double Clean + Press, Double Front Squat, Snatch
  • 4x week, 20-30 minute training sessions
  • 12 weeks
  • Nutrition and recovery programming included

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