I often get the question “How many reps of xxx should I be doing?” That’s a good question and over time I figured out approximate rep ranges based on weight used and time interval. For almost all lifts the reps should go down as the weight increases. Of course if you increase the interval from 30 to 45 seconds the reps should go up because in many cases you’ll need to decrease the weight from the weight you would use for a 20 or 30s interval.
But before you get overly concerned with the numbers take a step back and look at what you are doing. It is MUCH more important to do the exercise correctly than it is to worry about how many you are doing. Remember Quality over Quantity. Going too fast and being sloppy will lead to injuries! So make sure you are doing the exercises properly before going faster. My job is to make sure you are doing them right and I will make you slow down or go lighter if I think it is necessary.
Let’s look at some common lifts, times and rep ranges.
- Dead Cleans – 30s interval. I usually try to hit 15 reps in 30 seconds for a challenging set. Any more than that and you should probably be going heavier. Any less than 10 in 30s and you went too heavy or are at the end of a tough workout.
- Goblet Squats – in 30s you should be able to get 14 to 16 reps in 30s when fresh. With fatigue more like 12-15. If you are cranking out more than 15 reps in 30s you are going too light, going too fast, not getting deep enough or a combination. All squats should be controlled, no bouncing. Going fast and you aren’t engaging your obliques and hips properly. The depth should be hips a little lower than the hips, assuming you have the flexibility to do that with no knee issues.
- Presses – 10 to 12 reps in 30s. It’s easy to go too heavy and cheat by push pressing or arching the back. You’re better off to stay on the lighter side, stay tight everywhere and focus on strict movement. Doing presses this way makes it a total body exercise; you have to use your abs, back and hips.
- Rows – the slower the better the same as with presses. In 30s seconds no more than 10 reps. Do them on a tempo of 3 up 1 pause 2 down. Rushing means cheating and not engaging the obliques and hips.
- Deadlifts – this depends on the variation. Often times a sumo DL is done quickly which is ok if your form is good and you are maintaining a neutral spine and keeping tight. A fast pace is 16-20 reps in 30 seconds.
In the suitcase DL where the bell is outside the feet, you need to go a little slower and pay attention to your hip and shoulder alignment. 10-12 reps in 30s is normal
The 1 Leg DL should be slow as well with focus on the hips staying level, no rotation through the torso, maintaining constant speed and staying in control. 8-12 reps in 30s for a moderate weight slower for a heavier but never rushed.
- Low Windmills – these are usually done for low reps, very slow and controlled so in 30s you should really only get 6 – 8 reps.
- Overhead Windmils – these are also done slowly to maintain structure, they can be dangerous if you rush or go to heavy. About 5 reps in 30s is what you should shoot for. If you are well practiced in this lift and go heavy you may only get 3 or 4 reps and that’s what you want.
- Swings are tricky. It depends on not only the weight of the bell but how high you are swinging it. Typically the people have a swing pace and it stays the same no matter how light or heavy, no matter how high or low (between navel and chin). What I’ve typically seen in my own practice is about 18 to 20 swings in 30 seconds. No matter with a 24k or a 32k. Very heavy and it will be a little slower but not much, it just won’t go as high. 1 handed swings are the same; everyone has a pace and it generally stays the same regardless of the weight.
One way to get more work and speed up your swings is to actively pull it back down through the legs instead of passively letting it cycle behind you then exploding. Actively pulling it back activates the core more and makes the hips work harder to decelerate and redirect the incoming force on the bell.
- Hand to Hand swings – typically 15 reps in 30s. They are fairly lazy and are an active recovery movement more than anything else, at least in my opinion.
- High Pulls – In 30s it will depend on your fatigue levels, but since there is no place to rest you can only go so slow. About 12-16 reps in 30s rest is about right. About the slowest you can go is about 10 reps in 30s. Any slower and you’d have to actually stop.
- Jerks and snatches – these more advanced techniques can vary based on what you are doing them for. The guys and gals that do kb sport lifting get upwards of 100 reps in 10 minutes per lift. I like to try to get 18 – 20 reps in one minute per arm on snatches and close to that on jerks. With snatches 12 reps per min (rpm) is the slowest you can realistically go. While you can rest overhead your shoulders will wear out pretty fast.
With Jerks you can rest overhead or in rack, but too much rest in either position will wear you out pretty fast. 8 to 10 reps is about the slowest you can go. Any slower and you aren’t doing much unless the bell is very heavy
- Mountain Climbers – one of my favorite body-weight exercises, I like to try to hit at least 60 reps in 30 secs and have been able to hit 80 on occasion! When doing them in a 20/10 format the goal is 40 minimum per 20s and to try to do the same number each set over the 8 sets.
- Squat Thrusts are another favorite, (squat down, kick the feet back to pushup position with full hip and knee extension, bring the knees and feet back under then stand or better yet jump up) and I try to hit 14-16 reps in 30 seconds. It’s tough but doable. Most people get around 10 and that’s decent.
- Burpees, which add a pushup to the squat thrust, can typically be done about 12 times in 30secs, but don’t cheat! The hips are not allowed to touch the floor during the pushup portion, no flop, no slop!
I hope this helps you choose the correct weights for the kb lifts and a target to shoot for on the body-weight exercises!