5 reps or 3 reps to increase 1RM

When trying to increase peak strength (measured by 1RM) with reps of 5, has anyone noticed any benefit of adding a couple of weeks of reps of 3, or has there been no difference.

yes but it is all about volume… in otherwords instead of 3 sets of 5, 6 sets of 3 would be better. the 3 sets of 5 would only give you a total volume of 15 reps where as 6 sets of 3 would give you 18 reps plus the poundage (intensity) could also be higher.

I do mainly 2 sometimes 3 working sets 1 rep short of RM, therefore 6x3 would be harder to complete and my recovery before the next session would be extended. I feel that when performing reps of 3, since the weight is higher, the time under contraction is longer per rep, allowing for maybe only 1 extra set compared to reps of 5. Therefore, I am wonder whether 3x3 would be any better than 2x5 or similar, at increasing the 1RM. I know this may differ between individuals but it would be nice to know any experiences.

i have a powerlifting friends who at the age of 21 at the moment can bench press 250kgs with a bench suit, when i see him in the gym he almost always prefers doing 5 reps to 3 reps, i`ll pick his brain next time i see him, btw he also does strongman comps etc, his overall strength is amazing, i remember him bicep curling a 65kg dumbell. while holding the other 65kg dumbell in his other hand. freaky.

id say 5 sets of 2.
but 3x3 is fine. it is alot better than 2 sets of 5.

I would use 5 reps as the base and add in 3 reps for a period of 3 weeks at a time, or maybe even every 3 weeks for a week at a time.

I have found I can only do this type of week for a maximum of 6 weeks. Then I need to back off for at least a 3 week block.

3 sets of 5 reps above 80% and 3 x 3 at 90% Would be my starting point. They are separate workouts.


I agree on your 6 sets of 3 protocol. I did exactly that, plus two warmup sets with intensity at 85%-90%. My bench went up faster than it has in years. Also, my work capacity increased dramatically too. I am now doing a classic powerlifting schedule - 3 sets at 3 reps, 2, and 1. Because of the previous 8 sets of 3, I am hardly sore at all even though I am lifting at nearly 100%.

I’d recommend it. But if you bench that much, don’t bother with separate work for triceps, and for sure don’t do extensive shoulder work. I held it to external rotators and rear deltoids for balance, and lateral raises (because I’m vain.) :cool:

Let me clarify - right now on heavy days I bench 4 sets - a warmup set at very light weight, and a set of 3, a set of 2, and a set of 1. Didn’t want to confuse anyone.

There’s no secret rep range, it’s all about maniplating the variables: intensity and volume, in order to elicit an adaptation.

I believe the optimal rep no. decreases as the muscle mass utilised in the exercise increases. Westside for example do 8x2r on squat, 6x3r on bench (dynamic day) and 8+ for smaller assistant exercises.

My coach has it set up like this for: squat, bench, and cleans:

Week1 - 5x5
Week2 - 5,5,5,3,1
Week3 - 5,3,3,3,1
Week4 - 5,3,1,1,1

5 reps = 80% of max
3 reps = 85% of max
1 rep =95% of max

I like a 3-1-3 cycle… so i would drop the first week probably and do week 2 3 and 4. i would do 3x3 for my unloading week. But if you were working on a 4 week cycle your coach has the right idea. It looks good. As david W said changing the variables is the key and that is what your coach looks like he is doing.

David W said

(There’s no secret rep range, it’s all about maniplating the variables: intensity and volume, in order to elicit an adaptation).

I agree 100%.

I am in a 3-1-3 cycle but I started the cycle after a very heavy weight training protocol in the 3 rep range. I have found that I needed to up the reps to 5 recently. My body has been feeling a little stagnant and the gains have been a little slower lately. So I bumped the last few workouts up to the 5 rep range and feel better already. I am using almost as much weight but it just “feels” better. It is hard to explain, nothing scientific in my case just by feel.
I’ll probably do the 5 rep range for another 2-3 weeks and then increase the number of sets, up the weight and drop the reps to doubles and triples again.


I have been using 3 reps almost every set for Bench Press and Dumbbell row for the last 2 months (between 3 and 7 working sets).

The bench is up about 15% in the last 2 months, the Rows about 25% (with better form). Not proof of anything but shows it can work.

posted by david w
There’s no secret rep range, it’s all about maniplating the variables: intensity and volume, in order to elicit an adaptation.

Well Said David!!!

Yes I think there is a benefit to adding 2-3 weeks of 3’s but can’t do it as frequently in training since it is obviously closer to absolute intensity and the risk for injury(though I don’t think if it is properly supervised it is a much greater risk) and potential overtraining is increased. I do believe there is some value but we don’t often go down as low as 3’s.

i want to start a 3-1-3 then go into 2weeks of maintanance after the cycle. i think i have a good understanding of the first 3 weeks…

week 1- 5,5,5,3,1
week 2- 5,3,3,3,1
week 3- 5,3,1,1,1

after that im a little confused. that backoff week in the middle-3x8? and the follwing 3 weeks, what reps and percentages am i going for. help from you guys on this link would be great.

hey athlete, for week 4 do your sets like this: 10,7,5,3,1 - 70%,75%, 80%, 85%, 95%.

I thought week four was about keeping the intensity high but decreasing the volume.Therefore would’nt 3x1 at 90 % be a better rep scheme?

What’s with all the pyramiding? It’s, at best, an inefficient training system.