It is believed that high repetitions (more than 12) build muscle endurance and not strength, but to me this doesn't sound right, here's why, let's suppose for example that i can curl 20 pounds for 5 reps, then i choose to progress by increasing my reps instead of weight, therefore after some time i could curl 20 pounds for, say, 15 reps. This means that i turned my 5 rep max into my 15 rep max, so now my current 5 rep max had definitely increased, hence i built strength by using high reps. What's wrong with this reasoning? Is it the case that high reps build strength as well as low ones?

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    How many curls with 20 pounds must you do in order to curl 100 pounds? – Christian Conti-Vock Jan 29 '18 at 15:56

I think you've heard the right idea, but you're misinterpreting it.

Of course high reps builds some strength, but certainly not a whole lot. It's going to take a lot more effort (in terms of joules spent) to increase your 5RM by doing 15-rep sets, than it would to increase it by actually doing 5-rep sets.

Don't think of it as "it does, or it doesn't". Most activities in the gym build strength. Just not to the same degree.

It's not a dichotomy. It's a spectrum.

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    Yep. Look at a cyclist's quads/calves who doesn't do strength training. Ridiculous "reps" as the pedal stroke is resistance work, but legs that are very powerful in raw strength. Not as much strength as someone who specifically trains that way, but not weak by any measure. – Eric Jan 28 '18 at 14:51
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    @EricKaufman - Yeah, that's a solid example. Also, it lends itself to the idea that volume (sets*reps) builds volume (size). – Alec Jan 29 '18 at 20:25

High reps do not build high strength. They will help to build muscular endurance (a type of strength), but the Impact on strength output will be minimized.

Let’s take this to a logical extreme. Let’s say you start working out and your maximum reps for pushups at one time is 5. Then, a year down the road it becomes 50. Has your strength increased ten times? No, but between muscle development and the building of your endurance you’ve improved. There will be an increase in strength here, but it won’t be anything grand.

Higher intensity shorter reps grant the most strength gains. Also, try to either work to failure or close to it in order to ensure that you’re actually challenging yourself properly. 12 reps is the standard for a reason, do more or less with an understanding of why. More for endurance, less for strength. Twelve even for a good balance.

  • He asked about 5 - 15 not about a zillion. If you read carefully you see that he isn't that wrong, see other answers – Raditz_35 Feb 28 '18 at 8:28
  • Right, which I addressed in the last paragraph. Using 12 as an anchor you gain proportionally more endurance / less strength when you go with higher reps. The reverse is true for fewer reps. One rep won’t make a big difference, perhaps not even a notable difference, but 10 reps will make a huge difference. As explained though, you gain strength regardless and you gain endurance regardless, it’s just a matter of how much you prefer. – JustSnilloc Feb 28 '18 at 14:14

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