This is always a more complex answer to the question of what repetition range you should use because it depends on your goals. As I will keep on repeating, if you want to improve your strength and condition you need to be very specific about the goals you desire to achieve if your aim is to be successful.
Strength and Power
The picture above depicts the top of the Snatch Pull. In the Power Movements the range of repetitions you should use should not be more than five. If you desire to achieve more strength and power in your program the reason you should not use beyond five repetitions is that you are reaching close to your maximum effort. So you should endeavor to generate as much energy into every repetition you can and you cannot do that beyond this number of repetitions, in fact a better range would be between 3 – 1. This is where the mode of CrossFit training hits a snag as far as I can see in that it uses power and strength movements at a lot higher range of repetitions that is effective. When using maximum effort you need a recovery of 3 – 5 minutes between sets and if you do use power movements within your circuits ensure you use a lower repetition range and a lighter resistance than you would use in a purely strength and power program. (For instance no more the five repetitions using a resistance lower than 50% 1RMax). You can use a set range between 4 – 6 for Strength and Power programs.
The term is a fancier way of saying the development of muscle size and the best exercises to use are the compound movements such as you would use in the purely strength program such as Squats, Deadlifts and Bench Press. The repetition range for best results in these programs is between 8 – 12 and within 4 sets. It has been advocated that you should do a total of between 34 – 50 repetitions within these 4 sets to be within the most effective range.
Personally I think that if your goal is developing better muscular endurance, which would help people competing in endurance sports, it is better to stay with Circuit routines and keep your repetition range to between 8 – 12 so that your technique is not compromised. But there is a school of thought that you can use a repetition range of 12 – 20 for each set to achieve this? The choice is yours but I think that every repetition you do within your routine should count and if your technique is not the best you leave yourself open to injury and ineffective movement patterns – and ineffective results. So a Circuit using between 5 – 10 compound exercises and 10 repetitions each exercise for as many complete circuits you can do within 30 minutes would be an example of this. Another fact I will repeat here is that everyone has their own natural rhythm and therefore the speed at which people go through their routine will depend upon this. This fact and their level of condition should be something to take into consideration if you are helping someone through a program.
You can use just one exercise as your workout that incorporates several movements that cover the whole body. An example of this would a Jump Burpee that also has Pressing and Rowing movements within the series of movements. The routine would use 4 – 6 sets of 6 – 10 repetitions of the series of movements and there are many combinations of movements you can use. I will go through some of these in a subsequent post.
Remember that specific goals achieve specific results….and vague goals achieve vague results. Question everything.