Repetitions in reserve

“Repetitions in reserve” (RIR), is an emerging strength training concept that involves estimating how many times you can perform an exercise until you fail.

Training programs incorporating this concept will typically involve training until you have 1–3 reps in reserve — a sweet spot for ensuring you push yourself enough to become stronger while minimizing the risk of serious injury.

Interestingly, a meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine in 2021 revealed that people tend to underestimate their reps in reserve by about 1.

There’s an encouraging takeaway here: we’re actually more capable than we think.

Someone who says they only have 1 repetition in the tank is probably capable of doing twice that. And if they say they can only do 2 more, the reality is they can probably do 3 — and so on.

To be clear: it’s essential to know and respect your true limits.

However, if there is any chance that you may be underestimating what you’re capable of then the feeling that you are at your limit might actually be an opportunity to push yourself just a little further.

And in doing so, creating the perfect conditions for developing greater levels of resilience and grit that will serve you in every challenge you take on going forward.

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William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (