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What is RIR (Reps in Reserve)?

Jaime Alnassim

Online Coaching | Strength & Conditioning

September 5, 2021

Custome Online Coaching & Workout Plans

The quick: RIR is a way to personalize the strength sessions to your daily workout

What does RIR (Reps In Reserve) mean?

RIR means “Reps in Reserve” = how many more reps could you do before failure (technical failure OR actually missing a lift). If you have a workout by me, you know I use RIR in reference to technical failure (until you can’t do another with proper form).

You will see RIR and a number after some of your exercises. What does this mean?

 = 3 Reps In Reserve = 3 repetitions away from failure
2 RIR 
= 2 Reps In Reserve = 2 repetitions away from failure
= 1 Rep In Reserve = 1 repetition away from failure
 = 0 Reps In Reserve = 0 repetitions away from failure/max effort 

This is a way in the workouts to inform you how hard you should be going on those exercises. For the purpose of the workouts, any exercises without an RIR next to us, go as heavy as you can with proper form and no form breakdowns during the set.

Why do we use RIR?

It is well known that training close to failure is important for strength development and muscle hypertrophy ( Nóbrega 2016). Just doing higher and higher amounts of reps is not as important and total volume (da Silva LXN 2018). However, if an exercise is new to you, staying further away from failure can be useful for getting used to a new movement or in power development training. RIR gives you the opportunity to personalize each session depending on how you feel that day or week. If you are a little tired from a long day at work or with the kids, it is okay to use a lighter weight from the week before. RIR is very useful when you don’t know your 1RM (one rep max) or a movement you would not max out in, like a bicep curl. But most importantly, RIR gives a structured way for you to teach yourself how to train hard and train smart.


da Silva LXN, Teodoro JL, Menger E, Lopez P, Grazioli R, Farinha J, Moraes K, Bottaro M, Pinto RS, Izquierdo M, Cadore EL. Repetitions to failure versus not to failure during concurrent training in healthy elderly men: A randomized clinical trial. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Jul 15;108:18-27. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.03.017. Epub 2018 Mar 22. PMID: 29577974.

Nóbrega, S. R., & Libardi, C. A. (2016). Is Resistance Training to Muscular Failure Necessary?. Frontiers in physiology7, 10.

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