the age old question that's been surrounding the exercise community for decades... how many sets and reps should I perform?
Rep ranges should be based on the
primary goals of the individual.
For example, if my goal is hypertrophy
(bigger muscles) and my 1RM of the bench press is 300 pounds, then I will need to lift 67-85% of those 300 pounds;
300 - 65% = 201 pounds, which I should be able to lift for around 12 reps.
If one the other hand a person desires more strength, than performing
max reps of 6 or less should be implemented in his or her current program. This is preciously why most strength and power
lifters albeit stronger than bodybuilders don't necessarily have that defined muscular look.
Most people in general want to look more muscular and
toned which is why rep ranges of 8-15 are ideal.
Load (% 1 RM)
than or = 6
Greater or = 12
From Essentials of Strength Training and
Conditioning by National Strength & Conditioning Association. Copyright 2000 by Human Kinetics
Publishers, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. http://www.humankinetics.com/
It's important to keep
in mind all reps should be performed using full concentric (shortening of muscle) and eccentric (lengthening of muscle) movements.
How many sets should
status, goals, and age of the individual effect how much volume should be implemented in a given program.
- Studies show
that beginners (3 months or less workout experience) display gains in muscular strength and hypertrophy when performing single
set exercises (one exercise per body part). When the neuromuscular system adapts to the stimulus a higher volume of 3-6 sets per exercise for
the intermediate (3-6 months workout experience) and advance (1+ year workout experience) trainer is advocated.
How many exercises per body is enough?
intermediate and advanced trainers have the luxury of being able to personalize their workouts
because they have more experience. Trial and error run the ship here. Try experimenting to see what works best for you. Some
individuals do well with 3-4 different exercises per body part, working 3-5 sets; others perform only 2 sets of 2 exercises
for each body part. The saline idea here is getting past the beginner status, so that the neuromuscular system has had time
to adapt to resistance training, and runs less of a risk of overtraining and injury. Once the body has adapted
more sets, and more intense training methods can be implemented into an exercise program.
How many times a week should I lift weights?
Frequency should be based on training experience:
Training Frequency Based on Training Status
(3 months or less experience)
Intermediate (3-6 months experience)
Advanced (1+ year experience)
From Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning by National Strength & Conditioning
Association. Copyright 2000 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics,
Champaign, IL. http://www.humankinetics.com/
How long should I rest between
Rest period lengths
are based on training goal:
Strength and power movements which use heavy loads require full rest periods of
2-5 minutes. Hypertrophy training is based on the concept of starting a set before the previous muscle fibers
have recovered. If exhausted muscle fibers have not recovered than new muscle fibers will be recruited which will result in
bigger more defined muscles. This is one of the reasons why power lifters don't look like body builders. The more muscle
fibers that are recruited in a muscle will result in the muscle becoming bigger (hypertrophy). Muscular endurance
training as the name implies allows your heart rate to remain elevated. Resting less than 30 seconds between sets should accomplish
this goal. Due to the cardio nature of these workouts the loads are not heavy enough to produce true hypertrophy results.
Rest Period Length:
Power: single/multiple effort
From Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning by National Strength &
Conditioning Association. Copyright 2000 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Human
Kinetics, Champaign, IL. http://www.humankinetics.com/
The following guide lines should be
followed for the youth and older adults
- Older (over 65) and
younger (under 17) individuals should perform fewer sets (no more than 12 per workout) compared to adults
- Warm ups and stretching should be performed before and after workouts
- Learning proper technique with light loads(50% or less of 1RM) should
be implemented before increasing loads
- Workouts should not occur in succession,
allow 48-72 hrs between sessions.
- Seniors should be pre-screened by a
medical doctor before any type of exercise program.
- Youth should be encouraged
to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
Although some in the fitness field may advocate one system over the other.
I have learned there are no absolutes when it comes to exercising. Take for example the person who performs 3 sets of 10 repetitions
to get bigger muscles (hypertrophy). Although not performing the ideal rep range of 6 for strength, this person with
proper nutrition will no doubt still get stronger. Again the tables and advice located in this article are
only broad views and are not written in stone. Try different ranges of sets and reps, every couple of weeks to see what works
best for you.
A muscle contraction in which a muscle shortens and overcomes a resistance, as in the upward movement of the biceps curl.
- Eccentric: A muscle contraction in which a muscle is lengthened by the
resistance, as in the downward movement of the biceps curl.
- Hypertrophy: Increase in both gross muscle size as well as individual
muscle size resulting from training. The most sort after effect of exercise (bigger muscles).
- Isometric: A muscle contraction in which tension in the muscle increases
but there is no shortening or lengthening of the muscle.
Endurance: The ability of a muscle or group of muscles to sustain repeated contractions (usually 12 or more)
against a resistance. Getting the burning feeling in muscles best describes it (designed for the toned muscle look).
- One rep max (1 RM): the greatest amount
of weight that can be lifted for only one repetition. A percentage of 1 RM is used to determine the number of reps one can
- Overtraining: A state in which
fatigue during exercise bouts causes a reduction in physical performance. The root of overtraining is likely excessive frequency
of volume or intensity coupled with poor nutrition and lack of proper rest.
- Power: Measured by the formula work equals force times distance divided by time. A combination of
strength and speed.
An individual completed exercise movement that includes the concentric and eccentric portion of the exercise.
- Set: A group of repetitions of a given exercise movement done consecutively,
- Strength: The use of muscular
force to move an object, speed and distance are not factors of strength.