How many reps and sets?
I often get asked this question from my clients “How many reps and sets should I be doing”? Depending on your overall goal this answer can be different per individual. Reps and sets can also change per workout based on the goal of that day. In order to know exactly how may reps to do you first need to know why you want to choose that rep range.
There are typically three goals and three ranges of reps. These three goals include:
Strength – 1-6 rep range
Hypertrophy – 8-12 rep range
Endurance – 15+ rep range
Strength is the quality or state of being physically strong. Training for strength requires lifting very heavy loads at a lower rep range. This rep range is between 1-6 reps. If your goal is to get stronger in the muscle group or groups you are training than you will pick a rep range here. The amount of weight you lift will be determined based on the rep range you choose. For example: If you choose to do a 3 rep range than you will pick a weight that you can lift only 3 times. Lifting heavier loads at a lower rep range will increase your physical strength.
Hypertrophy is the increase in muscle growth and size. Training for Hypertrophy requires lifting loads that bring your muscle to failure at a medium rep range. This rep range is between 8-12 reps. If your goal is to increase the muscle itself both in size and shape then you will pick a rep range here. When training for Hypertrophy make sure that by the time you get to your last rep you’re muscles are challenged. If you feel like you can keep going for several reps over this rep range than your weight is not heavy enough. Choose a heavier weight for your next set. Lifting between this rep range with a weight that challenges you on the last rep will encourage muscle size and growth.
Endurance is the capacity to continue a physical performance for over a period of time. Training for endurance requires low loads and a higher rep range. This rep range would be considered 15 or more reps. If your goal is to improve your endurance than you will pick a rep range here. Lifting lighter weights at higher volumes of reps will help to increase your overall endurance. This is a great way to train athletes or clients that need to improve their physical performance for endurance sports.
Once you have determined your rep range you can then decide on how many sets to do based on the fatigue of your muscles. Do at least 2 sets of any rep range. If at the end of 2 sets the muscles are not fatigued or challenged enough continue to do more sets until you feel muscles have been challenged. This will ensure continued muscle growth and strength.
The rep range you choose will determine the results you have. You may have a specific goal that requires you to work solely in one of these rep ranges for either strength, Hypertrophy or endurance. Or, you may have several goals based on specific areas of the body and/or muscle groups that will require you to work in more than one rep range. You may want to mix up your workouts daily or weekly and change your rep range to work on all three goals. You may want to include all three goals in one workout such as one set focusing on strength, one set focusing Hypertrophy, and one set focusing on endurance. Whether you mix up your reps or stay within the same range make sure you set some goals when preparing your workout.
To make progress in your goals remain consistent with your training and keep your muscles feeling challenged. If muscles are not being challenged, chances are they are not making changes. Increase or decrease reps, weights and sets based on how challenged you feel. Keep in mind that changing weights to a greater load may initially require you to decrease your reps or sets until your muscles have adapted to that increase.
No matter your goal or rep range of choice, strength training is an important part of your fitness routine in order to maintain and increase muscle development and overall strength. Be sure to include some sort of strength training at least 3 times a week.