What is The Correct Number of Reps and Sets for a Workout ?
As I tell every time whether I am in the gym with my clients, friends or in my weekly Q&A, how many reps and sets you should do is really going to be dependent on your goals.
For example, is your goal to improve:
Depending on what your goal is, the sets, reps, and rest intervals will change.
In this post, we will take a closer look at how many sets & reps you should do in your training. But first, here’s a brief summary of the recommendations.
Training Volume Recommendations:
- Up to 10 sets per muscle and week, there seems to be a dose-response relationship, where more sets mean greater muscle growth and strength increases.
- Up to about 15–20 sets per muscle and week can possibly lead to even better results for a trained person with good recovery capabilities. However, there is an individual variation in volume tolerance.
- These figures apply provided that the set is taken close to or to failure. Sets stopped long before failure require less recovery, and thus enable you to train with higher volumes than those mentioned above.
- Variation of the training volume by gradually increasing it during a training cycle and then restarting at a lower level in the next cycle could contribute to maintaining your muscles’ sensitivity to the training stimuli.
- Training volume is one of the most important variables for your training results, next to the number of reps you do and your training frequency.
That was the short version of this article. For the longer version, and to figure out how many sets you should do per week, keep reading!
How many reps you should do?
We’ll group different rep ranges into different goals, for:
- Muscular endurance
- Muscle size
- Overall strength
Let’s chat about the following:
1) MUSCULAR ENDURANCE (long-lasting muscle) – Endurance means encouraging and training your muscles to perform for an extended period of time. This means doing a LOT of repetitions.
People targeting muscular endurance will aim for a range from 15 to 20+ reps.
Obviously, you won’t be able to lift heavy amounts of weight for 20+ reps, so you’ll be lifting lighter loads.
Also, because you’re targeting endurance improvements, you want to decrease the amount of rest between sets: 30 seconds to a minute.
If you are a runner or cyclist, strength training with higher repetitions can help your muscles develop more endurance as well!
Reps for increased muscular endurance: 15+
2) MUSCLE SIZE (“sarcoplasmic hypertrophy”) – This is for guys or gals looking to building large muscles.
The scientific term here is “sarcoplasmic hypertrophy,” as it focuses on increasing the amount of sarcoplasm, the non-contractile fluid found in your muscle.
Up to 30% of your muscle’s size is attributed to the sarcoplasm, so focusing on this type of hypertrophy helps build overall size (i.e., increased cross-sectional area of the muscle).
If you’re looking to get bigger:
- Target a rep range of 12 – 15 reps per set.
- Aim for 3-5 sets.
- Rest time between sets should be short, about 60 to 90 seconds.
Reps for increased muscle size: 12-15
3) STRENGTH AND POWER (“myofibril hypertrophy”) – If you’re training for specific sports and just want to get stronger with more power – but not necessarily get bigger, this is the strategy for you.
This type of training focuses on strengthening the myofibril, the contractile part of the muscle, hence the name “myofibril hypertrophy.”
For this, target reps in the 1-5 range. And yep, that means you’re going to be picking up heavy weights, focusing all that concentrated effort into just one or a few reps.
Something to note when lifting for strength and power: not only are you shocking your muscles, but you’re also putting a lot of pressure on your body’s central nervous system (CNS).
So what does this mean?
In a way, it means your body’s ability to communicate with its muscles has grown fatigued, and performance may suffer.
That’s why you may want to rest between 2-5 minutes in this range.
Oh, and your CNS will adapt and become stronger, which will be critical for building strength and power.
How many sets you should do?
One set is better than no set, and if you go from not training at all to doing at least one set per muscle group and workout, the trained muscles will start to grow and become stronger – especially if you repeat the workout 2–3 times per week.
On this level, more is better, and if you advance to doing 2–3 sets per muscle group and workout, that will probably lend you roughly 40% greater muscle growth.
Means no mater what you train fore progressive overload is necessary for optimal muscle growth.
Let me explain: The gradual increase of stress on the muscle during weight training.
Just increasing some training parameters over time.
It’s better you do it like this!
For example lets say you’re training to grow your biceps.
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|3 x 10||3 x 10||3 x 10||3 x 10|
Rather then doing three sets of 10 reps with the same weight week after week and months after months. It be much more effective if you do it like this.
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|3 x 10||3 x 12||3 x 15||3 x 10 + 2.5kg|
If you cant do the heavy set at 1st then just focus on negative motion.
Last the cherry on the top!
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) will break
this down, suggesting the following set ranges:
- 2-3 will help build muscular endurance (12 to 20+ reps)
- 3-6 build muscular hypertrophy (6 to 12 reps)
- 3-5 build muscular power (3 to 5 reps)
- 2-6 build muscular strength (less than 6 reps)
So the conclusion is aim for 3-5 sets in the following rep rangers per exercise based on your goals:
- Endurance: 12+ reps per set.
- Hypertrophy (bigger muscles): 6-12 reps per set.
- Strength (dense, powerful muscle): 1-5 reps per set.
- A recent study showed that heavier weight for low reps created more muscle mass than a higher volume (lower weight for more reps).
- Studies show that bodyweight training exercises can build muscle, but require a LARGE number of sets per rep, and pushing oneself to absolute failure.
What this means: studies suggest targeting heavier weight with fewer reps for big lifts like squats and deadlifts to build muscle, while targeting high reps to absolute failure with bodyweight exercises for muscle building.
Just remember to rest enough between sets so you don’t fatigue your central nervous system too bad.