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Answering The Most Common Fitness Questions: How Many Reps Should I Do?

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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When it comes to fitness and strength training, one of the most common questions people ask is, “How many reps should I do?” The number of repetitions (reps) and sets you perform during your workouts plays a crucial role in achieving your fitness goals. Whether you aim to build muscle strength, size, endurance, or power, understanding the appropriate rep and set schemes is essential for designing an effective workout routine.

What Are Reps?

Reps, short for repetitions, are a fundamental concept in fitness and strength training. They represent the number of times a specific exercise or movement is performed in a continuous manner without taking a break. In simple terms, if you complete ten push-ups in a row before resting, you have completed ten repetitions of push-ups. Reps play a crucial role in determining the training stimulus on your muscles during a workout.

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Different rep ranges elicit various adaptations, such as strength, hypertrophy, endurance, or power. Understanding the appropriate number of reps for your fitness goals is essential for designing an effective and targeted workout routine. Whether you aim to build muscle size, increase strength, improve endurance, or develop explosive power, the number of reps you perform in each set will be a critical factor in achieving your desired outcomes.

What Are Sets?

Sets are a fundamental concept in the realm of fitness and exercise. In the context of strength training, a set refers to a specific number of repetitions of an exercise performed consecutively without any rest. For instance, if you do ten squats in a row before taking a break, you have completed one set of ten squats. Sets play a pivotal role in determining the workload and intensity of a workout routine. They provide structure to an exercise session, helping individuals organize their training and monitor their progress.

The number of sets performed during a workout significantly impacts the overall training volume and the level of fatigue experienced by the muscles. Different set schemes cater to various fitness goals; whether the objective is to build strength, increase muscle size, improve endurance, or develop power. By understanding how to manipulate sets effectively, fitness enthusiasts can tailor their workouts to match their specific objectives and create a well-rounded training program.

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Your Guide to Reps and Sets by Goal

Whether your desired outcome is increasing muscle mass or muscle hypertrophy, it’s important to know how many reps and sets you need to accomplish your goals in mind. Here is our guide to figure out the best reps and set number for you:

Reps and Sets for Muscle Strength

Muscle strength is essential for functional movements and activities of daily living. To increase strength, you should focus on lifting heavier weights with lower reps and sets. The key is to challenge your muscles to the point of fatigue while maintaining proper form. This rep and set range activates high-threshold motor units, which are responsible for generating maximum force.

For beginners, it’s crucial to start training for strength with a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of reps and sets with proper form. Gradually increase the weight as you become more comfortable and confident in your abilities. Aim for 3 to 6 sets of 1 to 6 repetitions per set, with longer rest periods between sets to allow for full muscle recovery.

Reps and Sets for Muscle Size (Hypertrophy)

Hypertrophy training is all about increasing muscle size by creating metabolic stress and muscle tension. To achieve this, you should focus on moderate weights with a moderate rep and set range. This approach encourages the production of metabolic byproducts that promote muscle growth.

For hypertrophy, aim for 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 12 repetitions per set. Rest periods between sets should be shorter than in strength training to maintain the intensity and keep the muscles under tension. Compound exercises like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts, as well as isolation exercises targeting specific muscle groups, are effective for hypertrophy.

Reps and Sets for Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is crucial for activities that require sustained effort over time, such as long-distance running or cycling. To improve muscular endurance, you should focus on lighter weights with a higher rep and set range.

Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions per set. This rep and set scheme improves your muscles’ ability to resist fatigue and perform repetitive movements for an extended period. The shorter rest periods between sets help maintain an elevated heart rate, contributing to cardiovascular benefits.

Reps and Sets for Muscular Power

Muscular power is the ability to generate force rapidly, combining strength and speed. Explosive movements are the foundation of power training. This training method involves lifting or pushing a submaximal load as quickly as possible.

For power training, aim for 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 6 repetitions per set. Perform exercises like power cleans, snatches, or plyometric movements like box jumps. Rest periods between sets should be sufficient to allow for maximum effort in each explosive movement.

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How Do I Get Started With a Rep and Set Strategy?

If you’re new to strength training or exercise in general, it’s crucial to start gradually and with proper guidance. Consider working with a certified personal trainer who can assess your fitness level, help you set realistic goals, and design a personalized workout plan.

For beginners, a general guideline is to start with 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per set for compound exercises and 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions for isolation exercises. This rep and set range provide a good balance between building strength and muscle size while minimizing the risk of injury.

As you become more experienced and confident in your abilities, you can adjust the rep and set schemes based on your specific goals, whether it’s strength, size, endurance, or power training.

When to Switch Up Your Set and Rep Schemes

Periodization is an essential concept in fitness training. Over time, your body adapts to the stress of your workouts, leading to plateaus in progress. To continue making gains, it’s crucial to switch up your rep and set schemes periodically.

You can implement different forms of periodization, such as linear periodization or undulating periodization, which involve changing the rep and set range, intensity, and exercise selection over specific time periods. These changes keep your muscles guessing and prevent them from getting used to a specific routine.

A general rule of thumb is to change your rep and set scheme every 4 to 6 weeks, although individual responses to training may vary. Additionally, incorporating different exercises, variations, and training methods can further challenge your muscles and stimulate growth.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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