One of the most often asked questions I get from people is; “How many sets and how many reps should I do?” To better answer the question, lets first make sure we understand what Sets and Reps are.
A Set is the number of cycles of a specif exercise that you complete. A Rep (repetition) is one complete motion of an exercise. An example of this would be, “I completed 4 Sets of Flat Dumbbell Bench presses, each set was comprised of 10 Reps“. In other words, every time you did the exercise, you completed a Set, and you performed that specific exercise 10 times in a row (10 Reps). So at the end of that exercise (4 Sets) you would have completed a total of 40 Reps. Now, how do you figure out how many sets and reps you should be doing? To answer this question, we have to look at your goals and overall fitness levels and experience. It is not a one size fits all answer.
A general rule of thumb for beginners is to start with a weight you can complete the first set of 10 to 12 reps relatively easily. Then by the 4th set with the same weight, you should struggle to complete 10 to 12 reps. the idea is if you can complete all 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps easily, your not stressing the muscles enough to cause them to fatigue and for lack of better words, damage them. By damage I mean to cause small micro tears in the muscle fibers. Then as the muscle heals, it actually increases the size of the fibers and strengthens them. This is how you build bigger and stringer muscles (as long as your getting enough protein and nutrients as well, diet is key to any exercise program) but that’s another topic for another time. For beginners, it may take a two or three gym sessions per exercise or muscle group to figure this out. I recommend keeping a log and bringing it with you to the gym every time you workout. This is not just a good idea for beginners, it is a good idea for everyone, even experienced and honed athletes.
Once you figure out the appropriate weight for each exercise, its time to get to work. The way you continue to progress is to continually make sure you are stressing and fatiguing the muscles. This is accomplished by increasing the weight of a specific exercise once you can complete the specific exercise for 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps. Then repeat the process and keep repeating and getting stronger and more muscle!
Remember, this is just a beginning. There are numerous Sets to Rep ranges and structures you can do. Another rule of thumb is; Higher reps (10 to 12 or higher) are more for building muscle and increasing size, while lower reps (4 to 7) using a much higher weight are for building strength. Either way, the absolute best way to figure this out and what is going to be best for you and your goals, is to see one of our awesome personal trainers and set up a few sessions with them.
We are always here to help and answer