How Many Sets and Reps Should You Do?

People lifting weights.

Imagine walking into the gym as you prepare for your workout. 

You may have a program planned with the exercises you want to do, or you may decide to just pick and choose exercises as you go. Either way, the next challenge is deciding how many repetitions of the exercise to do, and how many sets. 

At first, this may sound like a daunting task. With a little insight, though, you can become your own personal trainer. 

When it comes to strength training, there are a few laws to live by when putting together a program, a day's workout, or even a single exercise.

What Are My Goals?

First and foremost, you should know what your goals are.

Without knowing your goals, it's impossible to know the proper number of sets and reps you should do for each exercise. Once you identify your goals, it's important to understand the general guidelines of set- and rep-schemes.

The number of reps refers how many times you complete a movement or exercise. The number of sets refers to how many times you perform the group of reps.

For example, if you're doing back squats for three sets of 10 reps, you'll put the weight on your back and do 10 squats in a row, and then re-rack the weight to complete one set. You'll repeat the sequence two more times to achieve three total sets.

Endurance


  • 3 to 5 sets, 15 to 20 reps

If endurance is your thing, a high number of reps will help you reach your goals. 

Think of strength training in the same concept as doing aerobic exercise. The longer your aerobic exercise can last, the better endurance capacity you hold. 

When performing 15 to 20 repetitions of an exercise, you're teaching the body to be able to withstand an extended duration of stress. This type of lifting won't make you the strongest person in the gym, but it will help you burn calories and build endurance.

Because the rep scheme is so high, you won't be able to lift as much weight. A recommended weight is one you can use to complete the entire set while still using proper form throughout. 

  • 1
  • of
  • 2
NEXT

About the Author

Jake Bernards

Jake Bernards is a PhD student studying Sport Physiology and Performance at East Tennessee State. As a former collegiate football player, sports and movement are a way of life for Jake. He enjoys anything outdoors, including surfing, hiking and golf. Follow Jake on Twitter.

Jake Bernards is a PhD student studying Sport Physiology and Performance at East Tennessee State. As a former collegiate football player, sports and movement are a way of life for Jake. He enjoys anything outdoors, including surfing, hiking and golf. Follow Jake on Twitter.

Discuss This Article