Are you working to craft the perfect workout routine for building muscle or just toning up? In the world of strength training, the two most important terms you need to know are “sets” and “reps.” Understanding these two fundamental gym concepts can help you structure your workouts and assist you in achieving your desired fitness goals.
So, what are sets and reps? Which one should you focus on in your workout? Our guide will answer all your questions about sets and reps so you can start making progress.
WHAT IS A REP?
A “rep” is short for “repetition” and describes each time you perform the motion of an exercise. For example, if you curl a dumbbell ten times in a row, you just did 10 reps. There is no golden number of workout reps you should do during an exercise, so you’ll have to think about what results you want to achieve through strength training.
You’ll often hear exercises described in one of these three ways:
- High reps – 15 or more reps
- Medium reps – 6 to 12 reps at a time
- Low reps – 1 to 5 reps at a time
The number of reps you do for each exercise can provide different benefits. This number also depends on how much you can handle at one time. If only there were a term for describing multiple repetitions at a time—well, we have good news.
WHAT IS AN EXERCISE SET?
A workout set is simply a combination of reps you complete without resting. Every time you do a sequence of reps in a row, you finish a set—it’s simple math. To paint the picture, when you’ve done 10 dumbbell curls in a row, you’ve completed one set of 10 curls.
Workout sets are typically separated by 30-second to two-minute rest periods in between. Sets help you break down an exercise into segments and can help support further progress. For example, if you try to do 30 curls at one time, you’ll tire out before you get there—unless, of course, the weight is too light.
However, if you do three sets of 10 separated by a short rest, you’re more likely to complete all 30 reps with a challenging weight. Typically, weightlifters aim for three to six sets of each strength training exercise during a workout.
REP VS. SET: WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT?
Now, with an understanding of what sets and reps are, the real question becomes: Which one should you value more during a workout?
Ideally, your workout should focus on balancing enough sets and enough reps to challenge your muscles. Weightlifters usually take one of three approaches for balancing workout reps and sets. Which approach you choose depends on your fitness goals.
LOW-REP, HIGH-WEIGHT WORKOUT
If your goal is to bulk up and improve your strength and power, then you’ll benefit from a low-rep, high-weight strategy. Using fewer reps means adding more sets and allows your muscles to get used to handling heavier weights. This approach is the favorite for bodybuilders and people who want to build strength fast.
HIGH-REP, LOW-WEIGHT WORKOUT
On the other hand, if your goal is to get toned and improve your muscular endurance, you should aim for a high-rep, low-weight strategy. Doing high reps with less weight and fewer sets helps challenge your muscles to keep going under strain. Even if you’re not lifting the heaviest weight you can handle, you are still putting your muscles to work and building strength. Just think about your runner friend and their strong leg muscles.
MEDIUM-REP, MODERATE-WEIGHT WORKOUT
The middle ground approach supports muscle growth with a balance of endurance and power. If you’re new to weightlifting, doing three sets of 10 workout reps at a weight you can handle is a good strategy for balancing a medium amount of sets and reps. This can help you get into the swing of things and allow you to find the right routine for you.
HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR WORKOUT ROUTINE
Building the perfect workout routine is nearly impossible. After all, everyone is different, and there are so many variables. Still, when you create your weekly gym routine, you should consider how many sets you do for each exercise and how many reps you do for each workout set. Your decision will depend on your fitness goals and what works best for you, so your quest for the perfect workout may take some experimenting.
Just remember, the goal of any workout should be to challenge your muscles just the right amount. If you are too tired to keep going just 15 minutes into your training, your exercises might be too intense. However, if you walk out of the gym and don’t feel tired at all, you may not be challenging yourself enough.
You might need to incorporate trial and error into your workouts to determine what approach works best for you. Try a workout routine using different numbers of sets and reps. Over time, you will figure out which seems to leave you feeling the right amount of fatigue.
After a few weeks, you will also be able to tell whether your routine has you making progress. Don’t get discouraged—building a good workout routine means you are constantly adjusting to find what works.
If you have any questions about how to structure your exercise routine, consult with a Personal Trainer. EōS Fitness offers Personal Training to give you the tools and support to succeed no matter your fitness goals.
HOW MANY EXERCISES SHOULD YOU DO PER WORKOUT?
Once you’ve got your sets and reps down, the next step is thinking about how many exercises to do per workout. As with choosing sets and reps, the objective here should be to find the right amount of exercises to get you the right amount of fatigued by the end of the workout.
Generally, a good goal for each workout is to perform about 15-25 total sets. This number means that if you do three sets of each exercise, you might perform five to eight total exercises.
As you think about how many exercises per workout, you should also factor in how much time you have for your workouts. For example, if you plan on doing four to five sets of each exercise with rest in between, it will take longer when you add more exercises.
GET YOUR SETS AND REPS IN AT EōS FITNESS
No matter how you prefer to structure your workout, there is no better place to do it than EōS Fitness. We have a wide selection of strength training equipment to help you make the most of every weightlifting set and workout rep. From state-of-the-art machines to free weights up to 150 lbs., we provide you with the tools you need to build strength and endurance. If you need help getting started, get in touch with one of our Personal Trainers when you sign up, and be sure to take advantage of your Complimentary Welcome Workout.
Find a location near you to start building your strength training routine!