How many reps should I do?
How many reps should I do? avatar

It depends on your goal(s).

The number of reps will depend on what you are trying to accomplish and may change from time to time.

I can’t tell you how many times a day I get asked by my personal training clients, “How many reps should I be doing?”  My answer is always the same, “What are you trying to accomplish?”

The number of reps and sets depends on your desired goals. Do you want to build strength, increase endurance, gain power, or get really big muscles (or hypertrophy).  

The table below is a general guide to how many reps and sets you should do for different goals.

Reps and sets for different goals

Goal Reps Sets
Strength 1-6 3-4
Power 6-8 2-3
Endurance 15+ 2-3
Muscle size (hypertrophy) 6-12 4-5

 

Exercise Intensity

When performing resistance training (weight training), except power training, you should perform the exercise at a slow and study pace. As a general guide, I count to two for lifting the weight and to four when lowering it.  Power training, on the other hand, combines the lifting of a heavy weight with speed of motion, so the action will generally be quicker.

The weight that you choose should be such that you can perform the number of reps appropriate for your goal (maintaining good form) but no more. You need to exercise to failure. If you find that you can perform more than the number of reps in the table above, it is time to increase the resistance. If you cannot perform enough repetitions, then the weight you are using is too heavy. Because exercising to failure does place a lot of strain on your body, I don’t recommended this for beginners.

How Long Should I Rest Between Sets?

Again the duration of rest between sets depends upon your desired goal. The table below gives a guide:

Goal Duration of rest
Strength 4-6 minutes
Power 4-6 minutes
Endurance 30-60 seconds
Hypertrophy (muscle size) 1-2 minutes

Your muscles use creatine phosphate as their source of energy. Once the creatine phosphate has been used up, the muscle fatigues. In other words, it can’t lift any more until the creatine phosphate reserves are replenished. When you rest in between sets, your strength returns because the creatine phosphate builds up again in your muscles. In the first 30 seconds of recovery, about 50% of the creatine phosphate is replenished and 75% at one minute with the rest being replenished within about 3 minutes of recovery.

Periodization

Over time, your body will adapt to the exercises you do. If variables such as the number of reps, sets and the rest periods remain the same, you will start to notice that you no longer improve. That’s why, on ocassion, I have my clients ‘shock’ their body with a new program about every six weeks. We might increase the weight and decrease the number of reps and even decrease/increase the rest period between sets.

If you are working with a new personal trainer, be sure to tell them what your goals are.  It’s their job to help you develop the right program to meet those goals.

To your health!

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