How Many Sets and Reps?

“Coach, how many sets and reps should I do?”

I’ve heard this question at least 1,000 times. It sounds easy, but depending on your goals, the answer can vary greatly. Let’s dive right into it.

Before we can determine the correct amount of sets and reps to do for an exercise, we must first specify what our #1 goal is. For the sake of keeping it simple, we’re gonna use 4 of the most common fitness goals, and here they are:

  • Muscular Endurance
  • Muscular Hypertrophy
  • Muscular Strength
  • Power Development

Depending on your goals, the sets, reps and rest intervals will be completely different.

And if you’re saying “All 4 of those are goals of mine”, then you need to prioritize which is most important for now, because it’s not ideal to develop them all simultaneously.

Let’s chat:

1.) Muscular Endurance –

Endurance means we are training our body and muscles to be able to withstand physical activities for long durations of time. Think activities like: Running a Marathon, Triathalon, Swimming, Rowing. These are just a few examples, but you get the idea.

People targeting Muscular Endurance will be aiming for a range of 12-20+ reps. Remember, the goal for this type of athlete is not to lift heavy weights. Obviously, that means we’re using lighter loads, probably below 50% of your 1RM, so we can do 20+ repetitions.

The rest intervals when training for Muscular Endurance should be very short, in a range from 30-60 seconds. Don’t underestimate the importance of rest intervals!

Reps for Muscular Endurance: 12-20+

2.) Muscular Hypertrophy (Muscle SIZE)

This one is for all of you looking to put on muscle mass, and grow larger muscles. The scientific term here is “Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy,” as it focuses on increasing the amount of sarcoplasm, the non-contractile fluid found in your muscle.

If your looking to get bigger:

  • Aim for 8-12 reps per set
  • Set a target of 3-5 sets per exercise
  • DON’T DO 15+ exercises everyday. Stick with 4-7 exercises and hit them hard!
  • Rest periods should be around 60-90 seconds
  • Use Weights that are challenging, but don’t shorten your range of motion

Reps for increased muscle size: 8-12

3.) Muscular Strength

Strength is KING!

If you’re training to improve at a specific sport, and need to get stronger and more powerful, then look no further. This is where you should spend most of your time.

Every athlete in existence NEEDS strength.

When training for strength, we should aim for a range of 1-6 reps with heavier weights. Yes, I know that’s a big range, but it truly depends on what level you are at and what goals you have.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When we begin using heavier weights and the focus is on strength, it puts a great amount of stress on our Central Nervous System (CNS). This means that it is going to take much longer to recover, so we need to aim for 2-5 minutes of rest between sets. Without the proper amount of rest, you will significantly hurt your ability to gain strength.

Powerlifters train this exact same way. But, I’m not saying that you need to be a powerlifter. We just need to use the same philosophies that they use.

Reps for Strength: 1-6

4.) Power Development

This is where athletes begin to separate themselves from the pack.

A more explosive athlete is usually the one who wins.

Most of this type of training comes from Plyometrics and Speed Training. However, there are tons of exercises that we can do with weights to improve our Power Development, such as:

  • Hang Cleans
  • Power Cleans
  • Trap Bar Jumps
  • Medicine Ball Throws

When training for Power, we need to keep the focus on intent and giving max effort for every rep. That’s the only way to get more explosive. To do this, we need to keep our reps low. Target a range of 2-5 reps with lighter loads, but move them explosively!

Reps for Power Development: 2-5 reps and do them EXPLOSIVELY!

I realize this is a lot to figure out, so if you are somebody – like me – who just wants to be told EXACTLY what to do, then I’ve got you covered.

I’d love to hop on a phone call with you to talk about your goals and get you setup with a program that is custom built for you.

Published by Jonathan Valentini,

B.A. Exercise Science, Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach, Former NCAA athlete, CSCS, CSAC, CPR/AED

2 thoughts on “How Many Sets and Reps?

  1. What’s the cost for a specific arm workout to develope strength to throw harder and speed routine to get faster. For my 16 yr old ?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: