How Many Sets & Reps Should I Do?

One of the most common questions I get from guys is “how many sets and reps should I do?”

There are a lot of variables that go into deciding what the perfect number of sets and reps are.

What exercise are you doing?

What are your goals ?

How long have you been training for?

The list goes on and on…

There is no black and white answer BUT in my experience training others and seeing the results they have gotten, I will share with you what I have found to work.

In today’s post, I will break down how many sets and reps you should do on your main movements. 

When doing the “Big 4”- squat, deadlift, military press and bench press or any of your main movements, keep the reps between 3-5 per set. Using 3-5 reps will hep you overload that lift which is critical to getting bigger and stronger. Strength is a SKILL and if you want to improve that skill , AKA get stronger, then you need to stick to a rep range that is going allow you to practice and train that skill effectively.

Doing sets of 10+ reps on main movements will not help you develop good technique , instead it will actually do the opposite. You see, after you pass a certain point in a set, your technique will break down and you will start to ingrain a bad movement pattern.

So if your main goal is strength, stick to 3-5 reps per set for your core lifts.

Now the question…How many sets should you do?

This will depend on what your goals are and how long you have been training for.

Because strength is a skill, beginners need more practice then advanced lifters.

So for beginners great set and rep ranges are:

5 X 5

6 X 4

5 X 3

6 X 3

8 X 3

10 X 3

And so on…

*The key for beginners is to use straight sets.*

For more advanced lifters, I really like Dan Johns idea of doing 10 total reps. In the past, I’ve tested a lot of different ways to get stronger. High volume, high intensity, a mix of both and so on and so on. I’ve found the best ways for more advanced lifters to get strong is aiming for around 10 total reps on core lifts.

Here are a few examples:

2 X 5

3 X 3

4 X 3

5 X 2

These sets do not have to be straight sets, in fact you should build up as the sets go on. The key here is to get 10 high quality reps in.

Make sure you stay tuned for Part II of How Many Sets & Reps Should I Do where I will tell you the best number of sets and reps to do on supplemental exercises.

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