How Many Sets? How Many Repetitions?
So you might have picked up weightlifting relatively recently or you may just be wondering if there's a method to the madness or people are just arbitrarily doing different sets and rep ranges depending on their mood. I'm sure you've heard of people doing 3 sets of 10-8-6 or 12-10-8, 4 sets of 10, 3 sets of 15, 5 sets of one minute each-- etc. etc. It can be overwhelming! What should you be doing?
The truth is, and you may not like to hear this, but it depends. Yup, it depends on your goals and what you are trying to achieve. Are you looking to just get stronger? Build muscle size? Or build endurance for thinner, leaner muscles? Depending on your goal, I have the recommended sets and repetitions below just for you.
If you are going after building strength, I recommend doing 5-10 repetitions of 5-6 sets. Since the repetition count is so much lower than the other three, you'll be a lot closer to your maximum weight here for the specific exercise. If you can bench press 225 pounds, you might go for 190-200 pounds for 4 sets of 5. Make sure you have a spotter though!
MAKE SURE you pick a weight, for whatever goal, that has you struggling to barely finish by the last 1-2 repetitions! That is how you'll break up the muscle tissue and have it grow.
If you are going for muscle size (hypertrophy), I recommend doing 10-15 repetitions of 3-5 sets. You are increasing the time your muscles are under tension by increasing the repetition count so make sure you are lowering the weight and able to actually finish the count.
Lastly, if you are going for muscle endurance, you will focusing on distance rather than strength here. Think of this as being the long distance runner compared the the strength builder as the sprinter. If you are trying to lean out or lose more weight, this would be the recommended rep and set range for you! I recommend 15-20 repetitions of 2-4 sets. The weight should be about 40-60% of your maximum (please gauge and you can always readjust on the next set).
So decide what your goal is to begin with-- if you are starting off as a lifter, I recommend building strength first and then working your way into hypertrophy at least for the first few months. Comment below with questions or you can sign up for online coaching with me and we can dive into specifics!
Keep learning, keep growing, and keep pushing yourself!