After you’ve chosen the exercises your workout will contain, the next step is choosing how many reps and how many sets your workout will include. One of the most important factors in choosing is identifying what your goals are.
Structuring Your Workout for Strength
Your first reps are the ones that are the ones building both maximum and relative strength. When strength is your primary goal, low numbers of reps but higher numbers of sets are the way to go.
The rest between sets gives your muscles time to reset a bit so that you can complete more sets. Two to three reps but ten or more sets can increase your strength over time.
Sets and Reps for Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy, visibly increasing the size of your muscles, involves pushing your muscles to the point where they experience tiny tears known as microtrauma. By mildly damaging the individual muscle fibers, you cause them to increase in size when your body repairs them.
In hypertrophy training, it’s common to do around two to three sets of ten to 15 reps. Choose a weight that is challenging but manageable. If you are doing three sets of 15, the weight you use should be heavy enough that you can’t do more than 15, but not so heavy that you cannot get to 15 in all three sets.
How to Structure for Endurance
Unsurprisingly, the key to building endurance is to work harder and longer. During an endurance workout, you should go for a higher number of reps in every set. Fifteen to 20 reps is a good amount to work muscles longer and increase the amount of time you can go before exhaustion. Because you are doing a high number of reps, two to three sets should be more than adequate.
When you are building endurance, you are also entering the fat-burning zone. This allows your body to rely on fat fuel over carbohydrate fuel during extended exercise.
Structuring Your Workout for Muscle Power
Muscle power differs subtly from muscle strength. While strength is the ability to exert force in each muscle contraction, power is the force production over a short period of time. Examples of force include explosive jumping or fast leg kicks.
To develop power, you’ll want to do many sets of low numbers of reps with heavy weight. Depending on your current level and the weight you choose, this could be four or five sets of three reps, six or seven sets of one to two reps, or even eight sets of a single, high-weight rep.
The Importance of Rest
Rest isn’t just the time between sets. it’s the time you allow for recovery, sleep, and proper nutrition in between your targeted workouts. In most cases, working out three to four days per week can give you results without increasing your risk of injury. Some people choose to work different muscle groups on different days in order to rest each group while still getting regular workouts.
It’s also best to remember that, no matter what your fitness goals, reaching them takes consistency and time. Make a regular habit of workouts that support your goals, gradually increasing intensity as your abilities increase. Over time, you’ll see your body change in the ways you want as you become stronger, more capable, and more defined.