Program Design

The fourth post in my Program Design Mini-Series will teach you how to choose reps and sets.

If you’ve been following along, then you’ve set your training goal, selected your exercises, and arranged those exercise into individual workouts.

Today, you’ll continue to build those workouts by selecting your reps and sets.

Program Design Part 4 — Reps and Sets

When I started my career, I worked as a trainer in a big box gym.  I spent a lot of time there.  Between working with clients and training myself, I was probably there 50-60 hours a week.

When I wasn’t working with a client, I used to watch what other members were doing.  There were a few mistakes that I noticed members making time and time again…

  1. They would do the same workouts day in and day out.
  2. They would only perform the standard 3 sets of 10 reps.
  3. Most of them never varied the weight.

In Part 2 of this series I touched upon the importance of exercise variability.  The same principle applies here:  You must constantly manipulate the variables in your training program if you want to see continued progress.

In addition to program variability, you also need to consider specificity.  Choose your reps and sets based on your training goal.

Program Design Step 8:  Choose your rep and set ranges

Here are some general guidelines to help you choose reps and sets  based on your goals:

Program Design - Rep Ranges

Program Design - Set Ranges

Remember, these numbers are just general guidelines and they can be manipulated in many ways depending on your training experience, the number of exercises included in your workout, time under tension, rest, etc.

As a general rule, if you increase the number of reps, you should decrease the number of sets, and vice versa.  Additionally, if you use fewer reps per set, you should increase the intensity by using a heavier load.

NOTE: You don’t have to use the same rep/set scheme for every exercise.  For example, I’ll often use lower reps, higher sets, and higher intensity for primary lifts than I will for accessory lifts.

You’ll probably have to do a bit of experimentation to determine what combination of reps and sets your body best responds to.  Choose a rep and set scheme based on your training goal, try it out for a 3-6 weeks, and see how it goes.

Alight…so know you know how to set your training goal, choose your exercises, outline your weekly training schedule, arrange your exercises into individual workouts, and choose rep/set ranges.  In Part 5, I’ll discuss load and intensity.

Check back soon for that post.  Or better yet, complete the form below for weekly insider updates.

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