How Many Sets & Reps Should You Do Per Exercise?

Ok so i have been asked this questions so many..

How Many Sets & Reps Should You Do Per Exercise?

Ok so i have been asked this questions so many times! how many sets should i do and how many reps?

Hopefully i am going answer all of you’re questions below.

What you need to figure out is what you really want to accomplish!.  Think about sprinters versus marathon runners. 

A sprinter is built for power and speed in short bursts, so their training sessions exist in small increments (10 second races). 

A marathon runner is built for endurance, which means their training sessions are much longer (hours at a time).  Working out is no different. 

Decide below what you want to get out of a workout, and then read how to get there:

For gaining strength and power:

This is if your happy with your size and you just want to gain some strength, power and maybe even some mass.

You would need to keep increasing the weight and at the same time lower your reps, the rest time between sets should be no longer than 4-5 minutes.

You’re going to be lifting crazy amounts of weight for sometimes just 1 repetition, so you need to have a spotter and absolutely perfect form or you could severely hurt yourself.

How power lifters train.  Low reps, high weight, long time between sets.

For example with a 100lbs bench for your heavy set

  • 1st – Bar x 12 reps
  • 2nd – 30kg x 10 reps
  • 3rd – 40kg x 8 reps
  • 4th – 50kg x 6 reps

You might add a 5th working set in that’s the same as the 4th if you want, then you could do a 6th of 40kg by 10

For muscle endurance:

These are the sort of set and rep ranges you want to try and achieve if your looking to gain endurance from your workouts, and the reps can go as high as you like.

Obviously you won’t be able to lift heavy amounts of weight for 20 reps, so you’ll be lifting lighter loads.

Also, because you’re going for endurance, you want to decrease the amount of rest between sets.  30 Seconds to a minute, but certainly no more.

  1. 3 sets x 12 reps
  2. 4 sets x 15 reps
  3. 3 sets x 20 reps

But you can go more intense depending on your conditioning levels.

For muscle building:

This is for you guys looking to build muscle size (hard gainers).  Hypertrophy is essentially the enlarging of cells, which means when it happens to your muscles, they get bigger!

These are the sort of sets and reps you want to aim for when muscle building. 

I find this is best accomplished by doing between 3-5 sets, each time increasing the weight and decreasing the reps. (12 reps at 200 lbs, 10 reps at 220 lbs, 8 reps at 240 lbs, etc.) 

Rest time between sets should be short, not as short as for endurance…between 60 and 90 seconds.  I wait 1 minute between sets.

  • 3 sets x 8 reps
  • 4 sets x 8 reps
  • 3 sets x 10 reps

You can increase the sets but i would advice going over 12 reps per set as you will fall into the endurance category.

Just remember you muscle can plateau and your muscles can get “used” to working out and slow down growth?  If that’s something you’re battling, here’s a way to keep them guessing. 

Spend a week in a different rep range with different amounts of weight to throw them off. 

Generally doing the 12-10-8-6 reps per set routine? 

Bump up the weight and do sets of 6-3-1, waiting much longer between sets (and using a spotter). 

After a week of mixing it up, go back to your regularly scheduled routine and you’ll be right back on track.

Hope this has helped!

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Daniel Messer, RNutr, CPT

We eat clean, are always motivated and helpout beginners in need. We sell guides on Cutting, Bulking and Muscle Building. Checkout our website!

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