What are sets and reps in exercise?

By | June 2, 2022


Before you get started with your weight training journey, it becomes essential that you become familiar with certain terminologies that are associated with it.

Even though there are numerous terms associated with weight training, in this post we will be throwing light on two of them.

They are ‘SETS’ and ‘REPS’.

We are pretty sure that you must have heard those terms before. And if you are here, it simply means that you want to know about them in detail.

So without further ado, let’s proceed.

What are reps in exercise?

What are reps in exercise

The term ‘reps’ is the short form of repetitions. A single rep or repetition refers to one complete cycle of any exercise movement.

When you lift a weight, your muscles go through two phases, namely, a contraction phase and an extension phase. In weight training terminology, they are referred to as concentric and eccentric phases respectively.

For instance, when you lift a dumbbell to train your biceps, you curl the weight up by flexing your elbows and contracting your biceps. This action is then followed by extending your elbows and lowering the dumbbell. This complete cycle of lifting and lowering the weight is referred to as a rep.

The number of repetitions that you perform on an exercise has a huge impact on whether it will result in strength gains, hypertrophy gains, or endurance building.

Performing 3-5 reps with heavier weights primarily facilitates strength gains. On the contrary, when you perform 8-12 strict reps with moderate weights, it fetches you with hypertrophy gains.

Usually, the low rep approach is followed on compound lifts such as bench press, squats, deadlift, and overhead press. Individuals resort to lifting heavy on those exercises for maximum strength gains.

However, those exercises can also be performed in the range of 8-12 reps with moderate weights. That will promote hypertrophy gains.

At times, lifters often go up to performing 12-15 reps of a particular exercise with light-moderate weight. This allows them to shock the targeted muscle group along with enhancing its endurance. Exercises like concentration curls, tricep kickbacks, and wrist curls are often performed with higher reps.

In general, it can be said that the number of reps performed on an exercise is primarily dictated by the training goal of the lifter.

What are sets in exercise?

What are sets in exercise

A ‘set’ can be considered as a collection of a particular number of reps. This further means how many times you perform a certain number of reps on an exercise.

For instance, if an individual performs 3 sets of 12 reps on hammer curls, it means that he will be performing 36 reps in total. Those 36 reps will be equally divided among 3 rounds.

The number of sets in a workout program varies depending on one’s physique goals. However, when it comes to training for hypertrophy gains, lifters often perform 4 sets of each exercise.

The first set is considered to be the warm-up set that is performed with light weights to prepare the targeted muscle for the stress. Then for every other set, the weight is increased to adequately stimulate the muscle. This training approach facilitates both strength and size gains.

When it comes to training larger muscle groups (like legs, back, or chest), performing a total of 12 sets in each training session is recommended. This is because performing more sets with various exercises enables you to target different areas of a large muscle group.

On the contrary, smaller muscle groups like triceps, biceps, calves, rear delts, and forearms get adequate stimulation with just 9-10 sets in a training session. Smaller muscle groups are not that complex to train and hence training them with fewer sets is fruitful.

Moreover, when smaller muscle groups are subjected to a high number of sets, they often have the probability of getting overtrained.

What does 1 set of 15 reps mean?

1 set of 15 reps means that you perform 15 continuous repetitions on a certain exercise in 1 round. Usually, such a high number of repetitions are suitable to build muscle hypertrophy.

Also, when it comes to hitting smaller muscle groups like biceps, triceps, and calves, higher repetitions are performed to stimulate them adequately. However, you must keep in mind to use light-moderate weights when you aim to hit 15 or more repetitions on any exercise.

What does 1 set of 10 reps mean?

Performing 1 set of 10 reps means that you will be lifting a certain weight on an exercise for 10 complete repetitions in one round.

Performing 10 reps on an exercise are usually considered an ideal number of reps to facilitate hypertrophy gains. However, if you intend to hit 10 reps on an exercise, you must choose a weight that is around 65-70% of your 1RM.

What do 3 sets of 10 reps mean?

3 sets of 10 reps mean that for a certain exercise you will be performing 3 rounds. And in each round, you will be performing 10 reps.

It further means that you will be performing a total of 30 reps on an exercise divided equally amongst 3 sets.

Usually, the individuals who are just getting started with weight training are recommended to train with such a set/rep scheme. It adequately stresses their muscles which enables them to gain both size and strength.

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Wrapping up

The art of building a physique depends a lot on how you shock your muscle groups. Shocking them stimulates them to grow in size.

One of the best ways to shock your muscle groups is to keep changing the number of sets and reps periodically. When you train your muscles with the same number of sets and reps every single time, your muscles get used to that stress and their growth slows down.

To make optimum strength and size gains, you must keep switching the set/rep scheme of your workout program. This training approach will also eliminate the element of monotony from your workout program.



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