How Many Reps and Sets Should I Do?

NumbersMany people new to exercise have posed the question “how many sets and reps should I be doing?” This is an excellent question, and although the answer can turn rather complicated, I would like to use the KISS principal and keep it super simple (yeah, that last “S” stands for stupid, but I don’t want to be rude)!

When beginning an exercise program, training with lower weight and higher repetitions is something I encourage. You need to build up strength in the muscles, but more importantly the muscle tendons. If you load on weight too quickly, you’ll increase your chances of damaging these tendons; and they take longer to heal than muscles due to less blood supply. I typically suggest 3 sets of 15 repetitions with 30-60 seconds of rest in between sets. However when it comes to muscle endurance, a range of 3-6 sets and 12-20 reps is recommended.

If you’re relieved because you do not have to lift heavy weights, then just hold on a second! I never said this is going to be easy! If you can complete 15 repetitions without any struggle…well stop being a sissy and go a little heavier! By the third set, you should be unable, or barely able to complete those last couple of repetitions. You need to use a weight that offers a challenge, or you won’t accomplish much when it comes to gains in strength and body composition.

The next question that usually follows is “how many exercises should I do?” Again, let’s keep this short and to the point. You should aim to complete 1-2 exercises for each major muscle group. This will be considered a full body workout and should be performed 2-3 times a week. If you plan on lifting more often, a split routine may be better for you.

I would like to offer you 2 routines that are great for beginners, one can be completed in the weight room, and the other can be done without equipment at home. You can stick to the 3 sets of 15 reps, or choose within the range suggested above.

In the weight room:

  1. Leg Press Machine
  2. Seated Row Machine
  3. Chest Press Machine
  4. Dumbbell Lateral Raises
  5. Back Extension Machine
  6. Dumbbell Biceps Curl
  7. Triceps Extension Machine
  8. Plank

At home, without equipment:

  1. Traveling Lunges (choose an even #)
  2. Push-ups
  3. Supermans
  4. Jumping Jacks
  5. Wall Sit (30s)
  6. Plank (30s)
  7. High Knees (even #)

You can easily turn the at home workout into a circuit by taking little to no breaks in between moves. Feel free to use time instead of reps (i.e. 1 min performing each exercise) or use repetitions and see how many rounds you can complete in 20-30 minutes.

If you are unsure how to do any of the exercises in the weight room routine, I would hope there is a trainer or fitness staff available to show you how it’s done. If not, most of the exercises use machines, and the machines should have the name written on it  along with how to set it up and execute the movement.

Thank-you for stopping by!


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