How Many Sets and Reps Should I Do?

Are you new to the gym?  Not quite sure where to start? Well this article is for you.
There is a lot of talk about sets, reps, rest and percentages and it’s very easy to get confused. In this article I’ll breakdown exactly what is meant by Sets and Reps, Strength Components and ultimately how many Sets and Reps you should be performing.

First of all…

What is a rep?
One rep (or repetition) is the completion of a movement or exercise from start through to finish.

What is a set?
A set is a series of completed repetitions.

For example, if I was to complete 2 sets of 6 repetitions of the squat I would firstly complete 6 repetitions (Set 1), have a short rest and then complete another 6 repetitions (Set 2).

So, now we’ve determined the definitions, we can move on to the question – how many sets and reps should I be performing?

The answer is … it depends. There is no “magic number” for sets and reps and the number you should complete is entirely dependant on your training goal. Therefore, the very first thing you need to do (if you’ve not done it already) is to think about what exactly it is you want to achieve in the gym. Perhaps you want to become stronger? Or maybe you’re training for a long distance endurance event? If you’re not sure what it is you want to improve on, the following strength component definitions may help..

Strength Components

The ability to generate a maximal amount of force as quickly as possible. Combination of Strength and Speed.

The amount of force a muscle or muscle group can exert to resist an external force.

Muscular growth / increase size of muscle cells

Muscular Endurance
The ability for a muscle or muscle group to continually work for a prolong period without fatiguing.

Set and Reps for Strength-Specific Goals

So, you’ve now determined what it is you wish to improve on. The below table should help you determine how many sets and reps you should be completing for your specific goal. The table comes from the American College of Sports Medicine and is advice for Beginner / Intermediate Individuals.


For more Advance individuals, the following table should be adhered to. The only difference that exists between the two tables are the number of sets and reps for both Muscular Strength and Hypertrophy.


A couple of examples..
If I am hoping to improve lower body endurance, I would typically complete 2-4 sets of 10-25 repetitions for all lower body exercises (such as Deadlift, Squat, Lunge…).
Or perhaps I’m looking to improve my upper body power. If so, I would complete 1-3 sets of 3-6 repetitions for all upper body exercises (such as Bench Press, Bent Row, Tricep Press..)

So there you have it. A very brief overview of Sets and Reps.
Now, go out there and apply it to your own training!

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