How many sets and reps should you do?
The truth is, there is no single best rep range for fat loss, gaining muscle, or “toning up”. There’s actually no such thing as “toning” at all but I’ll save that for another post.
The reason it’s not so clear cut and dry is because muscle growth isn’t determined solely by how many sets or reps you do, but also by how you perform the exercise, the tempo you use, how you let your muscles recover, and of course the foods you eat on a daily basis, among other things.
So the short answer is, you should do a combination of them all. This infographic is just to give you an idea of which ranges are typically best for muscular endurance, muscle size, and maximum strength.
The bottom line is, if you are consistent with your workouts, and you are pushing yourself and progressively increasing the weight over time, you are going to see progress.
That said, there are some general rules you can follow to help you structure your workouts. Again, these are not the only right way to strength train, they are just guidelines.
Muscle Endurance: The 12-20+ rep range can typically be saved for the end of your workout, with the focus being isolation work on smaller muscle groups like biceps and triceps AFTER you’ve hit the major muscle groups (legs, chest, or back) with some strength work. Rest time between sets is the shortest in this range at 30-60 seconds. Also, this high rep range is good for timed circuits using bodyweight exercises like push-ups and sit-ups.
Muscle Size: Also known as “hypertrophy”, this should typically come after your heavy lifts in the beginning of your workout. 3-5 sets, 6-12 reps, with 60-120 seconds rest between sets.
Muscle Strength: The focus here will generally be on compound movements like squats, deadlifts, or presses in the beginning of your workout. These are the heaviest lifts that involve your major muscle groups as mentioned earlier. 4-6 sets, 1-5 reps, with as long as 3-5 minute rest in between sets in order to allow for full recovery.
Committed To Your Health,
Brian Donovan is a certified fitness and nutrition coach, and the founder of Online Fitness Coach, LLC – an online fitness program where clients get direct coaching and personally tailored training and nutrition plans. Coach Brian was voted Chicago’s “Best Personal Trainer” by Chicago Reader magazine, Best Of Chicago 2014 edition. He has been featured in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness, Chicago Reader, Voyage Chicago, and The PTDC as well various other health and fitness blogs.
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