How Many Sets And Reps?

Some people say one set is fine if you break down the muscle. Others believe in 10-12 sets and some do as many as 20 sets per body part. The bottom line to this is you have to be the one to determine which is best for you.

This is a question that I see a lot on many messageboards. Some people say one set is fine if you break down the muscle. Others believe in 10-12 sets and some do as many as 20 sets per body part! The bottom line to this is that you have to be the one to determine what is best for you.

Plateau Prevention

As you may have read in my previous articles, I believe the best way to avoid plateaus is to keep your body guessing. One week I may do 8-10 sets per body part, then the next do 20 sets. This way my body never gets accustomed to any certain one. I am constantly growing because of this way of training.

What's A Plateau?
A level of attainment or achievement in weight loss or bodybuilding where one gets "stuck in a rut", barring further progress or noticable results. As obvious as it may seem, if you continue to do the same thing, you will continue to get the same results. Click here for tips on breaking through plateaus.

The main rule to remember is to always listen to your body. If you don't feel like you can do 20 sets then don't. Never risk an injury for the sake of squeezing out a few more sets.

One Set Vs. Multiple Sets

I have seen where a lot of people believe that you can do just one set of each exercise, if performed properly, and it will do as much good as 5 sets per exercise.

Well, this has never worked for me, honestly, but I do recommend to anyone to go ahead and give it a shot. What works for one may not work for another. Lee Priest believes in doing 20 sets per body part where Dorian Yates believed in doing 1 or 2 sets per exercise.

Lee Priest Dorian Yates
Click Image To Enlarge.
Lee Priest And Dorian Yates.


My advice? Try all types - do 20 sets, go heavy for just 3-6 reps, go to failure, try doing a 100-rep set and try using the negative training method. All of these have worked for me. I also recommend changing up what you do every 4-6 weeks.

A Primer On Eccentric Repetitions (a.k.a. Negatives)! A Primer On Eccentric Repetitions (a.k.a. Negatives)!
Negatives are touted as the most effective approach to muscle growth after having worked up to your 5RM with positives. Herein, a simple model is provided to demonstrate the effectiveness of negative repetitions.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Try all of them and see what works best for you. For example, for 4 weeks I will do 3 sets for 3-4 different exercises for 6-8 reps going very heavy. Then the next week I may do 3 sets of 3 exercises to complete failure.

Then the next week I may do 20 sets doing 8-12 reps. Then the next week I may superset my body parts or do one big giant set. I also change some of the exercises I do for a body part from week to week.

What's A Superset?
A superset is the alternating back and forth between two (or more) exercises until the prescribed number of sets is complete, usually with no rest between exercises. There are various types of supersets, however.

Find more definitions in our glossary.

The thing that I recommend to all of you is to try many different sets and reps routines and document how it worked for you. Never listen to anyone else if they say it doesn't work.

In bodybuilding, remember everyone's body is different. What works for you may not work at all for someone else. This goes for supplements as well, but I will cover that in a later article.

Good Luck!

Todd Blue
Go Heavy Or Go Home
"Think Big, Eat Big, Lift Big To Get Big"

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