Reps and sets. Do you know why you’re doing what?

The range of reps and sets you do correlates to which muscle fibre types you are targeting. They all have their place and they can all be used in conjunction with each other to reach your goals.

They are 3 types of training.

1- Endurance

2- Hypertrophy

3. Strength.

An easier way to remember this if you’re not down with the liguo is to think: Longer. Bigger. Stronger.

Endurance training means you can go on for longer.

Hypertrophy means to increase muscle size- bigger.

Strength means to get stronger… obviously.

Endurance training recruits type 1 muscle fibres, (see more info on muscle fibre types in my previous blog post about genetics)

    When endurance training you are looking to use a rep range of 12-20 and completing 2-3 sets with 30 second rest time in between them. Aim to use a weight that you can manage for the full set, but you should find it’s a struggle towards the end for the last couple of reps. If you feel like you can carry on and do another 10, then the weight isn’t heavy enough and you’re basically going to get a better workout by pouring milk into a cup of tea. This is where most women get it wrong, they do countles reps with a weight that would barely challenge a 2 year old… I should know, I have one! Men tend to go the opposite way and do too heavy a weight and are not able to complete the full reps and sets… which takes you into hypertrophy training. You need to keep the tempo at a steady speed, making sure you’re not using momentum to get the lift, bringing the weight up should be the same speed as bringing the weight down and it needs to be controlled to the very final part of the movement. If you need to use momentum to get the weight up then it’s likely that it’s too heavy for this type of training.


Hypertrophy training recruits more type 2a muscle fibres.

    The rep range you’re looking at here is 8-12, and completing 2-3 sets with around 1-2 minute rest period between sets. As with endurance training you should be choosing a weight that is challenging towards the end of the sets. If you get to rep 12 and you can still push for another few reps then this isn’t a true set and you have basically just used your warm up weight… but congratulations on that, you’re obvioulsy stonger than you think!


Strength training recruits more type 2b muscle fibres.

    The rep range for strength is between 1-6 reps, completeing 3-5 sets and resting for 3-5 minutes between sets. There is a lot of importance of rest time particularly for strength training as too short a rest time will mean the energy system this type of training requires, will not be replenished and you’ll be targetting more hypertrophy training rather than strength. While there is no doubt that hypertrophy training will build strength it focus’s more on muscle size, whereas using strength training rep and set ranges is optimal for building strength, therefore you’ll see quicker progress if getting stronger is what you’re aiming for.

Ok so that’s a basic run down of what you need to be looking at for whatever your goal may be. This doesn’t mean that when you write a plan of your own you should only stick to one type of training for your session, you can mix them up and do strength and hypertrophy training on the same muscle group in the same session.

For example if you’re looking at leg day and you want to increase strength but also want to grow size, then choose the exercises you want to use to target the legs, for instance, use a compound exercise for strength training, ie a squat or leg press, this targets several muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves) so is great for strength training, then choose an isolation exercise like leg extension which targets the quads and then use the hypertrophy training rep and set range on that.

So a simple overview of this example is this: Big compound exercises works more muscles for overall stength and the isolation exercise is used to target the muscles you want to increase in size, which for legs is usually the quads, hence why I have used this example.

If you’re trying to fathom out why a trainer has written certain things in your programme this guide should help make it a bit clearer, however if you have just read this and you feel your programme hasn’t been written to meet your goal then speak to your trainer and ask them. If they can’t tell you exactly why they have picked an exercise and what it’s doing for you then you need to find yourself a new trainer… or of course you can drop me an email and we can design a tailor made programme to get you started.

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