Am I doing too little, or I’m I doing too many reps and sets?
To novice bodybuilders, bodybuilding lingo can be a little confusing. What are reps? What does “to failure” mean? And what is a set count?
Rep or repetition is simply the act of performing a specific move that satisfies a single unit of exercise. In other words, the number of times you perform an exercise.
On the other hand, a set refers to the pre-determined number of repetitions that bodybuilders perform in successions.
What About Volume and Intensity?
Volume and intensity, in my opinion, are the most important aspects of an effective strength training routine, why?
Multiple studies show that to increase muscle size, you should focus on the volume of your workouts. Intensity also matters. Keep reading to find out why.
“intensity is just another word for pain. You should feel that intensity every time you pick up a weight. If I don’t feel the sensation of this intensity down to my bones. Then I know that I must increase my focus and my weight. It gives me great satisfaction.” Claude Groulx.
Rep Count and Set Count
Do you know your limits?
I ask that because knowing your limits can help you surpass them.
1RM in weight training refers to the maximum amount of weight you can lift in one repetition. if you are trying to build muscle or maximum strength, be it for aesthetics or sports, knowing your 1RM is crucial.
Single lifts are not a must, this is simply a measure to ‘activate’ or ‘shock muscles and test your limits.
depending on the amount of weight you lift, there is the risk of putting significant stress on your central nervous system. On top of that, you may get injured, also, one rep max can cause significant damage to the muscle tissue resulting in greater muscle soreness.
1RM Safety recommendation
- Use proper form and a spotter
- Don’t make 1rm a regular thing
- Focus on volume with muscle hypertrophy first
Warning: inexperienced lifters should not perform 1RM strength tests because of the risk involved such as muscle soreness and serious injury.
This brings us to the question:
What Is The Average Rep Count and Set Count?
This is not an easy question to answer. See the thing is, bodybuilders use different formulas to achieve different results. The question you should be asking is, how many sets and reps should I do?
To answer that question, you must first answer a very important question. “what do I want from this workout?”
Your goal will help you create a routine. To create an effective routine, we recommend you keep records of:
What to keep track of
- Exercise performed
- Set counts
- Weight lifted
- Total workout time
For heavy lifts, we recommend 5-8 sets. The rep count can be as high as 15. why 15?
15 or “to failure” increases your endurance. but it has some drawbacks such as muscle fatigue or injury. Also, the amount of weights you can lift past or close to 15 reps is usually not heavy enough to activate fast twitch type 2 muscle fibers.
From experience, training in a moderate rep range let’s say 8-12 reps is the best way to build muscle, why?
- Spares protein
- Increases hormone response
- Sparks muscle damage (helps muscle grow)
When to Increase and Decrease Set and Rep Counts
Just like any other sport, bodybuilding competitors don’t follow a single system when building muscles. That means, in time you will develop your own ‘muscle sense’. What is muscle sense?
The term refers to our ability to perceive the position and movement of our body segments without the aid of vision. As you continue your journey, you will know when to increase and decrease your reps and sets.
In general, during off season, increase your reps and sets but use less weight or resistance. If you are planning to compete soon, increase weight/resistance in every exercise.
The weird thing about your body is that it gets used to routines. For that reason, if you are no longer feeling challenged by your reps and sets routine. You should add a new movement to your repertoire to “shock” your muscles. I recommend 1RM.
Benefits of Increasing or Decreasing Reps
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance training provides benefits such as:
- Improved body composition
- Performance enhancement
- Increased strength and endurance
for example, if your goal is to build lifting power and develop strength, increase resistance so you can only perform a maximum of 5-6 repetitions.
Keep the minimum rep count at 3. If you can lift more than 3 or 6 reps easily, it means that you need to add more weight or resistance.
How to Maintain Muscle Mass
If you stop working out, your muscles will shrink. To avoid that, we recommend you keep resistance high and repetition low. The idea is to continue improving your natural strength without completely exhausting your muscles.
I want to build muscle mass, what should I do?
Am I working too hard or not working hard enough?
Do you know what perceived exertion is? This refers to how hard you feel your body is working. See the thing is. Exercise makes your heart beat faster, it affects breathing and it tires out your muscles.
That’s where the RPE/ Borg scale comes in. This scale is used to measure the intensity of your exercise.
The scale runs from zero to ten, where is zero is nothing at all:
|Exertion||RPE scale||Borg scale (rating perceived exertion, correlates with heart rate)|
|No exertion at all||0||6|
|Extremely light||0.5||7 to 8|
|Very light||1||9 to 10|
|Light (little effort)||2 to 3||11 to 12|
|moderate (requires some effort)||4 to 5||13 to 14|
|Requires a lot of effort (difficult)||6 to 7||15 to 16|
|Very difficult (requires maximum effort)||8 to 9||17 to 18|
|Peak effort||10||19 to 20|
RPE scale example
If you take medications that affect your heart rate or pulse. It is recommended that you use this scale.
When you start working out, asses your RPE from the scale above after some minutes. If you are under 12 (little effort), increase intensity by adding resistance or pick up the pace.
If you are the type of bodybuilder who prefers to keep things heavy all the time. We recommend 6 to 8 reps.
High Reps vs Low Reps: Which is Better?
Both! that is the answer. What do I mean?
The thing is. A combination of high repetition metabolic conditioning and heavy strength training benefits you in the following ways:
- Helps to maintain muscle while losing fat
- Lightweight with high reps alone won’t tone muscle or burn fat
Nutrition is very important here. Make sure that you eat enough protein to maintain muscle. We also recommend:
- Lift moderate or heavy weights 3 to 8 reps twice or thrice per week
- Perfume high intensity interval training twice or thrice per week