I would like to address the amount of sets to perform for each exercise. By sets I mean groups of repetitions.
There are many theories out there regarding how many sets you should perform. On average they range from one set to ten, sometimes more. I like my clients to perform three sets per exercise. This way I ensure that I have hit their full potential with each exercise.
In many cases, your first set may not be your best. You are still developing that co-ordination required to perform the exercise. It is also your first set you’re using your actual working weight.
Usually the second set feels the best on the muscle. You have adjusted to the working weight and can focus more on each rep. The third set is where you ensure you fatigue the muscle. Ideally, I like to see muscle failure in the lower part of your rep range. So if you are working in the 8-12 rep range, I would like to see my clients hit muscle failure somewhere between 8-10 reps.
Rep ranges will vary from muscle group to muscle group depending on what your goals are for those individual muscle groups. Your body responds to internal or external changes by adapting to these changes.
If your body is challenged to lift a greater amount of weight on a regular basis your body will adapt by increasing the amount of skeletal muscle to make this new demand easier. On the other hand, if your body is required to lift less it will respond by ridding itself of some muscle mass. It’s the old “use it or lose it” philosophy.
The rest you require between sets will depend on the rep range you are in as well as the muscle group you are working. A larger muscle group will require a longer rest period than a smaller muscle group. It obviously is more demanding doing a set of heavy squats than a set of heavy barbell curls, therefore, more rest is required after the squats.<.p>
- Muscle Mass And Strength – If you are trying to add mass and increase strength in a muscle group, keep your reps low (4-6) and weight heavy. This rep range should produce the greatest strength gains. Working in this rep range will require the longest rest times between sets. Depending on your intensity level, you can give yourself up to 5 minutes rest or until your heart rate and breathing return to normal (or close to) levels.
- Muscle Mass: – For primarily increasing mass gains your rep range should be moderate (8-12). This rep range should produce slightly greater gains in mass to the low rep range but will not increase strength as much. Rest between sets at this rep range should be 1-2 minutes at most. Once again, your heart rate and breathing should be relatively close to normal before your next set.
- Maintenance and Endurance – To maintain and or refine a muscle group, your rep range should be high (15-20+). This rep range will increase the muscle group’s endurance to enable your output for a longer period of time. It will cause the least muscle gain and have the least impact on your level of strength. Since you aren’t lifting much weight, your rest between sets here will be in the 30-second range. The lighter weight isn’t very demanding on your body and your breathing and heart rate should be fairly stable throughout the set.