How many reps and sets do I need?

Sooooo often we get asked what our training routines are, or how many reps and sets someone should be doing… But the thing is, it’s totally dependant upon your own training goal. We’ve put together a simple breakdown of different types of training so you can get the results you want in the gym…

Before even beginning to get bogged down with the ins and outs of lifting and training styles, it’s important to just get into the gym and get comfortable with some basic lifts. The fact that you’re shifting any weight to begin with is a progression from your previous training. Practice proper form before increasing weight.

You want bigger booties, more shape and curves?

Then you need to train for hypertrophy. For muscles to grow they need to be overloaded with heavy resistance. You could train body parts separately, or do two together, which ever way suits your time availability best, but what’s important to remember is that you:

1- will need intermittent rest days to allow your body to recover- don’t underestimate this part, it is during this recovery time when the muscles are made

2- have a fully balanced programme, hitting all muscle groups equally.

Look to do a minimum of 3 exercises per body part. Aim to do 3-4 sets, anything between 8-12 repetitions. If you get to the end of a set and feel like you could still do more repetitions, you need to crank the weight up! Don’t be fooled by ‘the more the better’ when it comes to reps and sets- if technique and tempo is correct, you won’t need any more than 4 sets, trust.

You don’t want any muscle size (WHaaaaaaaT?!) and just want to ‘tone’?

So firstly, toning isn’t really a thing. What toning means is a reduction in body fat which makes the muscles more visible and hence they look more toned. So we’re talking about fat loss. Strength training and increased muscle mass can actually result in fat loss due to an increased metabolism, but if you don’t want to lift heavy then endurance or ‘volume’ training is for you. This involves using a lighter weight than you would for strength training, and for lots of repetitions. Aim to do anything between 4-6 sets, 15-20 repetitions. Rest periods should be no longer than 30 seconds. This will give you a slightly different sensation of fatigue to strength training- by the end of a volume set you will feel the lactic acid build up and your muscles will ache! Endurance sets would be great as a part of a little circuits session which you could design yourself. Pick about 5/6 exercises and go for a certain amount of time or reps for exercise, with minimal rest between exercises.

For example…

barbell lunges 20 reps, overhead press 20 reps, barbell curtsey squats 20 reps, upright rows 20 reps. 10 seconds rest between each exercise, 1 minute rest after the full circuit, repeat the circuit 3 times.

Again, don’t forget to include rest days in your programme.

You want to be able to do pull ups or heavy squats?

Then strength training is for you. Aim for 2-4 sets, no more than 6 repetitions. The weight load should be very heavy, you may even need a spotter to assist you. If you are training without a spotter, opt for machines such as the smith machine where you are able to latch the load onto the bars if you can’t finish a rep.

If you wanna be a pro…

An advanced technique to help increase your strength is negative reps. This means you are focusing on the part of the lift when the muscle is lengthening rather than shortening, and you perform it very slowly (e.g. 6 seconds). This is a great way to help you with pull ups, for example, if you cannot lift your body weight yet. Stand on a box below the bar so you can jump up to get you to the top of the pull up position, hold it at the top, then slowly lower yourself down. You’ll find you’ll fatigue after just a few reps!

Which type of training is for me?

There’s no reason why you can’t mix things up and use different training protocols. Some people like to do a combination of endurance and strength training, as then you can reap the physiological benefits of two different training types (for example, you will be able to lift heavier weights as well as use your muscles for longer periods of time). You could train strength one day, endurance the next, or mix it up in session… the possibilities are endless.

One last thing…

I know, we nag about this a lot, but it really is important guys… nutrition! Especially post workout! You can train and train and train, give it all you’ve got, but without the right foods to fuel your bodies you just won’t achieve the optimum results. Now that refers to both eating crappy foods as well as under eating! Check out our nutrition posts for more info about all that…

Happy training!

Ella and Laura xxx