“How many reps and sets should I do when I lift weights?” Understanding acute variables.

Do you ever wonder if you are doing the right amount of repetitions and sets when you are weight training? Changing the number of reps, sets and other acute variables can drastically change your results. Learn the correct way to determine these numbers and hit your fitness goals.

Repetitions (one complete motion of an exercise) and sets (group of consecutive repetitions) are both examples of acute variables. According to NASM, acute variables determine the amount of stress placed on the body. The amount of stress placed on the body determines how the body will adapt to specific demands. In short, specific acute variables lead to specific adaptations.

Other acute variables include rest intervals, repetition tempo, exercise selection, training intensity and more. Training intensity is based off your 1 rep maximum (1RM). Look for a post about how to determine your 1RM soon. For now let’s focus on reps, sets, rest intervals and training intensity.

Follow these NASM guidelines as you train for your specific goals.

Goal: Muscular Endurance

If your goal is to get in shape, start working out, or to lose a few pounds, this is where you want to start.

  • 12-20 reps
  • 1-3 sets
  • 0-90 seconds rest
  • 50-70% 1RM

Goal: Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy is the enlargement of skeletal muscle. This is a more common goal for men. If you want bulk up follow these guidelines.

  • 6-12 reps
  • 3-5 sets
  • 0-60 seconds rest
  • 75-85% 1RM

Goal: Maximal Strength

This type of training is for those who want to increase their 1 rep maximum and overall strength.

  • 1-5 reps
  • 4-6 sets
  • 3-5 minutes rest
  • 85-100% 1RM

Next time you workout, use these suggestions to help guide your reps, sets and rest intervals.

Certified Personal Trainer

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