• Robbie Hannon

How many reps and sets?: Rest edition.

  • THIS ANSWER WILL SHOCK YOU… It depends, various methods work, as long as you workout enough it doesn’t really matter. _ I know, that’s the worst answer ever so allow me to go deeper. A study from 2017 showed that longer rest periods (3 minutes versus 1 minute) between sets, using the same weight, contributed to more strength and muscle growth. This was attributed to more total volume, i.e. because they rested more, the participants were able to do more reps during each set. _ Now this doesn’t give any indication of what would happen if the low-rest group just did another set to make up for the lack of reps. It also doesn't tell us whether more rest would contribute to more strength or muscle growth. So it really only tells us what seems obvious: if you do more work, you’ll get more results. _ On the other hand, other studies suggest that less rest increases the metabolic demand of the muscle therefore signaling more growth response. It should be noted that “less rest” was set at a time that didn’t allow enough recovery to hit the same weight for the same reps; either less reps or less weight was used each set. (Think drop-sets or pyramids). _ So how should you structure your rest periods? Like this: As much as necessary & as little as possible. How do you figure that out? The first question you need to ask is “what’s the main objective?” If it’s strength i.e. you want to lift heavier weights over time, you need to be working with the heaviest weights you, safely, can. So you would need to rest enough to allow yourself to hit the prescribed number of reps each set (check out the strength edition of this to figure that out). If your objective is mainly muscle growth, you need you be increasing total volume over time (check out the muscle growth edition). So your total volume (reps x sets x weight) will need to increase. E.g; A: 200lbs x 8 reps x 3 sets = 4800. B: 175 x 12 reps x 3 sets = 6300. Theoretically speaking, B would stimulate more muscle growth. _ However, this is not a law of biology. Waaayyy more factors have to be taken into account...continued in comments


like; genetic tendencies, training experience, intensity of training, frequency of training, nutrition, sleep, stress, additional activities, technical skill when doing the exercise etc. So, like most things, there’s no BEST way. You have to pick one that sounds suitable and stick with it for a few weeks. _ If you’re training yourself, this is just how it goes; make an educated guess and work your ass off to gauge its effectiveness. If you don’t want to guess you’ll need to work with someone who has enough experience working with loads of different people to be able to pick up on the nuances and judge what’s best for you. _ If you want to try something new, here’s 2 suggestions: 1: Pick a weight that you can do about 10 reps of. Time yourself to see how long it takes you to do 30 reps (regardless of sets). Try to do it faster next time. 2: Take the same weight. See how many reps you can get in 5 minutes (regardless of sets). Try to get more reps next time. _ The takeaway from this is, there’s no 1 way that will be best for everyone. You have to lift with good technique, you have to train with intensity, you have to be consistent, you have to get the other factors in order and you have to keep it up for a long time. If all those are in effect, your rest will just come down to what you prefer.



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