Reps and Sets: Breaking It Down For the Beginner…

There are always newcomers to every activity, so let me give you a heads up on, not only the basic terminology of weight training, but the reasons behind the terms, as well.

You know that resistance training (Including more activities than just weight lifting), by stressing muscles (and bones), makes them stronger.

Based on ideas of how much stressing it takes to achieve results, we do one specific exercise a number of times in succession: repetitions, or simply ‘reps’. When you’ve finished, say, 8 repetitions ( and maybe it was your target) that’s called a ‘set’.

How many reps/sets and how much weight do you need for a sufficient workout?

There are thousands of articles with hundreds of views. I’ll Make It Simple: Three sets of 7-10 reps per exercise, taking you in the range of max effort, is plenty. (Later you will learn to balance your workout load with your ability to recuperate).

My workouts are abbreviated versions of what I have done in the past. I do one set, close to failure, and continue immediately to the next exercise. Keep in mind, my objective here is a solid, full-body workout that I can do in 40 minutes. I start with the largest muscle groups, and alternate the exercises based on opposite muscle groups. For example, the triceps function to extend the arm away from the body. When the biceps contract, the arm is brought toward the body. You can see, then, that this technique allows slight a bit of rest for one muscle group while you’re working the opposite group.

Let’s Break That Down:

The bench press (or pushup, if no gym) works not only chest (pecs), but triceps, at the same time, as the arms are extended.
Immediately after exhausting those muscles, I’m going to blast my ‘pulling’ muscles; upper back(traps, lats), rear shoulders (delts) and arms (biceps, forearms) with a set of pull-ups to exhaustion.

My workout is much more than this, but this illustrates how I work two major muscle groups. This technique is called a “Super Set” and is pre-Arnold. I’ve built my own circuit (group of exercises composing a unit; typically working all muscle groups), that includes all my favorite movements done in Super Sets. The time factor determines the number of times I do the circuit, but if it’s only once, I’ve had a good workout.

It’s quick, efficient and effective. The big dogs do things differently and they have their own turf.

Right now, learn the basics. Then you can decide where it takes you.

Technique Again?

I’ve done enough reps to know how just a slight change in grip will effect the feel and the outcome of an exercise. Every experienced lifter knows. And they will all tell you that good technique counts. I say this to you because many of the guys working out around me are sloppy on form, doing partial reps, and swinging their bodies around to handle weight that’s probably too much for them.
Most of the time something is better than nothing, but safer and more efficient trumps that any day. So learn to do it properly in the beginning and don’t let your ego keep you from doing a lighter weight with good form, when the guy next to you overloaded the bar and his curls look like a back exercise.

I forgot, I haven’t told you what curls are.

Now, you need to do some homework. In that activity, you’ll learn what curls, squats, French curls, flyes, and all that other stuff really is.

Are there only two terms to know in weightlifting?

No… there are many more. Today you learned to count reps and sets. Welcome to our world!

There’s no need for me to cover what many have taught before. Take advantage of what you can learn just by seeking.

If I see issues that effect your performance, I’ll gladly give you a heads up along the way.

Train Hard, Smart, and Safe!


Become a part of ‘Senior Fitness Issues And Ideas’–a Google+ Community, (even if you’re not a senior) and I will gladly answer your exercise and fitness questions personally!

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Categories: Weight Lifting


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