Reps and Sets for Strength Training: What is best?

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When building an at home bodyweight workout or quarantine type workout there are a couple of  considerations you must keep in mind as far as volume and intensity is concerned. 

Considerations

Exercising at home can be difficult but there are some key considerations to keep in mind. Volume and intensity is inversely related. This means that as the volume increases the intensity must decrease or vice versa as the intensity increases for an activity the volume must decrease. 

For example you can’t sprint for a marathon but for 100 meters you can sprint 100% intensity so one thing that you must consider when determining your optimal volume is the difficulty of the exercise. With some exercises you might want to have different amount of volume compared to others.

For example if you struggle with something like push-ups or press-ups then you may need to set a lower rep range compared to something like a bodyweight squat.

How many reps?

This is an important consideration especially if you are returning from injury or illness because your numbers will change as far as volume is concerned. For power exercises I recommend initially beginning with 12 to 20 repetitions.  Power exercises are anything that is explosive based and typically these will be the first to exercises completed  in the majority of strength training programs.  See this previous bodyweight training template for example. 

Some research will say that plyometric exercises can be performed for up to 100 reps but that will depend upon training experience and age, among other factors. If you have more than three months of continuous strength training experience your volume of power exercises for total reps can be between 40 to 60 repetitions. High-level and advanced athletes may need up to 100 repetitions for plyometrics training per session to improve. 

Plyometric Recommendations
Recommendations for plyometrics based on age and experience

To determine rep ranges for strength based exercises I like to stick between 20 and 40 repetitions. You can do 100 reps for lunges for example- however your likelihood of injury or overuse drastically increases even if this is just body weight based exercises. 

If you can comfortably get over 40 total reps in four sets of 10 for an exercise- instead of increasing the repetition goal my recommendation would be for you to change or progress to another exercise.

How to Progress

Some individuals like to utilize time ranges and time goals rather than repetitions or sets in their strength programs. This format is typically like a crossfit-style workout where the goal is to complete as many reps as possible within an allotted time. Interval training can be a good idea for those with more training experience. 

One thing to keep in mind again with the time based exercises is that some exercises may be much more difficult to perform than others so you might not want to have a single  time for every exercise that you perform on a specific session. 

Interval Training

Another option that is popularized through the Crossfit model is repetition based challenges. With a rap challenge the goal is to either count down or count up within a single session. For example- rather than performing three sets of 10 for lunges you might do something like 10 reps on the first round 8 on the second 6 on the 3rd and then 4 on the 4th round. 

Reps can count down or count up with this format. These are usually a better option for one off challenging sessions or perhaps in a team environment.

Summary

In conclusion are a lot of different options as far as reps, sets, time and rep challenges are considered. For body weight training programs and quarantine type workouts the biggest thing you must factor in when designing your own program is your training experience and injury history. You should also keep in mind that training frequency should be a factor. If you are training 6 days a week your total reps and sets will likely be less per day on average than if you are training two to three days per week. This will give your body an opportunity to recover and allow you to progress over time.

I hope that this post and the previous post will help you to come up with some at home workouts without equipment or at the least allow you to safely increase your ability to exercise at home.