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A brief look at resistance or strength training-how many reps or sets should I do?

By February 5, 2009 October 20th, 2011 No Comments

Resistance or strength training is a vital part of any fitness programme, whether it’s for health, fitness, weight loss or other goals. Very often people do too many or too few repetitions, and are unsure how many sets (a group of repetitions) or reps (the repetitions themselves) they should be doing. The blog today is a brief guide into what to to. The key to resistance training is the quality of the exercise, not the quantity. Your body will only adapt and change (improve) if it is placed under overload; it has to be pushed to want to change, in this case it has to be pushed to grow more and stronger muscle fibres. In the real world this means that the last few repetitions of any given exercise must be really hard to be effective, and take the body into the overload that will make it change and adapt. Thre are three things to think about in order to make this happen;

i) Tempo. How fast or slowly you do an exercise will influence how hard it is. By going slowly and smothly not only is the exercise safer on the joint, but it is more chalenging for the muscles and so harder. Aim for 2 seconds in and 2 seconds out (or up and down etc depending on the exercise).

ii) Resistance. You should have the correct weight or resistance so that the last few repetitions of an exercise are really hard.

iii) Reps. How many you should do depends what you are training for. For most people we are looking for muscle tone, where the muscles appear hard and look sleek. This means 12 to 14 reps, so that the last few are realy hard. If you want to build endurance then the reps go up, to 15-20. If you want to build more musce size and strength then the weight goes up and the rep range comes down to 6-10 reps, so that for the last few you are getting shakey and finding it difficult. For extreme strength go for even less reps to failure, anything from 1 rep to 5, so that you can’t do any more, and so fail. At this lower range it’s important to be well warmed up, have good form, have built up to it and also have a spotter so you don’t hurt yourself. 

In the next blog we will look at how many sets you should be doing of a given exercise depending on what your goals are. There is lots more insider personal trainer information on our “Resistance Training” fact sheet on the Knowledge page. 

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