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Set Amounts

Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 2:09 pm
by markggarcia
Hello -

This forum is a godsend!

I have been lifting weights for a little over a year now, three days a week, interspersed with running on the other days. I am not looking to bulk up, just improve my shape. I have been reading up on other people's workouts and I like what I see. However, I am unsure about the amount of sets and reps I should be doing. I tend to follow a push/pull/legs regimen like the ones offered on this site. I try to keep my workouts to an hour or a little more, but I feel like I am either not managing my time correctly or I am doing to many reps and too many sets. I don't want to sacrifice any of my exercise, but feel I can manage my sets and reps better.

Here is a rough example of what I have been doing, though it does change from time to time. I normally do 3 sets of each, at a semi-high weight, high reps (mid to high 20's per set) -

Day 1 -
Barbell Curl
Dumbbell Straight-back Straight-leg Dead-lift
Barbell Bent Arm Pullover
Upright Row
Bent Over Dumbbell Row

Day 2 -
Barbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Lunge
Dumbbell Incline Press
Shoulder Dumbbell Press
Dumbbell Triceps Extension

I was thinking about going a little higher in weight, lower in reps and maybe one less set per exercise. Would this be a good idea, or does it vary per exercise?

Anything would be helpful!


Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 3:41 pm
by Matt Z
In a push/pull/legs program you train upper body pushing movements in one workout, pulling movements in a second workout, and leg movements in a third (not neccessarily in that order). For example, one might do squats, lunges and leg curls on Mondays, benching, overhead presses and triceps work on Wednesdays, and deadlifts, pulldowns, rows, shrugs and curls on Fridays.

However, in your program you seem to be doing pull/legs in one workout and push/legs in another. This may be why your so tired at the end of a workout. Also, the only leg exercises your doing are lunges and straight-leg deadlifts.

I would recomend training legs in a seperate third workout. That way you could do upper body pushing movements on day 1, upper body pulling movements on day 2 and lower body movements (pushing and pulling) on day 3. I would also highly recomend adding some form of squatting on your leg day.

Another option would be to do full body workouts. If you go in this direction I would recoment doing three different full body workouts, not the same workout three times.

Finally, I think your doing way too many reps. Considering your goals, 8-12 reps per set would be about right. If you're concerned with putting on too much muscle, you can simply stop adding weight/reps to your lifts when you reach the level of development your looking for.

Set amounts

Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 4:28 pm
by markggarcia
Thanks Matt.
One further question -
When I lower my reps, I'd probably want to up the weight? For example, if I currently do a set of 40 hammer curls at 40 pounds (far too many reps) should I go up to 45 pounds (or so) and do 10 reps?

Thanks again!

Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 4:33 pm
by Matt Z
Yes, definitely increase the weight. Going from 40 reps to 10 reps you should be able to lift considerably more.

Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 4:35 pm
by Matt Z
Just gradually increase the poundage until you find the right weight.

Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 4:44 pm
by Matt Z
Are you working out at home. I noticed your doing only free weight barbell and dumbbell exercises. If so, you might want to invest in a pull-up bar.

Set Amounts

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:38 am
by markggarcia
Thanks Matt. Working out at home, so I'm limited to the weights I have there. Tonight, I work on reducing my reps. Does anyone recommend a certain amount of sets per exercise?


Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 9:51 am
by Blue_Nose
I'd stick to three sets, just increase the weight.

You shouldn't be able to do more than 12-15 reps in a set... if you can, you should probably increase the weight.

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 9:58 am
by TimD
Mark, that's a tricky subject, and you will get various answers. I don't think there is any "perfect" set/reps ratio. However, there are some general guidelines that you can use based on loading intensities, etc. For 12 reps and up, intensities at 65% or below, 1-2 sets depending on if there are a lot of other exerises thrown into the mix , for 8-12 reps, around 65-75 %, same criteria, 2-4 sets, for the 4-8 rep range, usually around 3-5 sets. For strength/neural in the 1-4 rep ranges, generally 5 or more sets. Of course the higher number of reps and the lower the intensities, the shorter the rest breaks (no major inroads into CNS recovery), and vice versa as the reps get lower. Again, these are generalizations. Google Charles Poliquin, Ian King, as they have written good articles on the relationships of rest/sets/reps. Also, at , in the articles section, it is discussed there. Just remember, nothing is really written in stone.

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 10:57 am
by Ironman
Let me just add this. Don't stick with the same one, Change it. Drastic is good.

Say I do 3 or 4 sets total (not counting warmups) for a body part. So weather I do 1, 2 or 3 exercises the set total is only 3 or 4. I do them at 90% or so, 6 to 8 reps to failure with 4 minutes rest. Then I switch to 10 total sets for 8 reps at 65-70% with 90 to 120 seconds rest. Then maybe single sets beyond failure with negatives and drop sets. Then maybe even do 8x4 at 85% to get a strength boost. There are a lot of options.

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 11:04 am
by Ironman
BTW, if you are not looking to bulk up, don't follow the protocol examples in my last post. Or do it real short term. They are just examples of change. For you maybe alternate between 15 reps and 4 reps, or something like that.

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:34 pm
by Matt Z
Generally speaking the stronger you get the more warmup sets you'll want to do. If your just starting out you won't need as much warmup, since your working weight won't be that much more than your initial warmup weight. Also, if your lifting without a spotter it may not be safe to go to failure on some exercises like bench presses.

Set Amounts

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:31 pm
by markggarcia
Thanks. I think I'm going to need to work on my time between sets too, since I normally only have an hour to an hour 20 per workout. That should be enough, but I want to make sure I'm getting the right coverage.


Posted: Tue Nov 02, 2010 4:42 am