Bremer came to me wanting to change his physique. As you can tell from the picture above, he did just that.
Bremer worked his a** off to achieve these results, yet point being, he was able to gain muscle without gaining fat and completely reshape what his body looks like.
As you can see in the beginning picture, he wasn’t “overweight” by any means.
He just did not have that lean, defined look most people want to have. He was what we call “skinny fat”.
We will talk about skinny fat a bit later in this article.
Next up we have one of my clients Stephanie.
Stephanie lifts very, very heavy weights.
She has spent a lot of time building lean muscle mass on her frame.
So, what’s the point here?
Unless you have the appropriate amount of lean muscle mass to your body, you will never get that “look” you are chasing.
That lean, defined, toned, aesthetic physique that you are going for.
Therefore whether you are a male or a female and your goal to obtain that “look”, one of your top priorities should be to gain muscle.
I wanted you to know and see the importance of why you should be concerning yourself with building muscle.
Now I want to quickly dive into nutrition for muscle building.
Can You Gain Muscle Without Gaining Fat : Your Nutrition
When it comes to gaining muscle without gaining fat, I want to set some parameters first.
There are three basic things that can happen with your nutrition.
First, you can eat in a calorie deficit, which means you are eating less calories than your body burns.
This will have you lose weight.
Second, you can eat at your calorie maintenance, which means you will eat roughly the same amount of calories your body needs in order to maintain its weight.
Third, you can eat in a calorie surplus, which means you will be intaking enough calories for your body to gain weight.
In terms of gaining muscle, to optimize gaining muscle, you typically need to be in a calorie surplus.
This is because for your body to have enough calories coming in to build muscle, it needs to take care of all of its bodily functions first.
Hormones, sleep, digestion, reproductive systems, etc.
Aka all of the stuff for you to at least maintain where you are at.
Then, after all of that is taken care of, you can a lot the extra calories towards building muscle.
This is how you optimize muscle building.
Yet there are a few scenarios where that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, let’s chat about it a bit more in depth below.
Can You Gain Muscle Without Gaining Fat : The Truth
There are going to be 3 main scenarios I am going to cover here when it comes to answering the question of can you gain muscle without gaining fat.
The first is going to be if you are completely new to following a strength training program.
The second is going to be if you have taken an extended period of time off from following a strength training program.
The third is going to be if you are more of a late intermediate to advanced lifter who has been working out for some time now.
If You Are Brand New To Following A Strength Training Routine
If you are brand new to following a real strength training program, you my friend, are going to be able to not only gain muscle without gaining fat.
But you will be able to gain muscle while losing body fat, and here is why.
When talking about gaining muscle, you need one very important thing.
That is a stress great enough on your body that your body has to respond and adapt to it.
This stress is essentially the strength training program. The adaptation is your body building stronger, more defined muscles.
You are putting your body through stress, so your body has to adapt in order to keep you alive and safe.
Your body doesn’t know you are lifting weights to build muscle, it just knows there is a stress being placed upon it and it has to respond accordingly.
Therefore you are going to build stronger, more defined muscles as a response.
When you are brand new, this stress is going to be great enough because of just that reason, it is brand new!
Your body has NOT seen or been exposed to this before.
It is going to have no other choice but to respond and gain muscle.
This is the beauty of being a beginner. If only we could all stay in the “newbie gains” phase forever!
Over time, your body will get used to it and you will become an intermediate to advanced lifter. You will then have to do something a bit different, but we will touch on that later in the article.
Yet for now, you my friend, will be able to go on with your muscle building journey without worrying about the potential of fat gain.
Some quick questions I want to cover.
How long are you considered a beginner for?
Everyone is different, but generally speaking the first 6-12 months of you following a real strength training program you are typically in the beginner stage.
This is why I always encourage people that if you are new to this, really take advantage of it, because this will be the time where you see and make the most progress.
Not that it is all downhill after that, it just becomes increasingly harder and takes much longer to see even half the amount of progress you will see in the first 6-12 months.
2. What Is A “Real Strength Training Program”
You have seen me mention it a few times already, “a real strength training program”.
What does that mean?
Well, if you want some in depth information on that, I did an entire video on it. You can check that out HERE after we are done here.
But what I want to make clear is there is a big difference in “exercising” and “Training”.
There is nothing wrong with “exercising” as it is certainly better than nothing.
It gets you up, gets you moving, etc.
Yet there is a massive difference between following a random YouTube video workout, randomly doing machines in the gym, or seeing someones instagram swipe workout and doing that.
As opposed to following a real training program.
There will also be a massive difference in the results you see.
I am telling you this not to rag on you, but to encourage you.
I have had tons of clients come to me who say they have been working out for years, and they have!
Yet they never actually followed a real program. Therefore that person may think they are an intermediate or advanced lifter, but in the context of this conversation, they are actually a beginner.
Therefore they will be able to achieve these newbie gains we talked about, and they will be able to gain muscle without gaining fat.
So if that is you, be excited for that!
3. What Should You Do With Your Nutrition!?
If you have fallen under this category, you will be able to do something called “body recomposition”.
This basically means you will be losing fat and building muscle at the same time.
I wrote an entire article where I go in depth on this, you can check that out HERE if you want.
Therefore in terms of your nutrition, if you have less than 10lbs you’d like to lose, you should be eating right around maintenance calories or a very slight calorie deficit in order to lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
If you have 10+lbs you’d like to lose, I would suggest going into a slight calorie deficit.
When you go too low in calories, you will not optimize muscle building, therefore you should either right at maintenance calories or a very slight deficit.
I have a totally free maintenance calorie calculator HERE.
As well as a totally free calorie deficit calculator HERE .
If You Have Taken An Extended Period Of Time Away From Strength Training
The next scenario when it comes to can you gain muscle without gaining fat is going to be if you have taken an extended period of time off from strength training.
Let’s say you used to be an athlete in high school and college, got out of college, got married, started a family, and bam 30lbs later you are reading this article looking to lose some fat and build some muscle.
Or let’s say you had an injury that sidelined you for a bit of time.
Whatever your specific scenario may be, if you have taken an extended period of time away from strength training, you will be able to once again not only gain muscle without gaining fat, but you will be able to gain muscle and burn fat at the same time.
For much of the same reasons as above.
Your body is going to get this new stimulus / stress put upon it and it will have to respond by building stronger, more defined muscles.
How long is “an extended period of time off”?
When talking about how long is an extended period of time off from strength training, generally speaking 6-12 months time frame, depending on your previous training history.
2. What To Do With Your Nutrition?!
If this is you, you will actually take the same approach as someone who is brand new to strength training.
Eat right around your maintenance calories or in a slight calorie deficit, crush your strength training workouts, and you will be able to not only gain muscle but also lose at at the same time.
Seriously, take advantage of it, you are lucky.
If You Are An Intermediate To Advanced Lifter
To answer the question of can you gain muscle without gaining fat, the first two scenarios the answer was yes, you could.
In the two scenarios above, you will build muscle at any calorie intake essentially because the stimulus and stress is so new to your body that your body will have no choice but to grow muscle.
I mentioned above that you need to take advantage of that time and enjoy it because it won’t last forever.
Us intermediate and advanced lifters know that by now, and if this is you, you are going to have to take a slightly different approach.
If this is you, you are going to have to go into a calorie surplus if you are looking to optimize gaining muscle.
You could try to eat around maintenance, but your progress would just be mind numbingly slow that you would get beyond frustrated.
Therefore to optimally gain muscle, a calorie surplus is required.
Now hear me out when I say this.
With a calorie surplus is going to come some fat gain.
That is just the way it is. You can’t really get around that.
But, what you can do, is minimize it as best you possibly can by following certain macros.
As well as making sure you don’t go too high in calories and essentially “Dreamer bulk” your way to building muscle.
“Dreamer bulk” is this idea of just eating everything in sight to build muscle, unfortunately speaking from experience, this is not the most effective way if you are looking to minimize fat gain.
Let’s touch on what I mean a bit more in depth here below.
Calories For Building Muscle For An Intermediate – Advanced Lifter
So now that we know in order to optimize muscle building you are going to need a calorie surplus, let’s talk about how to find that calorie surplus and the macros that go along with that.
( Macros = Macronutrients. Protein, carbs, and fats ).
To find your calorie surplus number you are going to need to find your maintenance calories.
If you need a free maintenance calorie calculator, HERE it is again.
Once you find that, you are going to add 2-300 calories to that.
** Note: Maintenance calories are a range. There is no one set in stone number. If the calculation gives you 2000 calories, think of your maintenance calories at 1800-2200, anywhere in between there.
You cannot perfectly estimate your maintenance calories, hence that is why it is all an estimation.
You will have to put it into action, track your progress, and see for yourself! **
So let’s say your maintenance calories are 2000. In order to go into a reasonable calorie surplus that would minimize fat gain, you would eat roughly 2300 calories.
As you can see off the bat, if your calorie maintenance is 2000, eating 2300 calories can really only gain but so much body fat.
Remember as well, as long as you are following a proper strength training program, your body is going to use those extra calories towards building muscle, not storing it as body fat.
If you weren’t working out, it would go to fat storage. Yet as long as you are following a proper workout routine and applying progressive overload your body is going to use those calories to build muscle.
Now, let’s talk about macros.
Once again, macros are just simply macronutrients. Protein, carbs, and fats.
There is a certain set up of macro nutrients you can use within your calorie surplus to minimize fat gain even more.
Let’s cover it below.
How To Calculate Macros For Muscle Gain
A calculator may be handy for you, so whip that bad boy out.
You are first going to need your total calories. Let’s use the example of 2300.
We will first start with protein.
The equation for protein is going to be
Take your goal body weight (in lbs) x 1
Therefore let’s say you want to weigh 150lbs, simply eat 150g of protein.
Now there can be some leeway there, for example if you hit 140 it isn’t the end of the world, but getting adequate protein is crucial in minimizing fat gain when building muscle as protein is the only macro nutrient that helps build and retain lean muscle mass.
As well as protein is almost damn near impossible to store as body fat.
Now, the next part is to find out how many calories you are intaking from protein. You will learn why this is important in a second.
For every 1 gram of protein, there is 4 calories.
Therefore if you eat 150g of protein, 150 x 4 = 600 calories from protein.
Next up let’s figure out our total daily fat intake.
This is where it is important to keep an eye on this. I mentioned above protein is almost damn near impossible to store as body fat.
Dietary fat on the other hand is easier to store as body fat, well, because it is already fat!
Especially in a calorie surplus.
Therefore paying attention to your overall dietary fat intake is key in minimizing fat gain.
The equation for how many dietary fat you should have per day is
Current body weight (in lbs) x .35-.4
So let’s say for example you currently weigh 145.
145 x .4 = 60g of fat.
Again, you can give yourself a range. Say from 55g of fat to 65g of fat per day.
Now, let’s get the total calories from fat.
For every 1g of fat, there are 9 calories.
Therefore 60 x 9 = 540 calories.
Now let’s add up what we have thus far.
Remember you had 600 calories from protein, and 540 calories from fat.
That is 1140 total calories.
Our daily calorie intake was 2300 calories.
In order to find our carb goal, we are going to take the remaining calories and put it towards carbs.
So 2300 – 1140 = 1160 calories.
For every 1g of carb there is 4 calories.
Therefore what we will do is take 1160 / 4 = 290.
Now, you know you have a carb goal of 290g per day.
Therefore this total calorie and macro breakdown would be
2300 calories per day
150g of protein per day
60g of fat per day
290g of carbs per day
In order to gain muscle while minimizing fat gain.
Quick Note On Protein
When it comes to gaining muscle, adequate protein is essential.
It is the only macronutrient that is going to build muscle. Without it, your body will not be able to recover from workouts and build muscle.
No matter what scenario you are, the general rule of thumb is trying to get around your goal body weight (in lbs) x 1 in protein.
If you need some extra help on getting more protein in your diet, I got you, just head HERE .
Can You Gain Muscle Without Gaining Fat : Skinny Fat
When talking about the “skinny fat” physique, typically this individual would fall under one of the two scenarios where you will be able to lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
That is typically how people end up skinny fat. They either do not do enough strength training and never followed a real plan, or they don’t eat the adequate protein intake.
Therefore if you are skinny fat, I would eat right around maintenance calories, have adequate protein intake, and apply progressive overload, which we will talk about right here right now.
Can You Gain Muscle Without Gaining Fat : Progressive Overload
I mentioned earlier that to lose fat all you need to do is be in a calorie deficit.
To lose weight, simply eat less calories than your body burns, and it will happen!
Unfortunately, building muscle is not like that. You can’t just eat more food and magically gain muscle (trust me, I wish!!!).
You need to have the proper stress on your body from a proper strength training program in order to build muscle.
That is how it happens.
You also need to be sure you are applying something called progressive overload.
I won’t go too in depth on progressive overload because it is a complex topic and I did an entire article on it HERE if you want to learn more.
Yet long story short, you need to make sure you are doing more over a period of time.
If you are lifting 100lbs for 10 reps, in 6 months, if you are still lifting 100lbs for 10 reps, good luck gaining any muscle.
This is not to say every time you go into the gym you have to do more weight or it has to be a personal record setting workout.
Of course you will have some bad days and that is normal.
But overall, you should be doing more over a period of time.
More reps, more weight, better form, more sets, etc.
That is how your body gains muscle, by continuously putting a stress great enough on it that your body has to respond.
As well as making sure you are pushing yourself close to failure.
The next greatest driver of muscle growth is something called mechanical tension.
Which basically means, you need to recruit most or all of your muscle fibers to work, and work hard, in order to gain muscle.
This is done by taking your sets close to failure.
I did an entire video on this if you want to dive more in depth HERE.
Can You Gain Muscle Without Gaining Fat : Final Word
Welp, there you have it.
I told you you were going to get some education in this article and I hope you got just that.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop below I would be happy to help.
I also know this stuff can be incredibly overwhelming and a ton of information to take in all at once, so if you want me to take out all of the guesswork for you, feel free to head HERE to see if we may be a good fit for coaching.
Other than that, thank you for reading, hope you learned something, and chat soon.
In this episode of the Eric Roberts Fitness Podcast I speak with my 1:1 online coaching client Carson who is just amazing.
Carson shares her story about not only losing weight but also now intentionally eating more calories to build muscle, how she uses her competitive spirit to fuel her journey in a positive way, and her rule of never saying no.
I think this podcast can help you out a ton and if it does, feel free to leave a 5 star rating and review on iTunes as that would mean the world to me.
In this episode of the Eric Roberts Fitness Podcast I speak with my 1:1 online coaching client Ryan. Ryan tells his story about how he has worked his a** off to overcome binge eating, how he is crushing his workouts and doing unassisted pull ups for the first time ever, and how he had developed a healthier relationship with food.
I believe you can learn a ton from Ryan because he is a wealth of knowledge and someone that I deem to be incredibly successful in his fitness journey.
Hope you enjoy the episode and if you do, feel free to leave a 5 star rating and review on iTunes as that would mean the world to me.
If you were surfing through the google machine searching for “How many sets and reps should I do”, surf no longer my cowabunga friend.
This article is going to give you everything you need to know pertaining to that exact question.
It can be incredibly confusing sometimes to wonder how many sets and reps you should be doing in order to reach your goal.
Sometimes so confusing, it leads you to do nothing at all! (Been there done that!).
Like I said, I got your back.
I am going to clearly lay out in this article the exact answer to how many sets and reps should I do.
I just need you to pay attention and read every single line.
This stuff can be super complicated and confusing at times. This is why professionals like myself do this for a living.
In the same way I have no clue how to change the oil in my car, so what do I do?
I take it to a professional.
Point being, I am going to clearly and concisely lay out exactly what you need to know on a level that you can understand, I just need you to read every single line.
I need you to fully grasp and comprehend every section we go through.
Understood? I promise if you do that, you will here leave here one confident beaver (idk why I picked a beaver but it sounded right).
You will have everything you need to create your own workout routine.
Let’s get it on.
How Many Sets And Reps Should I Do?
What Are “Sets” and “Reps”?
Before jumping into anything else, I clearly want to define what sets and reps are.
This won’t take long as for as complicated as people make things sometimes, it is quite simple.
A rep is one repetition of an exercise. Think a squat for example.
When you bend your knees, squat down, and stand back up one, that is one rep.
A set is group of those repetitions put together without stopping.
Let’s say you do 8 repetitions of a squat in a row without taking any break.
Then, after 8 reps, you take a 120 second break and don’t do any squats during that time period.
That would be one set of 8 reps of the squat exercise.
If you did that same sequence 3 times in a row of 8 squats in a row, rest, 8 squats, rest, 8 squats, rest, you would be doing 3 sets of 8 reps on squats.
Perfect. I am glad.
Why Are Sets And Reps Important?
When answering the question of how many sets and reps should I do, we first must have to look at the reasoning behind this question.
I am sure you are asking this question because you want to see a specific goal achieved.
Lose fat, build muscle, get stronger, run longer, the list could go on.
To determine how many sets and reps you should be performing, we must first clearly lay out the goals.
Different sets and reps can yield different goals.
There are three main goals when it comes to your workouts,
Hypertrophy (muscle definition / size)
** PS: You may wonder “where is losing fat!? That is my goal!”. Don’t worry my young Padawan, we will touch on that later in this article so stay tuned!**.
In this section I am going to clearly lay out and define what sets and reps go with each one of those 3 goals.
First, let’s start with strength.
Strength : Sets and Reps
When talking about the goal of getting stronger and building strength, the general set and rep range is going to be
3-5 sets of 3-6 reps
Now, usually 8 reps can be on the higher end range, especially for a beginner who is new to lifting, that can be a great place to learn proper form on exercises.
If you are more advanced or intermediate, you will generally stay within the 3-6 rep range. Again, these are rough estimations and depends on the individual and the purpose of the program.
Now that you know for strength you should stay within 3-5 sets of 3-8 reps, why is this the case?
Well, I am so glad you asked.
Generally speaking, the lower the rep range the higher the intensity can be.
When I say intensity, I don’t mean how much you are sweating or how out of breath you are in your soul cycle class.
I mean how heavy of weight you are lifting relative to your 1 Rep Max.
Even if you don’t know your one rep max, you don’t need to. Point being in the lower rep range you can lift heavier weights because the volume is lower.
You can lift 100lbs or 4 reps, but you can’t lift 100lbs or 10 lbs, you can only lift say 70lbs. Therefore the lower the rep range, the heavier you can lift.
Volume, in the context of this situation, is the amount of reps you are performing.
Therefore if you can lift heavier weight, guess what, you are probably going to get stronger over a period of time.
What Exercises Should Be Performed In This Set & Rep Range?
When talking about how many sets and reps should I do, I think it is equally important to cover which exercises you should be focusing on for this particular range.
For the strength set and rep range, you want to be focusing your exercises on your compound movements.
Compound movements simply just mean movements that require pretty much your full body to be used.
To name a few.
These movements require you to use your full body. A squat for example, yes it is for your legs, but you also have to use your core to stabilize you, your upper back to keep your poster upright, your lats to hold yourself in position.
This is a total body, compound movement.
For movements like these, you will also be able to move the most weight.
Compare a deadlift to a bicep curl for example. You will be able to deadlift literally hundreds of pounds as you get stronger.
I have not yet seen someone bicep curling 200lb dumbbells (though I am sure they are out there…).
This makes it advantageous to push for heavier weights being used in the lower rep ranges.
When Should These Movements Be Performed In The Workout?
I believe it is equally as important to mention that these sets, reps, and exercises should be performed at the beginning of the workout.
Why is this?
A few reasons. We just said these movements allow you to move the most weight.
This typically means you want to be the most fresh when you go to perform them, for two reasons.
Number one is because you want to push the most weight to see the most results!
The more weight you lift the stronger you will get. If you are trying to perform these movements at the end of your workout, you will be totally gassed and your performance will suffer.
Number two is to decrease risk of injury.
We said these movements require a lot of moving parts.
If you are trying to go into your compound movements in the strength range towards the ladder half of your workout, you are essentially begging for an injury.
You will be exhausted, your form will be off, and you will hurt yourself.
Therefore, include this set and rep range at the beginning of your workouts, along with these main compound movements, to get the best results.
Next up when talking about how many sets and reps should I do we have the hypertrophy range.
This is your muscle definition / size range. When I say muscle size, I don’t necessarily mean Arnold, professional bodybuilder size.
It can mean that, but with a lot of food, and the use of some performance enhancing drugs.
Think of hypertrophy as muscle growth yes, but more so muscle definition. This will help you get that defined look you are going for.
The general rep and set range for hypertrophy is going to be
3-4 sets of 6-12 reps
This is the rep range that is utilized quite a bit.
We learned in the last section that the reps and sets for strength were lower in volume so it could be higher in intensity.
For the hypertrophy range, we want about medium volume and medium intensity.
6-12 reps isn’t too heavy that you be lifting incredibly close to your one rep max. So let’s say your one rep max is 100 lbs on squats, during the strength range you might be training with 85-90lbs.
For hypertrophy, you might be training with 70-80lbs instead.
Without going too in depth, mechanical tension and pushing close to musculature failure are the two most important drivers of muscle hypertrophy, along with overall total volume (remember, volume = sets and reps performed).
Being in the 6-12 rep range allows you to push close that mechanical tension as well as failure, but in a safer fashion.
Seeing that pushing close to failure is the main driver and mechanical tension is the main driver of hypertrophy, generally speaking a more moderate rep range would allow for that with much less stress / damage on your joints, connective tissue, central nervous system, etc.
What Exercises Should Be Performed In This Set & Rep Range?
Ah, great question!
For this particular rep range, you can really have a mixture of things.
You can do some compound movements yes (again, depending on the primary focus on the program), but the main movements you will do for this hypertrophy range are going to be accessory and isolation movements.
Accessory movements are things like
Bent over rows
Incline chest press
To name a few.
While isolation movements are going to be things like
To name a few.
Generally speaking if you are going to do the isolation movements they would be towards the higher end of that rep range, we will cover more on isolation movements here in a sec.
These movements are here because let’s take a movement like a reverse lunge for example.
That is still a pretty taxing movement. It requires your core to work, your hip stabilizers, your glutes and quads.
You still are going to be able to use a fair amount of weight (as you progress through your strength training journey, even if it is just bodyweight right now!).
Yet normally speaking you do a bit less weight with a reverse lunge than you would say a regular squat.
So generally speaking these would be your accessory movements that you perform this range of reps and sets on.
When Should These Movements Be Performed In The Workout?
Accessory movements should be performed at the middle of your workout, after your compound movements.
I will give you an example lower body workout at the end of this article so stay tuned for that to see what I mean.
Accessory movements still take a lot out of you and still require a good amount of energy and effort.
As well as they can still lead to a high risk of injury if done incorrectly.
If you are gassed by the time you put reverse lunges at the end of your workout and your exhausted, your form will diminish and lead to injury much more so than isolation movement like a bicep curl.
Now, let’s talk about isolation movements in terms of hypertrophy.
Isolation movements should be done towards the end of the workout.
Why is this?
Because the risk of injury with an isolation movement is very low. Like a bicep curl for example, what happens if you “fail” on a bicep curl?
You just drop the dumbbells?
As opposed to what happens if you fail on a barbell back squat? That thing crushes your spine like an accordion (ok not really if you are doing it properly and safely setting up the safety bars in the racks, but you get the gist).
Therefore accessory movements should be done directly after the compound movements and isolation movements should be done after the accessory movements.
Muscle Endurance : Sets & Reps
The third and final rep range we have when it comes to how many sets and reps should I do is the muscle endurance rep range.
This rep range usually gets labeled as the “toning” rep range, but let me tell you, that could not be more inaccurate and we will talk about why here a bit later in this article.
For this rep range you want to stay between
2-4 sets of 15-20 reps
First off I know I kind of left reps 13 and 14 out of the equation here, but never once have I programmed a set of 13 reps. Just, no. Weird.
Let’s learn more about this rep range.
This set and rep range is the lowest out of three on the intensity scale (remember, intensity is how much weight you are lifting) and highest on the volume scale.
With such high reps you cannot perform a set with a very heavy weight.
Think about it. If you squat 100lbs for 5 reps, there is no way you could go squat 100lbs for 20 reps.
You’d have to use maybe 40lbs instead of 100, so you are automatically decreasing the intensity.
This makes it incredibly hard to reach close to failure because you will have to do so many reps since the intensity is so low, therefore this is usually the muscle endurance phase.
This usually doesn’t lend well to building strength or muscle hypertrophy.
What Exercises Should Be Performed In This Set & Rep Range?
Generally speaking your more isolation movements will be involved in this rep range.
Movements once again like
Reason being is because again if you are doing 15 reps of a tricep extension, the risk of injury there is quite low.
Even if your form isn’t 100% accurate, the risk of injury is low. As well as the load (weight used) is so low that it is less risk of injury.
As opposed to doing 15 reps of a squat, that is a lot of reps to try and keep perfect form and can lead your form to breaking down much more which can lead to injury.
When Should These Movements Be Performed In The Workout?
These movements should be completed towards the end of the workout, almost as a “finisher” if you would like to coin that phrase.
After your compounds are taken care of, and after your accessory are blasted through, if you want to add in some isolation work to burn your muscles up, this is where you can do that.
But remember, the compound and the isolation movements are by far the most important, not the isolation.
How Many Sets And Reps Should I Do : Recap
Whew, I know that was a lot of information. I am going to quickly recap for you what we just learned.
There are 3 main set and rep ranges.
For strength, you typically do 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps with heavier weight.
For hypertrophy, you typically do 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps with moderate weight.
For endurance, you typically do 2-4 sets of 15-20 reps with lighter weight.
Now let me say this.
These are not set in stone, hard lines in the sand.
For example, you can and will build muscle in the 3-6 rep range.
When you go into the hypertrophy range, you don’t just stop getting stronger. You will still build strength in that set and rep range.
All of this intertwine and play a role in each other, but for the reasons listed above as the “why” for each section, that is why they are grouped as such.
Time for another major point, then we will get into an example lower body workout and a Q&A.
How Many Sets And Reps Should I Do : Strength Is King!
When it comes down to it, strength is by far the most important set and rep range out of all three of these.
Because strength influences everything, no matter what your goals are.
Obviously if your goal is to get stronger, well right there baby you will do that.
If your goal is to get more defined and or grow bigger muscles, think about this.
Let’s say you are lifting in the 6-12 rep range with 30lbs, versus in you are lifting in the 6-12 rep range with 40lbs.
If you are lifting more weight, don’t you think you will see more muscle definition?
Yes, you thought right, you will.
Even if your goal is endurance, if you get stronger, your endurance will improve.
After we get them on a structured strength training program within the first 1-2 months they tell me how improved their runs have been.
Even though that seemingly would have nothing to do with strength and all to do with endurance, if you have stronger muscles you will be able to push harder, get a better mile time, have more speed, have less fatigue in your legs, etc.
If you look at olympic athletes, even if their main sport is endurance based, they spend 3/4 out of the year training for strength.
Then, the last 8-12 weeks, they go more sport specific endurance training as the even gets closer.
But they know that if they are stronger, that will improve everything else, so they train for that.
Therefore make strength your priority no matter what your goals are.
How Many Sets And Reps Should I Do : Q&A
Alright now let’s dive into some questions I know you will probably have.
Yes, I can read your mind.
So Which One Do I Pick?!
Now that you know the three categories and you know you need to focus your main priority on strength, which set and rep range should you do focusing on?!
Well, that is the thing. You should do a bit of all of them.
Notice how when we were going over the sections I included when you would perform those sets and reps within the workout and with what exercises?
I truly believe that quality program should have all of these set and rep ranges worked into it.
This way you don’t miss out on anything and you don’t pick and choose.
You should be doing some strength, some hypertrophy, and some endurance.
Now, candidly, I believe 85-90% of your training should be done in the strength and hypertrophy rep range.
As mentioned above you can include some endurance work at the end of your workout to really burn your muscles up, but majority of your reps should be within that 3-12 rep range for your workouts.
You will see more of this when we go over a sample lower body workout.
What If My Goal Is Weight Loss?!
Great question young Padawan, you were probably waiting for this one weren’t you?
Here is the deal.
When it comes to losing weight and or getting that “toned”, lean, defined physique, two things.
First, Your nutrition is going to take care of the weight loss. You need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight.
If you need some extra help on how many calories you should eat to lose weight, check out this totally free calorie calculator HERE.
Second, if your goal is fat loss, you should still be training to get strong and build muscle.
Because that is what is going to get you that tone, lean, defined physique you are looking for.
The old adage of “light weight for high reps to tone the muscle” is, excuse my French, absolute horsesh*t.
The only way to “tone” a muscle is to build a muscle. Therefore if you don’t have any muscle built, you will end up skinny fat, not looking the way you want to look.
That is what my online coaching client Bremer and I did with his physique. We took him from skinny fat to being a damn beast!!
Or same thing with my online coaching client Christina. She didn’t have much “weight” to lose, but she wanted to lose fat and change her physique.
Therefore, if your goal is weight loss, you should be training the same way I mentioned in this article, as well as focusing on your nutrition.
So When Should I Increase The Weight I Am Lifting Or Reps I Am Doing?!
I have a phenomenal answer, only not in this article.
Reason being that I could spend an entire article covering this, oh wait, I did write an article on this!
There is something called progressive overload.
Whether you are in the strength range, hypertrophy range, or endurance range, you want to be applying this progressive overload to your workouts.
It is quite possibly the most important aspect of training.
If you want to go in depth on that article, I can link that HERE for you ( I strongly suggest you read that after this).
What About Abs?!
When it comes to ab workouts, I typically like to throw them in mid workout or towards the end of the workout.
Truthfully too many people put too much of an emphasis on abs, especially things like crunches and sit ups.
Remember, you don’t lose belly fat and see your abs through ab workouts. You lose belly fat though eating in a calorie deficit.
I can link an article I wrote HERE on the best ab workouts if you are interested in that!
How Many Reps And Set Should I Do? Example Lower Body Workout
Alright, now let’s talk about what an example lower body workout might look like with all this information you have learned thus far.