What’s the OPTIMAL REPS x SETS and VOLUME for STRENGTH?


Find out how to setup your training to make you Strong!

From my last post you would have worked you need to increase your strength in a specific muscle group (e.g. chest) and/or in a specific range of motion (e.g. bottom of bench press). So how can we setup your training to make them Strong!

Summary of this article: Step 1: Determine REPS RANGE Step 2: Use Optimal VOLUME Step 3: Use Optimal FREQUENCY Step 4: Determine SETS Step 5: Putting is Information into Action

Here is what you will learn:

  • The optimal rep range is 1-5 reps per set or 5-8 reps per set for smaller muscle groups.

  • The optimal frequency is to train each muscle group about twice per week.

  • Their ideal volume is 30-60 reps per big muscle group per workout (half that for smaller muscle groups).

Full Article

Step 1: Determine REPS RANGE This is really the easy part. It is well known that the best way to get strong is to lift heavy weights. When you lift heavy you can only last a low amount of reps. Therefore the answer is simple, pick a heavy weight that you can perform between 1-5 reps.

The only caveat to this recommendation is for smaller muscle groups (e.g. triceps) where the exercises selected would be single joint isolation movements (e.g. tricep extension) then you don’t want to overload the joint (e.g. elbow), therefore we would use slightly lighter weight and perform between 5-8 reps.

Reps Recommendation:

  • Large Muscle groups = 1-5 reps

  • Smaller Muscle groups = 5-8 reps

Step 2: Use Optimal VOLUME Before we determine how many sets we must know what is the optimal volume (total reps) to get the best stimulus the muscle group. The best way to measure volume to know the total amount of reps that needs to be performed per muscle group, per week.

Combine with years of experience, expert recommendations and scientific research (Wernbom et al. see link below) there is an optimal range of volume (total reps) to perform per week.

Optimal Volume Recommendation:

  • Large Muscle Group: about 60-120 total reps PER WEEK.

  • Smaller Muscle Group: about 30-60 total reps PER WEEK.

Step 3: Use Optimal FREQUENCY Now we have the total reps per week for each muscle group we need to determine the total reps per workout. This will depend on what is the optimal frequency, how many times per week we should workout a muscle group.

Combine with years of experience, expert recommendations and scientific research (Wernbom et al. see link below) there is an optimal frequency. The general recommendation for most people is workout a muscle group twice per week.

Therefore total reps (volume) per workout is:

  • Large Muscle Group: about 30-60 reps PER WORKOUT.

  • Smaller Muscle Group: about 15-30 reps PER WORKOUT.

Further Explanation: 1. A question you probably have is should we use the low, middle or high end of the range. In most cases if your goal is strength then your starting point would be the lower end of the volume range. 2.Another question you might have is why there is less recommended for smaller muscle groups compared to larger muscle groups. This is mostly due to the fact that those smaller muscle groups already get used while training the bigger muscle groups. Meaning, they already get a ton of indirect volume. For example, most chest exercises also hit the triceps, therefore less volume is required for them.

Step 4: Determine SETS Now that you have the rep range locked in and the optimal volume (total reps) per muscle group per workout, the next step is to divide the volume up into sets.

There are a number of combinations, here are some example: 8 sets x 3 reps = 24 reps 6 sets x 4 reps = 24 reps 5 sets x 5 reps = 25 reps 4 sets x 6 reps = 24 reps 4 sets x 8 reps = 32 reps

Step 5: Putting this Information into Action

A practical example for a person with the goal of building strength for a sticking point at bottom of bench press which indicates a weak chest.

Based on what we have learnt:

  • Their ideal frequency is to train each muscle group twice per week.

  • Their ideal rep range is 1-5 reps per set or 5-8 reps per set for smaller muscle groups.

  • Their ideal volume (total reps) is 30-60 reps per larger muscle groups per workout (half that for smaller muscle groups).

Now, based on this, a chest workout could potentially break down like this:

  • Bench Press: 6 sets of 4 reps (24 total reps)

  • Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets of 8 reps (24 total reps)

  • otal Volume for Chest during this workout: 48 reps, which meets the optimal total reps (volume) range.

We are done! Enjoy your new Strength!

Coach Michael

Research: Wernbom et al.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17326698

#strength #training