Weightlifting question

I have been working out with weights for a year now and have read several books on the subject but I haven’t found a good answer to this question: how many reps per set? For example, Bill Pearl’s book Getting Stronger is great for many things but is vague on this point. He basically says do 8 to 10 reps each set until the last rep is fairly difficult. Therein lies the problem.

My confusion has to do exercises I do in three sets. My first set is usually going to be easier than the following ones. I might not reach “fairly difficult” on the first set until, for example, 12 reps, but then only be able to perform 10 or 8 for the next two sets. I’ve been stopping before I reach “fairly difficult” on the first set in order to do three sets of 8, 9, or 10 - by the end of which I have definitely reached “fairly difficult”.

Should I be stopping short on the first set? What should the goal be for each set?

To be honest, I don’t think it makes any significant difference. If you go longer on the first set, you’ll need more rest between the later sets.

The goal for each set is to lift as much as you can without dropping the weights. Exactly how much weight you use and how many reps you do depends on what your goals are. Common wisdom is that 3-5 reps per set is great for strength without growth, and 8-12 is great for strength and growth. I’ve found that switching protocols every few months is good for my continued progress.

Good form is absolutely essential. Also, don’t race through your set. Lift slowly, pause, and lower more slowly. I like a 2-2-4 count. My natural counting speed is roughly 3/4 of a second per count.

So, in your opinion, the “fairly difficult” guideline applies mainly to the third set?

How about some routines I’ve seen that advocate, for example, 8 reps, 9 reps and then 10 reps on subsequent sets. Any point to this?

The published routines you see are best thought of as guidelines. Don’t worry too much about sticking exactly to them.

The point of adding an extra rep per set is to work the weaker fibers harder, I’d guess. When you lift, muscle fibers are recruited preferentially. So if you only do one set, you’ll only hit the strongest fibers, and that’s not quite as good.

Generally you use high weight and low reps to increase mass. Once you get where you want. You need to do lower weight, higher reps.

HOWEVER, you MUST very your routine. If you are still doing the same thing you did a year ago your body gets used to it. So once a month you should very it.

For example…If you work upper body one day, lower body next… The next month you do something like Work Arms one week. Back one week, Chesk next week etc.

This will keep your body from getting used to a routine.

Lastly nothing works for everyone. I would read a book by a bodybuilder you think is built well. Then read another by a different bodybuilder. You will find their routines are different.

Lastly professional bodybuilder use steriods. You can only gain so much mass per year without their aid. So if you’re not growing it may be natural.

Yes I know their are natural bodybuilding contest. View one. They are less buildt then most people in my gym. Which only proves my point.

I’ve always worked on the premise that I’m training to failure with each exercises, and that it doesn’t make much difference in which direction I go (higher weight/lower rep per set or vice versa). What I do try to manage is a week of much lower weight, but much higher rep count every few weeks as my body is getting used to the increase weight. It keeps the routine from getting stale. Whether there’s any scientific rationale for doing that, I have no idea. It works for me.

Yes there is a point to those. The burning you feel on the last set is the building of your muscle… Scientifically speaking the blood is maximizing the space in the striations of the muscle.

A Bicep workout that always gets me, is if you are curling with 20 pound weights, at 12,10,8 reps. Try switching to 15 or even 10 pound bells. And up the reps and lower the duration from arm fully extended to completely curled up.

In essence put the 10pound bell in your hand, extend your arm fully, whilst in the sitting position. Then veeery slowly pull it up like normal. For the first couple sets you will think this is childs play. Then the slower you go the more it will burn. Then a 10 pound weight will feel like a 30 pound bell. Ask and trainer, the slower you go and the more you squeeze, the more muscle you will build…

Sorry, but that’s not accurate. Muscle is built in the 48 hours after you work out, not during your set. The burn you feel is due to a build-up of lactic acid.

ultrafilter, You said it in the last paragraph of that post, but I’m just going to repeat it – the goal should be to lift as much weight as you can without breaking from.

Breaking form not only decreases the effectiveness of the exercise it exposes you to a greatly increased chance of injury.

Personally, I usually do three set of 10-12 reps with 30-60 seconds of rest between sets. And I choose a weight that makes the last rep of the last set the last one I’ll be able to do without breaking my form.

I’m with plnnr on the premise of training to failure. The only reason you shouldn’t train to failure is if you don’t have a spotter. If you don’t have a spotter then you want to train as close to failure as possible without injurying yourself which is probably described adequately as being “fairly difficult.”

What I have found to be universally accepted and a sure way to see growth no matter who you are is to do periodization. The idea of this is to do long, drawn-out progressions in weight. For example, do a month of 12 reps on everything, another month of 8-10, another month of 6-8, and so on. Then do it all over again. This will ensure you don’t always go heavy and hurt yourself and always are changing to promote new muscle growth.

I think even more importantly than number of reps in a set is rep speed. Accentuate the negative portion of the movement to a certain degree, say 1 second down and hold one second and up. You can play around with the the number of seconds and this is a big muscle growth factor as well.

The trainer I worked with for a while gave me basic instructions for a self-moderated workout program (I was going to Bally’s, and using nautilus equipment). His idea was that it should be possible to do a full workout in a fairly short period of time, and may have been geared specifically towards people who are hitting the gym on their way to/from work, rather than the serious bodybuilder types who go to the gym and spend a couple hours there, so YMMV. He said to do sets of 8-12 reps, until the point of temporary muscle failure. Spotters are important for this, if you’re not using something like a Nautilus.

If you can’t do 8 reps, it’s too much weight. If you can get 13 reps, add weight on your next set. Don’t do more than 3 sets.

The timing he suggested was a seven second rep. Lift the weights through 2 seconds, hold at maximum for one second, then release through 4 seconds. This is very slow. It’s important to get the full range of motion and use proper form; that’s what the Nautilus-type equipment is good for, at the expense of not being able to work a variety of muscles and positions.

Point well-taken. Thanks for emphasizing that.

As for me, I’m currently doing a 4 set routine, using a warmup set at a low weight, two work sets at a high weight, and a cooldown set at the same weight as my warmup. The low weight is roughly half of the high weight. The rep pattern I’m shooting for is 8, 5, 5, and 8, and I’ll know it’s time to move up in weight if I can hit that twice in a row.

power lifters = 3-5 reps, sometimes 2-3 reps per set where last rep is failure/close to failure and in need of spot.

body builders = classic routine (pyramind) starting with a weight that you can rep 8-10, next set a weight you can only rep 6-8 with spot, next set with weight you can rep 8-10, with a least one monthly attempt at max weight with spot for 2-3 reps.

Toners = keep reps above 12, failure less important.

That is absolutely and 100% WRONG!

Powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters NEVER…let me repeat…NEVER go to failure unless it is for a competition.

Please do not spread false information.

By the way, I have been a powerlifter and Olympic lifter for over 10 years.

Okay, considering that I am an Elite Moderator on Elitefitness.com, I believe that I am qualified to answer your question succinctly.

Choose a weight where you can do each set for 10-12 reps. It is normal to reduce the weight after each set to meet the rep range. No matter how many sets you are doing, your first set should not go to failure. Your second (etc.) set should be difficult towards the end, but still not to failure. The final set should go until failure (at about 10-12 reps).

This rule is sufficient for the upper body. The lower body does not require 10-12 reps because most lower body exercises are compound movements that cover a wide range of muscles (i.e. Squats and Deadlifts). For such exercises, you will benefit from 6-8 reps. You also do not need to go until failure for squats or deadlifts (mainly as a way to prevent injury).

The basic principle is that of over-load. I am sure that you might of heard of this principle. It basically states that in order to continue muscle stimulation (and growth) you will need to slightly increase the load (weight) on regular intervals (i.e. weekly or monthly).

The single most important component (as long as sufficient weight is used) is perfect form. No other single factor leads to hypertrophy than good form.

If you would like any more info, please post up or email me at 2Thick@elitefitness.com

Uh Ultra please point out where I said muscle is built during your set?

What I said was

I am not a fitness buff as 2thick has nicely demonstrated, but I never said muscle is built during the set. I did however stress that the slower you go the better. I guess that would contribute to good form as thick said.

I just reread my post and I sound like a total jerk. I apologize if I was a little offensive.

Well, What are the differences between power lifting and body building then?

Powerlifting? Do you not drop the reps? I did say failure/near failure.

But don’t you drop the reps versus body building?

Where did you come up with the 10-12 reps for upper, 6-8 for lower? You said overload. So, you can’t overload your legs with 12-15 reps or 3-6 reps?