What Is A Rep And Set? How Many Reps & Sets Should You Do?

Summary: What is a rep? What is a set? How many reps should you do for an exercise to build muscle? 10, 20 or 30? Read on and find out!


Man lifts dumbbells

What is a rep and set? How many reps should you do? These are sensible questions to answer before starting a workout program.

Why is that so?

You cannot simply design a weight-training program without learning about these two important terms. If you do, you’d just waste your effort and time, not mentioning training would be directionless – anything goes. And that’s not right.

So to get you on the right track, learn what a rep and set is in this article, and then later figure out how many reps you should do. Let’s get started.

What Is A Rep and Set?

What Is A Rep and Set

At the very least, a repetition (rep) is a complete motion of your exercise, while a set is a group of these reps.

Sometimes you’d hear your coach saying, “Do two sets of eight reps of a leg press.” It means that you should do eight consecutive repetitions of leg press and then rest before doing another eight reps of the exercise to complete the two sets.

Let’s discuss it further.

What Is A Rep?

Rep is a term used by fitness professionals to refer to repetitions, which define the number of times to do an exercise.

[But then, some coaches will also give you a specific time to complete the reps to determine your fitness level, if you’ve just started.]

What Is A Set?

On the other hand, Weight Lifting Set or simply “Set” is a term referring to the number of sets to do the specified number of reps.

So just as mentioned above, if you’re advised two sets, it means that you need to complete the exercise using the prescribed reps twice (e.g. 12 reps completed is a set).

How Many Reps Should You Do?

Man lifts weight

The number of repetitions depends on your level – beginner, experienced or going back after an indefinite break from exercise as well as on your goals.

  • To get big and strong, you can do at most 10 reps per set.
  • To develop a training to improve function in everyday life or tone your muscles, you can do at most 12 reps for each set.

What To Remember?

Man with headphone

In determining the number of reps, you should avoid doing more than 10 reps using very light resistance because it won’t stress your muscles enough to bring in the results you need.

Additionally, think of mixing and matching the number of reps to do per exercise if you have a different goal other than what’s stated above.

For example, you may want to consider working out with a heavier weight in one day if you want to improve your endurance, grow bigger and get stronger, and then lighter intensity workout in the following workout session.

Man lifts heavy weight

Whatever combination you use, always monitor how you are feeling after the workout because your body may be responding better to one type of weight training than on another.

Make sure to adjust the resistance that you’re using for every exercise, but see to it that you’re using more weight for your:

Then less weight for your:

But even if you’re doing a variety of exercises for a specific muscle group, you still need to adjust the intensity for the best results. For instance, you might be able to manage a heavier weight when working out using a flat bench machine than you can with an incline bench.


However, you should always use a heavy enough resistance whatever the number of reps you do so that you can stress your muscles enough in the last rep, but not to the point of struggling with a bad form.

[After a month of training, trainees usually go to a muscular failure, meaning they experience difficult last rep to the point that they find it hard to do one more.]


  • ​Have a journal and record how much weight you’re lifting for every exercise to avoid experimenting over again if you’re not training with a fitness coach.
Training Journal and record
  • ​However, avoid locking yourself in a specific and fixed weight in each session. Remember that you could be feeling stronger on a specific day than you were the other day. In that case, you should always be ready to adjust your workout intensity.
workout intensity
  • ​Finally, if you’re looking to build a competitive sport physique like that of football pros, aim at between 10 and 20 reps for each muscle group.

​Other factors to determine rep numbers

  1.  Length of training
  2. Fitness/training goals
  3. ​Age
  4. ​Fitness level –untrained, beginner, novice, advanced
  5. Body type – skinny, plump, muscular
  6. Sports to participate, if any

Knowing what is a rep and set will help you get the most out of your workouts. They can give you an insight on the number of times and sets to do an exercise to grow big, get strong, improve endurance or enhance flexibility, among other goals in mind.

A fitness coach can help you determine the appropriate reps and set based on the factors, including your age, fitness level and training goals mentioned above.

Did you find this article on what is a rep and set useful? Spread the word and help others stay on the right track, too! Finally, tell us what you think in the comment section below.


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