Reps & Sets

When it comes to weight-bearing exercises, it is a common misunderstanding that one would walk up to a pair of dumbbells or an Olympic bar, throw it around for a while then go home thinking the world is put to right. However, those with more specific goals will need to think more carefully about how to structure the weight-lifting phase of a workout. We provide this information in hopes of making the idea of the free weights area in gyms become, for many, a less daunting place to be.

The table below shows how many repetitions and sets you should do with free weights, cable or resistance machine exercises; remembering that the technique of the exercise overrules all else. 





Rest Duration

Maintenance / General Fitness

8 – 16

1 or 2


30 – 90 seconds

Muscular Strength

Up to 6

2 to 3

80 – 90% of 1RM

2 – 3 minutes

Muscular Endurance


3 to 4

50 – 60% of 1RM

Up to 30 seconds


8 – 12


70 – 80% of 1RM

30 – 90 seconds



1 or 2

90 – 100% of 1RM

2 – 5 minutes

*1RM = One Rep Max: the amount of weight a person could possibly lift for one repetition of an exercise

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