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Sets and Reps- How Many?

I get asked all the time what are the best exercises or the best number of reps and sets for various goals. 

I’m a little loathed to answer as there really aren’t perfect scientifically studied answers to these questions. 

Nevertheless, I can at least offer some rough guidelines. 

Every workout we’ve ever done together can be altered depending on what you re trying to achieve. No single exercise is necessarily better for burning fat say than any other. How you approach the exercise will determine its primary function. 

We start by listing the general rules (very general rules) for you to follow. For more detail, see below. 

To increase strength :

Focus on low reps (5 or under) using either heavy weights or harder bodyweight exercises Take long rest breaks (no less than 2 mins) All focus should be on the concentric part of the move (ie when you contract the muscle)

To build muscle :

Aim for between 8-12 reps each setRest for around a min in between setsPerform as many sets as possibleThe resistance used (or bodyweight exercise being performed)  should still be fairly heavy but should only feel hard towards the end of the set. Focus on controlling the negative of the move (ie when you lengthen the muscle)

For cardio :

Use relatively light weight or easy bodyweight exercises and perform many reps. Ie 15 or above each set. Keep rest breaks short (30s or less) 

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More specific goals :

Losing body fat:

Most People in gyms around the world, will spend hours endlessly moving on treadmills thinking that continuous cardio is what will burn off those pounds...  nope. 

Focus on low reps, heavy weight or hard exercises. This way we burn the majority of calories during recovery over several days. Light cardio like swimming or jogging will likely only burn calories whilst your exercising, not after. 

Getting toned:

In over words, having a low body fat with a little muscle. Train like a bodybuilder. Don’t worry about getting “bulky”. It won’t happen. 

Generally being in shape :

Perform a regular mixture of all 3: strength training, bodybuilding, cardio (ideally high intensity). 

Bulking up:

Obviously train like a bodybuilder and add a little extra emphasis on training your arms and shoulders. Ideally twice a week for those specific body parts. Chest, back, legs and core train once a week. 

Important points:

All these rules are made to be broken- they’re not set in stone. Doing a little extra cardio won’t result in you losing all your muscle and adding a few sets of bicep curls every once in a while will not magically produce hulk-sized arms. 

As I always say, regardless of your goals, the best programme is one you’ll stick to. It’s not always necessary to love your training but you should at the very least find it interesting in some way- that will massively help your consistency. 

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