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January 5, 2011

By Gerard Bochese

In a previous blog I mentioned that manipulating variables was a more effective and efficient way to progress your training program than merely changing exercises but maintaining the exact same set, rep, tempo, and rest range.

Repetitions are probably the single most important acute exercise variable, as they determine the entire training effect and influence all other loading parameters – sets, rest, tempo, and even exercise selection.

As a general rule, you should follow an inverse relationship between sets and reps.  As reps increase, sets decrease, and vice versa.

Technically, reps performed are a measure of total “Time Under Tension” (TUT).  TUT is the factor that determines the training stimulus. In designing a program you need to determine your desired training effect and find a rep and tempo scheme that will give you the TUT to accomplish this training effect.

Time Under Tension                  Training Effect              Typical Reps

1-20 seconds                                      Strength Development                    1-4

20-40 seconds                                  Strength/Hypertrophy                     5-8

40-70 seconds                                  Hypertrophy Development             8-12

70-120 seconds                        Endurance/Control Development         12-15 & above


It is important to note that if your goal is hypertrophy (muscle building), than staying solely in the hypertrophy rep range is not the best program design.  The reason for this is that if you spend some time in the lower rep range with heavier weights you will be stronger and more able to lift a heavier weight when you return to the hypertrophy range.  If you spend some time in the higher rep range you will improve your endurance when you return to the hypertrophy range.  Thus, once again, variety is the key to accelerating your progress.


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