How many reps should you do?

Man lifting weights

A lot of people ask me, "how many reps should I do?" "how many sets should I do?" when it comes to strength training and callisthenics and body weight training. 

There is no definitive answer to these questions but for many people working to get fitter, stronger and more toned I would recommend this:

Once you have warmed up, do skill work first whilst your nervous system is fresh. The quality of the movement is paramount.

  1. Do a rep of an exercise, perfectly. 
  2. Then do another one. And again until the quality isn't spot on. Then stop for the set. 

This way you are drilling positive movement patterns and muscle recruitment. 

Then depending on how you FEEL and how your body is responding, choose how many sets you do according to that. Giving yourself a reasonable rest in between.

It might be worth also stopping at 4-5 sets anyway even if your form is amazing so you don't enter your next exercise too exhausted. 

*(Some of you might be wondering what this differs from a previous post but that was focused more for a beginner 'just getting the ropes' and I advised that going light and drilling the movement pattern correctly for more repetition would be beneficial).

Another question is

"How often should I be training?"

I was listening to a podcast by GMB Fitness, autonomy skill, recently and this stood out for me:

"If 30 minutes is all you have, it is enough.  It's great if you can organise your life to fit in more physical activity. But don't compare yourself to someone else who doesn't have your life."

What kind of time do you have?  Well, if you only have 15mins, that's not only 15 minutes, that's an opportunity of 15 minutes in which you can do something. You just need to be creative. That 15 minutes slot is an opportunity. You don't have to do hours if your lifestyle won't permit it. You do what you can do. 

If you have assessed what is the main factor that is limiting you from getting you where you want to be, and you work for just 15mins a day on only that thing, you can make amazing progress. It's so much better than saying you don't have enough time. 

I thought that was brilliant advice.

Also what it comes down to is what are you trying to achieve.  You might need some changes to get to that goal. But if you try to compare yourself to people who have more time or have been doing these things for a LONG time then it's going to take you a while to get there. 

I have personal experience of this. I pushed my body so hard that my shoulder just had enough. I was trying to achieve in 18 months what many gymnasts take YEARS to achieve - all the conditioning, mobility training, isometric stability work, etc. 

Instead, I should have gone at a slower pace. Given my body enough rest after training sessions, ditched the ego, and really worked in this case on doing BASIC scapula (shoulder blade) stabilising movement patterns which would've supported my rotator cuff muscles (shoulder supporting muscle) and preventing me from overdoing it. 

So really find out what you want.  Have a Long Term goal by all means, but go back to basics, drill the movement patterns and then progress when you are ready.

Assess where you are and be realistic about where you start!

How do you know when you are ready to progress?

Again this is a loaded question. It depends on multiple things

But when you can do at least one rep of a movement e.g. handstand press up against a wall, really really well, then its time to start working on the next step. 

I hope this helps if you have ever wondered what is enough and what you should be doing when training.

Train Safe & Train Smart