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Sets And Reps

This will be a refresher post to many of you, but is always good to review and for new coaches here are some of the basics of training prescriptions. One of the first program variables a coach must become acquainted with are sets and reps packages.

Sets and Reps (repetitions) are a combination package. Let’s start with Repetitions. Repetitions are the number of times an individual continuously performs an exercise without rest. A Set is the completion of the prescribed number of repetitions.

When prescribing sets and reps for a specific exercise the simplest form of dictation is number of sets followed by number of repetitions. These numbers are separated by the mathematical multiplication symbol “x”.


In this example, the athlete is prescribed to perform an exercise for 3 sets for a total of 8 repetitions per set. Practitioners utilize the multiply symbol to allow us to track total repetitions per exercise. In this case, 3x8 = 24 total reps. This helps when coaches are tracking training volumes (future blog).

The three most basic sets are reps packages are stable, ascending, and descending sets. The terms for each type of set determines how the load (how much weight per set) for each work set is prescribed.

Stable Sets – 3x8 prescribed load is the same for all sets

3x8 – Set 1 150x8, Set 2 150x8, Set 3 150x8 or

3x8 @ 70%

Ascending Sets – 3x8 prescribed load increases each work set

3x8 – Set 1 150x8, Set 2 165x8, Set 3 180x8 or

3x8 – Set 1 70%, Set 2 76%, Set 3 82%

Descending Sets – 3x8 prescribed load decreases each work set

3x8 – Set 1 180x8, Set 2 165x8, Set 3 150x8 or

3x8 – Set 1 82%, Set 2 76%, Set 3 70%

Utilizing Ascending Sets reduce preparations progression sets if time is an issue. Descending Sets were a favorite of mine when training foundational movements for high volumes and the goal was to achieve every goal rep per set. Stable Sets give you the best bang for the buck when wanting to build base strength.

Each type of set has value depending on the goals of a specific training phase. As a practitioner, it is always good to have options available. Training variety in exercise choice as well as sets and reps packages help avoid stagnation.


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