Sets and Reps with What Exercise?

     “How many sets and reps should I do?” This question comes up and it is probably one of the biggest “loaded” questions because there are many variables that we have to take into account.  What time of the off-season is it (or is it the in-season?), what the goal is, the training experience of the athlete, injury history, age, how much time you have to work with athletes/clients, etc…I know from my short experience with athletes, especially the younger age guys and girls, we tend to stay with 3-4 sets of 5-10 reps.  These set and rep ranges are including the major movements such as squat (single or double leg), deadlift (single or double leg), presses, and rowing.  These ranges tend to lend themselves more to grooving good technique and not focusing solely on intensity.  But I like some of these (listed below) guidelines for certain movements…

The “Money” Movements: Squat, Deadlift (Trap Bar included), and Bench (Barbell versions)

  • These are very technical lifts.  Meaning that 9 times out of 10, staying under 6 reps is a smart way to steer away from technical breakdown.    I agree with this if purely “strength” or “power” emphasis.  For my own training, I hate doing these lifts past 6 reps.

Explosive Movements/Rotational Med Ball Work:
Hang cleans, 1-arm DB snatches, and all the MB work you can think of

  • Again, all of these are very technical, which means we need to be explosive.  Doing high rep power movements, in my opinion, just does not work well.  You will lose the ability to be explosive after 5-6 reps.  Don’t forget, 1-arm DB hang snatches  need to be done with both arms so even 4 reps/arm turns into 8 total explosive jumps.

Core Stability/Loaded Carries

  • Holding excessively long planks is probably a good choice to assess to see what someone’s core stability endurance is but from a programming standpoint, we want to progress to more difficult variations of those exercises after each phase, not necessarily lengthen the duration.  We have used all of these listed below to determine when the duration of a set.

Counting # of diaphragmatic breaths (2-6 full breaths)

10-30 second holds

Shortening the holds and increasing the reps (i.e. 5 x 5sec holds of belly presses)

Carries: 25-50-or100 yard walks

General Strength Work

  • Ok, there is a ton of exercises we could do here (pushing, pulling, knee dominant, and hip dominant lifts)
  • The 4 movements I listed above, whatever they are, should be the bulk of the training. 
  • These could be primarily single leg (supported or unsupported lifts) or dumbbell versions.
  • We tend to stick with 3-5 sets of  4-8 reps for most of these



Categories: Injury Prevention, Strength Training

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