Starting out on a weightlifting workout plan can get confusing and overwhelming: Exactly how much weight should I be lifting? How many reps should I do? How many sets? And what should be the rest time in between?

When you lift weights, your workout plan will usually specify a certain number of sets and a certain number of reps. But what are reps and sets? And how should you determine how many reps and sets you should do? Learning basic weight lifting terms can help you to answer these questions and set up a program that helps you to reach your weight training goals.

Training GoalSetsRepsRest PeriodIntensity
General fitness1-312-1530 to 90 secondsVaries
Endurance3-4>12Up to 30 seconds<67% of 1RM
Hypertrophy3-66-1230 to 90 seconds67% to 85% of 1RM
Muscle strength4-6<62 to 5 minutes>85% of 1RM
Power: Single rep3-51-22 to 5 minutes80%–90% of 1RM
Power: Multi reps3-53-52 to 5 minutes75%–85% of RM

What Are Reps?

In the gym, the word “rep” is short for repetition. It is one execution of a single exercise. For example, if you complete one push-up, you did one “rep” of a push-up. If you complete 10 chest presses, you did 10 reps of a chest press.


Your one-rep max (1RM) is the maximum amount of weight that you can lift to complete one repetition. trainers may help you to determine your 1RM to determine how much weight you should lift when doing multiple reps in your program. You are likely to have a different 1RM for different muscles or muscle groups throughout the body.

Especially if you are new to weight training, it is important to test your 1RM with the help of a trained professional. During the test, you will be pushing your muscle to its maximum load, which carries a risk of failure and injury. So it is important to warm up properly and have some assistance if you are new.

Related article: Are You A Beginner Or Just Want To Improve Your Workout? Incorporate These 10 Tips For An Optimal Workout

What Are Sets?

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Sets are simply a group of reps. You might do a single set of reps for a given exercise, or you might do multiple sets. It is more common to do multiple sets, especially if you are interested in building muscular endurance or muscular strength.

For example, if you are trying to build muscle in your chest, you might do 3 sets of 10 repetitions of a chest press. That means that you complete 10 repetitions of the chest press and then briefly rest. Then you complete another 10 reps and take another short break. Finally, you finish with your last 10 repetitions before taking a short break and moving on to your next exercise.

Related article: The No-Nonsense Five Sets Five Reps Routine That Focuses On A Full-Body Strength Workout

Determining How Many Sets and Reps to Do:


The number of sets and reps that you do in your workout depends on your training goal. In resistance training, goals are usually divided into these general categories:

  • General fitness: This is a reasonable goal for someone who is new to weight lifting and wants to improve daily function and overall health. Some might refer to weight lifting in this category as “toning.”
  • Muscular endurance: Strength endurance or muscular endurance is a muscle’s ability to produce and sustain force over an extended period of time. Typically, you would work toward this goal with a program of higher reps with a slightly lower weight.
  • Hypertrophy: Muscle hypertrophy is simply a technical term for building muscle mass. If you want your muscles to “bulk up,” or achieve maximum muscle growth, you’ll plan for higher volumes of work at moderate-to-high intensity levels (1RM) with minimal rest periods between sets.
  • Muscular strength: Maximum strength is the ability to generate a maximal amount of muscle force for a particular exercise. When training with this goal in mind, you’ll generally lower the number of reps but increase the intensity by lifting close to your 1RM.
  • Power: Powerlifters are often competitive weightlifters. Powerlifting simply refers to the ability to generate a significant magnitude of the force in the shortest amount of time possible.