In an earlier article we discussed the phrase hypertrophy and just how strength, power, and fitness athletes can benefit from practicing hypertrophy at specific phases from the annual training program. The goal of this article is to offer coaches and athletes an over-all outline for hypertrophy training programming and offer insight on the importance of moderating total training volume (sets x reps) to prevent over-training and permit for hypertrophy adaptations to take place.

What Are Reps and Sets?

When prescribing exercises, we have a few variables to think about. Among those variables would be the final amount of sets, reps (repetitions), intensity (how heavy the weight it relative to with the idea to one-rep max or rate of perceived exertion), rest periods, exercise order, and frequency (how often each week, typically).

Sets are the final amount of complete rounds of repetitions someone would so inside a workout. Repetitions constitute one set, which rep ranges will go from 1 to, well, as high as your heart (and/or body) desires. For example, if you wanted your lifter to squat 100kg five times in a row, and do this 3 separate times with 90 seconds of rest among each grouping of 5 squats, the squat prescription could be 3 teams of 5 reps at 100kg, with 90 seconds rest.

How Reps and Sets Could affect Hypertrophy

When looking to increase muscle hypertrophy, science indicates that certain of the most basic factors for increasing the size of the person muscle fibers (muscle hypertrophy) is overall training volume. Higher training volumes, to an extent, have shown to increase hypertrophy, helping coaches and athletes build guidelines for exercise prescription. Note, that muscle tissues has additionally been proven to have a reaction to loading as well, and that’s why the below guidelines allow for a sports athlete to use moderate-heavy loads for moderate-higher repetition ranges done for moderate-higher sets.

General Sets and Reps Guidelines for Hypertrophy Training

The below guidelines are geared for that anyone looking to build general muscle hypertrophy with no specific sport-goal (apart from possess a firm foundation). There’s been some research suggesting that more advanced techniques for hypertrophy might be more appropriate for more advanced strength, power, and fitness athletes, however most of this is theoretical. Nonetheless, the below guidelines are usually known as the basis for nearly every single beginner and intermediate ?lifter, athlete, and sport. Note, the below guidelines include a wide range of goals; power, strength, muscle hypertrophy (highlighted), and muscular endurance.

Training Goal Total Working Sets Repetition Ranges Training Intensity (% of 1RM)
Maximal Strength/Power 3-5 1-3 85-100
Functional Strength and Hypertrophy 4-6 4-6 75-85
General Hypertrophy 3-5 7-10 65-75
Muscular Endurance 2-4 11+ <60


It is important to note the total amount of sets is influenced greatly by training frequency. When examining the effectiveness of an exercise program for building hypertrophy, we should consider the total volume across the entire week, month, or program. For instance, when looking at increasing leg hypertrophy, total working sets (for many, drug-free lifters) across per week can range from 12-20 total working sets based on an athlete’s ability to recovery and/or fitness level (more advanced athletes might not be equipped to handle as much loading because of moving more weight over time).

The above chart is assuming that the lifter has a baseline knowledge of their 1RM of the compound lift (like the squat, deadlift, bench press, etc.). These guidelines could be manipulated (primary total sets per exercise) to ensure that each group of muscles will get between 12-20 total working sets per week from the wide array of compound exercises. For example, when programming for leg development, you you have a lifter carry out the back squat, front squat, and box squat every week (on separate days), for 5 sets of 8-10 repetitions. This would be a total of 15 working sets per week. Coaches will have to monitor training and recovery to see if this loading (15 total sets is too much volume) is simply too much to recuperate from over time.

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