Sets and Reps…A Means to an End

This article is authored by Doug Scott. Opinions expressed may not be that of SMARTER Team Training, STT sponsors or constituents. Coach Scott has been a member of the Pingry faculty since 1999 and has served as a Physical Education teacher and Strength and Conditioning coach since that time. Doug designs workouts for both male and female student athletes competing on a variety of Varsity and Junior Varsity athletic teams, including many county, state, and conference championship teams. Listen to Doug’s podcast on iTunes by clicking here.

Have something to share? YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! CLICK HERE.

I am a student of strength training and I love its history (yes there’s history), the scientific side, as well the physiological effects training has on people. When reviewing various “workouts” one thing that stands out are the various set and repetition schemes that are used. There is the 3 sets of 10, 5 sets of 5, 1 set of 12, pyramids, drop sets, periodization, the list is endless. In fact for every person who has even written about strength training, there is a different combination of sets and reps. With so many to choose from it would be easy to think that the body will respond differently to each. After all, “low reps build and high reps tone,” right. Well, here’s the thing, there is no difference. The human muscles do not have the ability to count sets and reps, they only respond to tension and time. If the tension is high enough and the time is long enough time the muscle will adapt and get stronger. This is where progressive exercise comes into play. If you adhere to these simple rules your body will respond and get stronger.

Progressive Exercise Rules
1. Perform each exercise in a controlled fashion
2. Design a repetition range for each exercise. The range matters little, but keep it consistent, (8-10).
3. Select a weight that will cause fatigue within your selected range.
4. Increase the resistance when the top number of the rep range has been met.
5. Allow the body 24-48 hours to rest and adapt

Exercise is a very personal activity and should be meaningful to you. Choose whatever set and rep scheme you want, just make sure you adhere to the rules of progressive exercise and allow for proper recovery. If those two criteria are met you will get stronger. Your training results are not dictated by the amount of sets or repetitions you perform, but by how focused, and committed you are to improving. Your results are in your hands.

Train Hard!

Doug Scott believes that strength training is a “means to and end” and should be a part of every athlete’s lifestyle; and it’s the coaches job to facilitate learning and put the athlete in the best position to get the most out of themselves and ultimately succeed. Mr. Scott has also worked as a personal trainer and has written a number of fitness-related articles and chapters. Coach Scott is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and hold the title of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. You can contact him at