Sets vs Reps: The Differences and How They Impact Your Workout

By Tracy Little
Davor Štefanović - Editor for Trim Down Club
Edited by Davor Štefanović

Published May 26, 2023.

Three women doing kettlebell exercises in the gym

Are you ready to take your fitness to the next level? Whether you're aiming to build muscle, enhance your overall fitness, or smash your personal goals, strength training is your secret weapon. But to truly unlock its potential, you need to understand the key elements of any strength training regimen: sets, reps, and volume.

Let's dive in and discover how these building blocks can supercharge your workouts.

The Building Blocks of Strength Training

So what are reps and sets when it comes to exercise? In fitness, 'reps' refers to the number of times you perform a specific exercise, while 'sets' are the number of times you perform a group of reps without a break. For instance, if you do 10 squats, rest, and then do 10 more squats, that would be 2 sets of 10 reps each.

However, it's not just about sets and reps. The total volume is, is a critical factor in muscle growth and strength development.

You can calculate the total volume of work as follows:

Sets x Reps x Weight

Tailoring Your Workout: Strength, Hypertrophy, and Endurance

Depending on your fitness goals, you can manipulate your sets, reps, and weight to stimulate different types of muscular adaptations:

  • Strength: Lower reps (1-5) with heavier weights
  • Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth): Moderate reps (6-12) with moderate weights
  • Endurance: Higher reps (12+) with lighter weights

The number of sets you perform can also influence these adaptations. Lighter weights allow for longer and more frequent sets, leading to better endurance (think running). In addition, performing multiple sets allows for a greater total volume, thereby leading to more muscle stress and potentially greater strength levels and muscle growth.

You can extrapolate this principle to decide how often you should exercise (a particular muscle group or in total) per week. Do keep in mind that you need sufficient time to recover. Overtraining can lead to loss of progress or even injury.

Did You Know?

Strength training not only builds muscle, but also improves bone density, boosts metabolism, and enhances mental health.

» Learn how to activate your fat-burning hormones

Designing Your Workout

To design an effective workout, you'll need to choose the appropriate number of sets, reps, and weights depending on your individual goals. For example, if your goal is to increase strength, you might choose to do 5 sets of 5 reps with a heavy weight.

Remember, the key to a successful workout routine is progression. As you get stronger, you'll need to gradually increase your volume (either by increasing the weight, the reps, or the sets) to continue challenging your muscles and promoting growth.


Keep a workout log to track your progress over time. Note the number of sets, reps, and the weight used in each workout.

» Find out what foods will fuel your workout

The 7-Minute Workout: How It Works

The 7-minute workout is a popular high-intensity circuit training workout that applies the principles of sets, reps, and volume. It involves performing 12 exercises for 30 seconds each with 10 seconds of rest in between.

While the 7-minute workout is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and not traditional strength training, it still utilizes the concepts of sets and reps. Each exercise can be viewed as one set, and the number of times you perform the exercise within the 30-second period can be viewed as reps.

The 7-minute workout can be adjusted for different fitness levels by increasing or decreasing the intensity (how hard you push yourself in each 30-second period) and the volume (how many rounds of the 7-minute circuit you do).


Consistency is key in strength training. Regular workouts with progressive overload will yield the best results.

Optimize Your Training

Understanding the roles of sets, reps, and volume in fitness is crucial for maximizing your workouts and achieving your fitness goals. Whether you're looking to build strength, increase muscle size, or improve endurance, manipulating your sets, reps, and weight can help you target your goals more effectively. Apply this knowledge to your own workouts, and you'll be well on your way to becoming stronger and fitter.

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