Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reps and Sets

Tonight I taught a muscle pump class at GW during their finals week. I only have one more scheduled class at GW which is a bit of a bitter sweet thing. I have loved teaching there, learned a ton not only from my directors over the years, but also from the students themselves. I made some of my best friends in that studio and it will truly hold a special place in my heart.

But back to business. I promised my class that I would post today about why I almost always do 3 sets of 12-15 reps in every exercise we do.

First of all, I'm a big beliver in no-rest sets--switching between exercises one after another, then looping back around. I like to work the same area of the body, switching between antagonizing muscles to keep the heart rate up and exhausting the muscles faster. Let's admit it. Everyone wants to get out of the gym as soon as possible. For example--1 set of bicep curls, 1 set of tricep kick backs, 1 set of military presses, repeat.

So, why do I do it? It has a lot to do with a book I read in the very beginning of my teaching career: Sculpting Her Body Perfect. Brad Schoenfeld is a very very good exercise specialist. I've seen results using his techniques in myself and my students. If you're interested in technique and theory, I STRONGLY recommend this book. It's not a lot of jargon, most anyone who is familiar with a gym will understand it. It's also great for picking up new exercises as he has a great appendix of moves.

He espouses the following about reps and sets:

Note: He and I differ in one aspect, he doesn't believe in one right after another, he believes in rests, but I've combined some theories I learned in Personal Trainingn with his Toning only approach. Neither of us is wrong--it's a style thing.

"Sets: You should perform 3 sets of each exercise. This provides ample muscular stimulation without overtaxing your muscles."
My note: 3 sets is a good mental goal. It's enough to do a warm up set, a stabilization set (standing on one leg, let's say) and then a combination set...maybe bicep curls to a military press. The third round of sets is usually shorter because I like to do combination movements

"Repetitions: The target is 15-20 per set. It is essential to train with good form and apply continuous tension to your muscles during each repetition."
My note: I believe 12-15 is appropriate for a class, primarily due to lack of time, but also because I teach cardio in my classes. Schoenfeld's theory is based only on a conditioning work out. Trainers use the 3/12-15 a lot too.

So. Rule of thumb? In a group setting, 3 sets of 12-15 is appropriate. On your own or with a trainer? 3 sets of 12-15. However, what takes precedent is that you do the exercises the right way, and if that means you can't do more than 2 sets of ten, don't push it.

Don't forget to give me 10 today!

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