Sets & Reps: Two Little Words that Cause Big Misunderstandings!

If you clicked on this headline, I am guessing that you are confused about what sets are versus what reps are. I’m here to tell you that you are not alone in this. Whether you’re new to working out, or have been training for a long time, you might find yourself mixing up these terms. And mixing up these two small words can create big misunderstandings, and lead to less effective workouts.

Now, if you’re taking the time to work out, I want you to get the maximum benefit from that time in the gym. Whether you’re working with me, or with someone else, understanding these terms will help you feel more confident in your workout, and help you get better results.

I’m going to break it down for you here, and then at the end you can watch a video where I will show you exactly what I mean.


Reps is short for repetitions. So you can think of reps as the number of times you are repeating a specific exercise before taking a break. For example, if I want you to do bicep curls I am going to tell you to grab your exercise band or dumbbell, and I am going to tell you that I want you to do 12 reps. What I mean is that I want you to curl your bicep 12 times before you take a rest. When you’ve done that, you have completed one set of 12 reps (or repetitions).


Okay, so I did a bit of foreshadowing in the paragraphs about reps. Sets are the number of times you are going to do a round of reps. So generally speaking, the number of sets will be a really small number, like 2 or 3. And each set will have a number of reps within the set. And now you can see where the confusion comes into play. It sounds a bit like inception. But think of it this way: Less Sets, More Reps. 


So going back to the example of bicep curls, let’s say I want you to do 2 sets of 12 reps. Here’s how you complete this exercise:

  1. You do 12 bicep curls. Those 12 curls make up your first set.
  2. You take a short rest.
  3. You do another 12 bicep curls. Those 12 curls make up your second set.

Since I told you that for your bicep curls I wanted you to do 2 sets of 12 reps, you’re done with your bicep curls!

Here’s the video that I promised. Hopefully, those examples have helped you to distinguish the difference between Sets and Reps.  If you’re still confused after reading this and watching the videos speak up! Don’t go on pretending you understand if you really don’t. I want to make this a great experience for you and give you the support you need to get the most out of your workout.  



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