There are aspects of the physical therapy and strength and conditioning worlds that are awesome. There are countless individuals out there working really hard to help people move and feel better. The passion that people have for the aforementioned fields as well as similar fields is amazing!
Far too often, physical therapists, personal trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches are prescribing their athletes or clients with the generic 3 sets x 10 reps for exercises. Now, don’t get me wrong, if someone has been progressing from 2 sets x 8 reps, to 2 sets x 10 reps, 3 sets x 8 reps, and up to 3 sets x 10 reps, then great!
Progressive overload is a wonderful thing! It helps to get people stronger and make progress in their rehab or training programs. The problem arises when it is always...3 sets x 10 reps! Not only is this boring, but it doesn’t allow the athlete or client to progress and make consistent gains if they are using the same weight and reps.
Individualize Your Programming!
Depending on the goals of the athlete, client, and/or rehab/fitness professional, reps and sets schemes can vary.
Whether someone’s goal is to be a powerlifter and are performing lifts in the 1-3 rep ranges, an athlete looking to gain strength using the 5-8 rep ranges, or someone training for a bodybuilding competition using 10-15 reps, the number of reps and sets needs to be taken into account to allow the person to get back to where they want to be.
In my opinion, no one should be deadlifting or squatting to absolute failure. If they are getting to the point where there is technical failure, then the lift should stop to avoid injury and reinforcement of poor movement patterns.
When performing deadlifts or squats, remaining under 6 total reps per set is safe as it allows for great technique since the lifter is only performing 6 total reps. The lifter isn’t attempting to grind out one last rep of 10-12 and their form is suspect.
For movements such as:
Single Leg Deadlifts
The system load is lower and an increased number of reps can be performed. Performing for sets of 6-12 reps is not unheard of.
Remember, going to technical failure is a much safer bet than going to absolute failure. As form starts to become less optimal, the risk for injury goes up.
Another way to adjust someone’s program is by assessing the total number of reps and tonnage being performed. For example,
2 sets x 10 reps @ 100 lbs = 20 total reps with a tonnage of 2000
3 sets x 8 reps @ 90 lbs = 24 total reps with a tonnage of 2160
4 sets x 5 reps @ 120 lbs = 20 total reps with a tonnage of 2400
In the aforementioned example, someone may lift more weight, but actually do less total work in regards to tonnage and total reps. In the 2nd example, the person is performing 4 more total reps with 10 fewer pounds, but with 160 more pounds of total tonnage.
In the 3rd example, more sets, but fewer reps than the first 2 examples. Also, more weight, and more total tonnage as compared to the 1st two scenarios. Depending on the person’s goals, reps, sets, weight, time under tension, rest periods can all be adjusted to affect progressive overload.
If you are consistently programming 3 sets x 10 reps for your clients or athletes, provide them with more value and adjust their reps and sets schemes to make greater improvements.
Here I will be writing and posting about topics ranging from physical therapy, injury prevention/reduction, and strength and conditioning.