Posted by: mrdimr | 2008-11-03

rep goal standard

I am a non athlete and find so many article s geared toward this population. I read your article on " the humble push ups"  and agree too many reps is counterproductive for the average joe. If my maximum rep is say 16 consecutive, how can i increase the number ? And, what are rep standrards for other exercises such as squats and pull ups, especially since I am not going in the military, trying to show off with doing 100, or into martial arts? Lastly, there are so many prescriptions for the number of sets per exercise - i prefer simple 1 exercise for push and pull and 1 for lower body -. It saves me time and I get a full body workout. Any suggestions?

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Our expert says:
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Hi there

There are no standards, because it's really a very individual goal-based. First, there are no studies to show what works best - so does 1 set work better than 3? Probably not because of the impact it has on volume of training, but does 4 continue to get better? Maybe not - perhaps it's overkill.

The same goes for the number of reps. There is probably an optimal range, which changes depending on what your goals are. So the person working at strength must lift heavy weights which means doing fewer reps - 6 to 8. Then again, sometimes elite athletes will do only 3 reps, because they are doing them as explosively and powerfullly as possible. But for someone who is aiming to tone and improve strength-endurance (which sounds more like your ambition), then 12 to 20 reps is the ideal. So in terms of your push-ups, do you need to increase the number of push-ups? There would be two ways to do this - spend some time doing 3 sets of 10 reps, with a short break in between. 10 reps is no problem, but repeating it three times is, and you might find that one the first set, you do 10 reps, on the second, you just barely make 10, and on the third, you make 6 reps. That's fine, because in a few weeks, you'll complete all three sets of 10. Then you can try one set, and chances are you'll reach more than 16.

The other method is to increase the weight - put a weight on your back and do 8 reps, or maybe 10 (wherever you can get to). You'll adapt by getting stronger and then be able to increase that number.

Hope that helps you!


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