What Are Sets?

A set or sets are a group of repetitions. For example, 3 sets of 10 reps of squats would see you complete 10 consecutive repetitions of squats without stopping, 3 times with rest time in between each grouping of 10.

How Many Sets Should You Do?

Based on the above research we can build some general guidelines based a rep goal of 30 – 60 reps per body part per session;

  • 1 – 4 sets per compound movement
  • 1 – 3 sets per isolation movement

Keep in mind when calculating reps for isolation exercises that you’ll often also be getting direct rep work from your compound exercises. For example, the biceps are also worked in chin ups and bent over rows.

But Aren’t There Different Types Of Sets?

Yes, there are.

There are in fact lots of different types of sets, however, a lot of them won’t offer you any extra benefit above and beyond what you can get from the following sets. In fact, untold numbers of people, myself included have made fantastic progress using only a handful of set types.

When it comes to sets there a number of different ways you can do them depending on your training experience, overall goal, time and equipment available. Below are a few examples;

Straight Sets

Also known as traditional or simple sets, straight sets are the most commonly used set type in weightlifting. You will most likely be familiar with this type of set and chances are it will form the base of your workout.


Supersets involve doing 2 exercises back to back with no rest in between and can be a very useful tool if you are short on time or can regularly only fit in short workouts.

There are a few different types of supersets:

  • Same Part – Doing 2 exercises that work the same body part i.e. incline bench then flat bench
  • Antagonistic – Doing 1 exercises for one body part then working the antagonistic pair i.e. barbell curls then skull crushers
  • Agonist/Compound – Doing 1 exercises for one body part followed by another for the same body part i.e. bent over rows then chin ups
  • Upper / lower – Doing 1 exercise for the upper body followed by one for the lower body i.e. shoulder press then lunges

Tri Sets & Giant Sets

A tri set is a group of 3 exercises before one after the other with no rest in between. Instead of doing your normal straight sets on each exercise one at a time you would group the 3 exercises together and do 1 set on each before resting and repeating for the desired number of sets.

A giant set is very similar to a tri set but is done with a group of 4 exercises or more instead of just 3.


Pyramid sets involve working on a sliding scale where your reps either increase or decrease with each set, sometimes the weight you lift will also change as your reps either increase or decrease.

There are 2 main types of pyramid sets:

Traditional Pyramid

This is where you start with a higher rep number with a lighter weight and then increase the weight and decrease the reps with each subsequent setAnywhere between 3 – 6 sets is common for a traditional pyramid.

Reverse Pyramid

Reverse pyramids are the opposite of your traditional variation and work by having you start with lower reps and a heavier weight before gradually increasing the reps and decreasing the weight. This way you are lifting your heaviest weight first and not last which personally makes a lot more sense than traditional pyramids.

Rest Pause Sets

Rest-pause training takes one set and breaks it down into several mini sets with a brief rest in between each mini set.

When doing rest pause sets it’s best to avoid doing it with complicated movements due to the fatiguing nature of the setup.

For the same reason, it’s also not advisable to do it all of the time, if you’re already feeling fatigue then it may be best to skip rest pause sets in that session and stick with something else.

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