What are Rep Schemes?
Rep schemes are a way of training your body to produce greater amounts of one or more muscle groups. They are used primarily in the development phase of any program. For example, if you want to build strength and power, then you will use different types of exercises for each muscle group.
The most common type of rep scheme is the “one” set method. This means that you perform all your work sets with one exercise (or exercises) and rest only between these sets. You might do 3 sets of 10 reps with bench press, resting 1 minute between each set.
Or you might do 5 sets of 6 reps with leg extension, resting 2 minutes between each set.
Another popular type of rep scheme is the “multiple” set method. This means that you perform multiple sets with one exercise (or exercises). For example, you might do 4 sets of 8 reps with barbell squatting, resting 1 minute between each set.
Or you might do 5 sets of 6 reps with leg press, resting 2 minutes between each set.
A third type of rep scheme is called a “hybrid.” A hybrid rep scheme combines both methods into one workout. For example, you might do 4 sets of 6 reps with the bench press, and then immediately into 4 sets of 8 reps.
You might follow that up with 5 sets of 5 reps on the incline bench.
One-Set Training vs Multiple-Set Training
We’ve been taught that you have to perform multiple sets of an exercise to “stimulate” growth. The theory is that lifting a sub-maximal weight (i.e.
doing sets of 10 reps) isn’t going to “stimulate” growth because it’s not heavy enough. So the only way to make your muscles grow is to constantly overload them with heavier weights.
While this is true in some cases, it’s not true in all cases. The problem is, many people never go heavy and don’t realize that you don’t have to perform multiple sets of an exercise in order to grow. Some of the strongest, most muscular people in history have performed lots of singles and doubles.
If you want to build power and strength, then it’s true that you have to perform multiple sets with sub-maximal weights. If you’re doing heavy squats or deadlifts, then doing 1 set of 20 reps isn’t going to cut it. But if your goal is hypertrophy (building muscle size), then performing “one” set per exercise will work just fine.
Surprisingly, performing “one” set of an exercise will “stimulate” growth. The muscle does not know or care if you’re doing 10 reps or 1 rep, it will simply grow if it is placed under a sufficient load. So if your goal is to build muscle size, then one-set training should work just fine.
RELATED ARTICLE ONE-SET OR MULTI-SET TRAINING: WHICH IS BETTER?
Everyone has a busy schedule these days and finding time to go to the gym can be difficult.
This leads lots of people to ask the question: Is doing only one set for each muscle group enough?
Learn more here!
The key is that you have to train with a sufficient load (i.e. heavy weights).
If you’re performing “light” training (10-12 reps) then you will need to perform more sets in order to stimulate growth. But if you’re performing “heavier” training (6-8 reps), then one set will be sufficient.
Of course, this depends on how advanced you are. An advanced beginner will require more sets than an advanced lifter, for example. But in general, one set can be just as effective as multiple sets.
So when should you perform multiple sets and when should you perform singles?
That’s a question that only you can answer. Most people will be better off performing multiple sets because it’s simply easier to motivate yourself to train hard when you’re not limited by a time constraint.
If you only have so much time to spend in the gym, then you’d probably want to spend at least some of that time doing more than one set per exercise.
But if you’re like me and you have a lot of free time and don’t mind spending lots of hours in the gym, then one-set training is great. It saves you time so that you’re not spending all day in the gym.
And of course if you have more specific goals, then this answer will be different. Powerlifters obviously require more sets than one-set to build strength. But then, powerlifters are accustomed to handling heavier weights which does contribute to hypertrophy (size) as well.
So in their case, it’s not so much that sets don’t count, it’s more that they require lots of them because of the nature of the sport.
In any case, if you’ve been on the fence about doing “more than 1 set” for each muscle group then I hope I’ve given you something to think about. As always, if your goals are purely cosmetic, then you should probably stick with multiple-set training. If you’re a little more concerned about strength and function as well as form and appearance, then one-set training would probably be better for you.
Try it out and see how it goes. If you need more instruction or have questions about form, then consult a professional. And if you’re not sure of your goals, then I’m always here to help.
Thanks for reading!
Next up: Pushing Past the Pain
Sources & references used in this article:
The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training by BJ Schoenfeld – The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2010 – journals.lww.com
Impact of high versus low fixed loads and non-linear training loads on muscle hypertrophy, strength and force development by J Fink, N Kikuchi, S Yoshida, K Terada, K Nakazato – Springerplus, 2016 – Springer
PERIODIZATION AND STRENGTH TRAINING CYCLES. by K Herodek, C Simonović… – Activities in Physical …, 2012 – search.ebscohost.com
Acute hormonal and neuromuscular responses to hypertrophy, strength and power type resistance exercise by GO McCaulley, JM McBride, P Cormie… – European journal of …, 2009 – Springer
Low-load bench press training to fatigue results in muscle hypertrophy similar to high-load bench press training by R Ogasawara, JP Loenneke, RS Thiebaud… – International Journal of …, 2013 – scirp.org
Difference in kinematics and kinetics between high-and low-velocity resistance loading equated by volume: implications for hypertrophy training by NI Mohamad, JB Cronin, KK Nosaka – The Journal of Strength & …, 2012 – journals.lww.com
Discussing Muscle Hypertrophy Science With Brad Schoenfeld by BC July – bretcontreras.com