What is the Perfect Amount of Weightlifting Sets for Me?

There are some aspects of weightlifting that those new to it may feel aren’t explained well. While you might not which lifts to try and how many reps, many forget the importance of sets. The first thing that new lifters might not know is that you will need to adjust your sets as time goes on. For example, those three sets of deadlifts you did when you started out were likely very grueling. However, if you fast forward to a year or six months later and you’re still doing three sets, it can wreak havoc on your gains. On the flipside, starting out with too many sets is dangerous.

I’ll share with you a little trick that I’ve used after missing some time away from the gym. For my first workout, I call it an assessment day. One of the worst things you can do is to, after missing workouts, jump back where you left off. Depending on how long you have been out of action, your strength may have drastically reduced. I like to only do one set of each exercise (ranging from 6-8) to see where my numbers are currently. If, in this beginning phase, you pick up something too heavy or light, make quick adjustments. Don’t sit around fine tuning the weights, it can be really to overthink this part. Once you’ve found a weight that works for you, see how many repetitions you can get out.

I would recommend having strength assessment days for the first week, it’s safer and provides you with base numbers. During this beginning phase, do not get discouraged if you can curl a maximum of 10 pounds, we’ve all been there. After you have undergone the strength assessment week, I’ll add another set onto each lift for the next week. If you’ve made it to this point you should be doing two sets per exercise or roughly about 6-12 total sets, depending on how many lifts you plan on doing per day. This second week is what I call the prove it week. After having a few days off to eat and prepare myself, I should be able to perform two sets of what I could only do one of the week before. In this upcoming stage, you don’t want to add more weight, although it could be tempting. The second week of two sets is to ensure that you keep this number and prove that you can lift the weight for an additional set.

It is perfectly normal to find that a few lifts will be ones that you can’t match last week’s strength with. After these two weeks, you are free to find out which amount of sets works best for you. Most people will jump up to three sets and stay there for a while. The best indicator I’ve found for knowing when to step it up is how you feel. I know that previous advice sounds a bit weak but believe me you will start to develop a sense of your weightlifting limits. Another important aspect of weightlifting to do properly is wait times between sets. Many want to get their workouts done quickly, without giving themselves enough time to rest. Signs that you aren’t resting enough is that your workouts are finished faster but your numbers are really bad. If you find that you are losing strength or are plateauing, think about adding thirty seconds of rest between sets.