3 Sets of 10 Reps: Unveiling the Mystery Behind Therapeutic Exercise Prescription

In the realm of physiotherapy, it is not uncommon to encounter the prescription of 3 sets of 10 reps for various therapeutic exercises. While this rep scheme may seem arbitrary to some, there is a rich history and scientific rationale behind its widespread usage. In this blog post, we will explore the origins of this rep scheme and delve into the reasons that support its effectiveness. 

History of 3×10:

To understand the roots of the 3 sets of 10 reps prescription, we can look back to the early days of strength training and exercise science. In the mid-20th century, pioneering figures in strength and physiotherapy, such as Bob Hoffman and Dr. Thomas DeLorme, began advocating for specific repetitions and sets to enhance muscular strength and endurance. 

Dr. DeLorme, in particular, played a pivotal role in developing exercise prescription methodologies. After World War II, he worked extensively with injured soldiers, aiming to restore their strength and functionality. Through his work, he devised a systematic approach to rehabilitation exercise.

By combining progressive overload and resistance training principles, Dr. DeLorme emphasized gradual progression for muscular adaptation. He prescribed specific repetitions and sets for each exercise, leading to the emergence of the 3 sets of 10 reps prescription.

Dr. DeLorme’s success with injured soldiers popularized the 3 sets of 10 reps prescription, striking a balance between providing a challenging stimulus for muscle growth and manageable fatigue levels during rehabilitation. His work influenced subsequent generations of professionals and remains a cornerstone in exercise programs today.

Scientific Rationales for 3×10:

Hypertrophy and Muscular Adaptations: The 3 sets of 10 reps prescription aligns with the principles of hypertrophy, the process by which muscles grow and become stronger. Research suggests that this rep scheme stimulates both muscle fibers’ hypertrophic and endurance adaptations, making it an effective choice for general strength and conditioning programs.

Motor Learning and Skill Acquisition: Repetition is key to motor learning and skill acquisition. By performing 3 sets of 10 reps, individuals have ample opportunities to practice movement patterns and reinforce neuromuscular connections. This prescription allows for the development of proper form and technique, enhancing movement efficiency and reducing the risk of injury.

Training Volume and Fatigue Management: The 3 sets of 10 reps prescription strikes a balance between training volume and fatigue management. It provides sufficient stimulus for muscle growth while minimizing excessive fatigue that may impede recovery. This rep scheme allows individuals to maintain intensity throughout the sets, leading to a moderate level of fatigue that can be effectively managed and recovered from between training sessions.

Time Efficiency and Compliance: From a practical standpoint, the 3 sets of 10 reps prescription offers a time-efficient training approach. It allows individuals to complete their exercises within a reasonable timeframe, accommodating busy schedules and promoting compliance with the prescribed exercise program.

Key Ideas:

The tradition of prescribing 3 sets of 10 reps has a historical foundation rooted in the early days of strength training and physiotherapy. Scientifically, this rep scheme aligns with the principles of hypertrophy, motor learning, and fatigue management. It offers an effective approach to enhance strength, endurance, and movement patterns. While there may be variations and individualized adaptations in certain cases, the 3 sets of 10 reps prescription serves as a valuable starting point for many individuals seeking optimal training outcomes.

By understanding the historical significance and scientific rationale behind this commonly used rep scheme, strength and conditioning coaches can better tailor their programs to meet their clients’ needs. Furthermore, clients can appreciate the thought and evidence-based approach behind their physiotherapist’s recommendations. So, the next time you come across a prescription of 3 sets of 10 reps, embrace it as a tried and tested approach to unlock your full potential.

While 3×10 gives practitioners a good structure to work off of, it’s important to consider the individual when planning exercise selection and intensity in therapeutic exercise programs. As an individual’s injury rehab progresses, different rep schemes may be used to target specific qualities or goals. For example, exercises focused on power and explosiveness, like the push press or Olympic lifts, may not benefit from a 3×10 scheme. Instead, lower rep ranges with higher intensity are more suitable. 

Individualized prescriptions, considering goals and progress, along with other variables like exercise selection and progression, optimize training programs. By embracing this comprehensive approach, we can support clients in achieving their rehabilitation goals effectively. At Connect Physiotherapy & Exercise, we have experienced physiotherapists and strength & conditioning coaches who work collaboratively to help you recover from injury and reach your goals. 


Bompa, T. O., & Buzzichelli, C. A. (2018). Periodization training for sports. Human Kinetics.

DeLorme, T. L., & Watkins, A. L. (1948). Techniques of progressive resistance exercise. Archives of Physical Medicine, 29(5), 263-273.

Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low- vs. high-load resistance training: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(12), 3508-3523.

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Jonathan Chui

Jonathan, BKin, CSCS, is a seasoned Strength and Conditioning Coach with extensive experience in both competitive sports and coaching. From club to varsity levels in soccer and weightlifting, Jonathan brings a wealth of knowledge as a kinesiologist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. Leveraging a strong background in fitness and health assessment, he excels in identifying nuanced aspects of treatment and training that result in significant performance gains. Jonathan is dedicated to providing comprehensive education and instruction, empowering you to achieve your goals of enhancing movement, elevating your game, or recovering from injury.