athlete in weightlifting

Fine-Tuning Resistance Training: Selecting Reps, Sets, Rest and Weight for Your Goals

For those seeking to enhance muscular fitness, selecting the right weight to lift is only part of the equation. Understanding and adapting key elements like intensity, repetitions, sets, and rest periods is crucial to ensuring that each training session aligns with your goals. This guide will provide you with the information you need to create the right formula of training variables to meet your goals.

Exploring Muscular Abilities:

  • Muscular Strength: Visualize a powerlifter lifting a heavy barbell during a personal best deadlift. This is about generating the utmost force in a single effort, typically assessed as a one-repetition maximum. This type of lift is typically done at a slower speed to allow for maximal muscle recruitment. 
  • Muscular Power: Think of a basketball player explosively jumping to dunk the ball. Muscular power is the combination of force and speed, exemplified in moments where both strength and swiftness are essential. This ability is crucial in sports requiring quick, powerful movements. This ability can be expressed in two ways – greater forces with slower speeds or lesser forces with faster speeds (see this blog post for more detail) 
  • Muscle Hypertrophy: Imagine a bodybuilder’s physique, with prominent, well-defined muscles. Hypertrophy is about increasing the size of muscle fibers, often associated with aesthetic goals, but also functional strength improvements. This training sculpts the body to have more muscle mass with better definition. 
  • Muscular Endurance: Consider a rower in a long-distance race, maintaining consistent, repetitive strokes. Muscular endurance is about sustaining muscle contractions or repetitive movements over an extended period. It’s essential in activities where maintaining performance over time is key.

Customizing Training Variables for Each Goal:

When it comes to achieving your fitness objectives, one size doesn’t fit all. Your path to success in resistance training depends on a variety of factors, including your specific goals, body type, and fitness level. To enhance your training regimen, it’s crucial to tailor your approach by considering the following variables. These variables are the building blocks of a well-rounded and effective strength training program that can help you reach your peak physical condition.

Muscular Strength Training:

  • Intensity: Lift heavy weights, typically at 80-100% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM). This intense effort focuses on generating maximum force, making it ideal for strength gains (5).
  • Repetitions: Perform 1-5 reps per set. These low repetitions allow you to exert your maximum force in each repetition (5).
  • Sets: Aim for 2-6 sets per exercise. Multiple sets help you train your strength, while maintaining the high intensity and low repetitions (6).
  • Interset rest: Rest for 2-5 minutes between sets. This ample rest allows your muscles to recover fully for the next intense effort (6).

Muscle Hypertrophy:

  • Intensity: Lift moderate weights, usually at 60-85% of your 1RM. This range provides a balance between intensity and the number of repetitions (5).
  • Repetitions: Target 6-12 reps per set. Moderate repetitions and intensity stimulate muscle growth effectively (5).
  • Sets: Perform 3-6 sets per exercise. More sets create a greater hypertrophic stimulus (4).
  • Interset rest: Rest for 1-2 minutes between sets. Shorter rest intervals keep the muscle tension high, contributing to hypertrophy (5).

Muscular Endurance:

  • Intensity: Use light weights, less than 60% of your 1RM. This lower intensity allows for a high number of repetitions (5).
  • Repetitions: Aim for 15-25 reps per set. Higher repetitions enhance muscular endurance (1).
  • Sets: Complete 2-4 sets per exercise. Multiple sets help build endurance over time (1).
  • Interset rest: Rest for 1-2 minutes between sets. This brief rest allows for partial recovery to challenge endurance (1).

Muscular Power Training:

  • Velocity-dominant power intensity: Utilize your body weight or up to 60% of your 1RM. This focuses on quick, explosive movements (2).
  • Force-dominant power intensity: Lift heavy weights, at least 80% of your 1RM. This emphasizes force production (2).
  • Repetitions: Perform 1-6 reps per set. While the intensity may or may not be heavy, each repetition should be done with maximal effort (1,3).
  • Sets: Aim for 3-6 sets per exercise. Multiple sets enhance power development (1).
  • Interset rest: Rest for 2-3 minutes between sets. This allows for sufficient recovery between explosive efforts (1).

By understanding and customizing these variables based on your unique goals, you can embark on a fitness journey that’s tailored precisely to your needs. Whether you’re aiming for strength, hypertrophy, endurance, or power, the following sections will provide detailed insights into how to adjust these variables to achieve your desired outcomes.

Adapting Training to Individual Goals:

Flexibility within established training ranges is key for meeting specific fitness objectives. Tailoring these ranges based on individual needs, such as an offensive lineman’s focus on heavier loads and fewer reps versus a runner’s preference for lighter loads with more reps, is essential for sport-specific conditioning.

The Role of Periodization:

Strategically varying training variables over time through periodization maximizes physical abilities, often aiming for peak performance at specific times. This involves planning phases, like starting with hypertrophy to build muscle mass before transitioning to strength, to potentiate gains (7).

Customizing training variables is crucial for the effectiveness of any fitness program. Whether aiming for specific sports performance or overall fitness, a tailored approach is essential. At Connect Physiotherapy and Exercise, we’re committed to guiding you through these principles for effective, personalized training. Book an appointment today to embark on a training journey that’s uniquely yours.


1. American College of Sports Medicine. (2009). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Mar;41(3):687-708. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181915670. PMID: 19204579.

2. Cormie, P., McGuigan, M. R., & Newton, R. U. (2011). Developing maximal neuromuscular power. Sports Medicine, 41(2), 125–146. 

3. Helms, E. R., Cronin, J., Storey, A., & Zourdos, M. C. (2016). Application of the Repetitions in Reserve-Based Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale for Resistance Training. Strength and conditioning journal, 38(4), 42–49.

4. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897.

5. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports (Basel, Switzerland), 9(2), 32.

6. Suchomel, T. J., Nimphius, S., Bellon, C. R., & Stone, M. H. (2018). The importance of muscular strength: training considerations. Sports medicine, 48, 765-785.

7. Travis, S. K., Ishida, A., Taber, C. B., Fry, A. C., & Stone, M. H. (2020). Emphasizing task-specific hypertrophy to enhance sequential strength and power performance. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 5(4), 76. 

Ruben San Martin Headshot
Ruben San Martin

Ruben, MScPT, CSCS, NCCP Level 1 Olympic Weightlifting, is a physiotherapist uniquely blending research expertise in applied anatomy with a certified strength and conditioning coach background. Specialized in manual therapy, back disorders, exercise, and osteoarthritis, he is also a certified Olympic weightlifting coach. Prioritizing exercise therapy and hands-on manual techniques, Ruben emphasizes client education for active engagement and informed recovery. His writing aims to help clients return to an active lifestyle, optimize performance, and prevent injuries.