Question about Volume and Programming

I’ve always preferred to do more sets and less reps as opposed doing less sets and more reps. Is there any difference or benefit to doing something like 4 sets of 6 reps with 80% of a 1RM verses doing 8 sets of 3 reps with 80% of a 1RM? Also, Is there any benefit of doing a 8 or 10 rep max set verses doing 2 sets of 4 or 5 reps with the same weight that you could do for the 8 or 10 rep max set?

Basically I’m asking is the total volume the only thing that really maters significantly for strength and hypertrophy or does the actual number of reps per set matter and produce a different training affect?

Total volume is important. But so is intensity both defined as percentage of your maximum and the rate of perceived exertion aka RPE.

The aforesaid is simple enough I think, so I’ll explain RPE.

Like you could say on a 1-10 scale, a 7 is something with 4-6 reps in the tank. An 8 is 2-3 reps in the tank. A 9 is 1 rep in the tank and a 10 is an all out effort.

So you could ramp up using increments of 10% to an all out set of 8-10 and that could be a good training response.

You could also keep doings sets of 5 reps with that same weight until say you feel like you couldn’t get more than 1 more rep on that set and that too could be a good training response.

Some people do better with one approach. Some do better with the other. For some, it won’t matter. To complicate things even more, for a single individual one approach will work better for a while then the other approach will work better.

Clear as mud?

I think it depends on the individual, the individual’s level, the goal and the lift itself. Not to mention, those points about RPE are massively relevant. I use RPE, just have a slightly different interpretation of the numbers.


  • some people do better with lots of sets of fewer reps; some people are the opposite;

  • regardless of which category you fit in, if you want to get bigger you need lots of reps per set (and food);

  • if you want to get stronger in the squat, press or bench press you may do better with lots of reps per set as long as they’re reasonably heavy. For DL, you’re probably going to do better with low reps with heavy weights;

  • beginners do better with lots of sets of few reps but intermediates may benefit from higher reps.

Actual number of reps in a set matters more for hypertrophy than strength. It produces more metabolic and oxidative stress, and more osmotic stress (pump). These factors play into the growth stimulus the body receives.

This also plays into pure strength training (learning how to strain) but less relevant than total volume at a given intensity, frequency, and technical perfection.

Metabolic factors for hypertrophy are significant.

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