Reps/Sets and Workout Length?

I’m just starting out and I’ve been told by people to lift 3x8, 3 sets of 8 reps. Right now I’m just working out with a couple dumbbells but my workouts are very short (15-20min max) because my muscles simply begin to burn and I can no longer lift.

This must be a pretty basic question, but when should I stop? When do I know when workout time is over? When my muscles begin to burn?

Secondly, lets say I’m doing 3x8 so I start doing some curls for example. I bang out 8 curls but I can obviously go for more, do I just stop and pause and then do another 8 or do I just keep banging em repeatedly until I get to 24? How does that actually work?

Just start out slow and aim top make progress thats what its all about. I suggest picking a solid program from here like ABBH and following it

On the second question man depends there are so many ways to do things and none are wrong but yes you can do it that way and if you do all set of 8 next time up the load


Just make sure that the last set is very hard to finish,
the last two reps should be “almost” impossible.
Once you can easely do all the sets,it’s time to add more weights.

I’d have to agree with Phil. There are so many types of progressions out there and so many conflicting, yet not necessarily exclusive, opinions on how and when to increase the load.

You really just need to pick a time tested routine (there are literally hundreds on this site alone) and follow it to the letter. That means do the exercises, sets/reps, and rest periods exactly as prescribed.

My guess is that your workout structure in and of itself is lacking in some foundational areas. Especially if your workouts are only lasting 15-20 minutes.

But, without knowing exactly what you’re doing it’s hard for us to give you precise answers. So, could you post your workout for us to see? That should allow us to either point you to a better option, or at least make some adjustments to what you’re currently doing which will benefit you.

Good training,


Hi there, alright here is what I’m doing.

First, I load up this website: Exercise Encyclopedia » Videos » CoopersGuns Health, Fitness & BodyBuilding

and I look at the different exercises I can do with just a copple dumbbells and body weight.

So far I’ve been doing the following:

Trapezius - upright row (to failure)
Deltoid - Lateral Raise (to failure)
Pectorals - Push Ups (to failure)
Biceps - Curls (to failure)

This is essentially all I’ve been doing. I’ve JUST started this workout this week so its not like I’ve been doing this for months.

When I do these exercises to failure it usually happens in about 11-13 reps and then I stop and move on to the next exercise.

Doing it this way, all my muscles burn and I do the individual exercises until the last rep where I can barely lift. When I finished, I feel a boost of anrenaline like the way you feel when you’ve been really scared or hurt. So I figure I’m doing something right.

The problem is since I’m just doing this stuff to failure and go on to the next one, the workout is only 15 min or so.

Secondly, the next day my muscles don’t feel sore at all and I’m convinced that they should be sore.

Can anyone please help me out and help me find a solid program to stick to?

There are a lot more exercises you can do with just dumbbells. Lets get to that later.

OK, when it says do 3x8, that means you are going to do 3 sets of 8 repititions. Do one set of an exercise, rest for a period, then the next set, rest and the last set. The rest period can be anywhere from 1-2 minutes for you, right now. Then, go to the next exercise and repeat. I hope that helps.

If you feel that the last set is too easy, you need to increase the weight. If you can’t do that (that is, don’t have the weight to add), increase the number of sets or the number of reps.

Now, for other exercises go here:

Find exercises for your back and legs. You don’t need weights to do a lot of the leg exercises.

Can you or anyone point me in the right direction for a simple workout routine to follow? I’ve looked and looked but there are so many. I can’t go to a gym right now and I don’t have a bench or squat rack. I suppose I could buy a barbell with some weights as they aren’t very expensive.

What can I do for the time being though with just dumbbells?

Also, the weight of the dumbbells are 5 lbs each. Does that sound about right or is that way too light? Should I go heavier? Obviously that is objective and to me that weight is manageable depending on the exercise. I’m not really sure how to judge that. I think I just really need a structured workout plan.

[quote]mrk84 wrote:

Can anyone please help me out and help me find a solid program to stick to?[/quote]

Learn to SQUAT! For weight training exercises …this is probably the most beneficial one.

Then learn how to do bodyweight exercises that move your body thru space …this creates the type of response to stimulate muscular growth.

You can add resistance to a bodyweight movement which is a basic squat and these are some of the best.

Dips, Pullups, Pushups …etc are great for adding size. You can add more size by adding resistance to the best type exercises which are bodyweight type exercises.

Weighted barbell squats, Weighted Push ups, weighted dips, weighted pullups are some of the best exercises I can give you. sprinting, rock climbing, etc etc are non traditional muscle building exercises but are actually better than some of the exercises we use in the gym.

Stick to the basics if you’re starting out. 5-10 exercises should be all you need. Muscles don’t respond to reps or sets, they respond to stress. Stress your muscles and they will grow. If you want them to grow more, than train them more often.

Ideally: (1 standard set to failure)

1-5 reps is for strength
3-15 reps for strength & size
6-12 reps for size
15+ some size & mostly endurance

Bodyweight exercises are beneficial for the CNS. Learn to work with your muscles and not against them and you’ll discover your body will respond to the demands placed on them.


There are a few different ways I like to look at this. First, you are weak just starting out. Second, you have a low work capacity just starting out. Right now, you are basically working more on your work capacity, and your strength is just going to go up as well.

Personally, I like getting people some good strength gains before starting to work on their work capacity.

Usually a full body workout

For Example

Dumbell Flat Bench
Split Squat
1 Arm Row

Teach Romanian Dead or give stretches and do HS curls
Overhand Pulldown
Standing Dumbell Shoulder Press

Maybe a few ab exercises.

3 x 8-10 on all exercises except abs.

And I disagree with the other posters, you arent going to need to be near failure at for a long time, and you will keep getting stronger very easily. Do not push the weight until your form is perfect and your body will not be strong enough to do many exercises well initially especially lat pulldowns split squats and 1 arm rows.

The lats take awhile to get going for some reason and you cannot rush that process. Just maintain perfect form, do basic exercises and enjoy your strength increases. You should also start learning how to squat during this time.

A good routine to follow would be CT’s full body example

Horizontal Press
Knee Dominant
Horizontal Pull

Hip Dominant
Vertical PRess
Vertical Pull

Ab exercise

do this 3 days a week changing exercises every day and rep ranges every day

use 3 sets of 12+
3 sets of 10
3 sets of 8

the reps per set will decrease as you get stronger and you should use certain exercises for higher rep days

For example incline pushups could be on your 3 sets of 12 or more day