T Nation

Total Reps - What Should I Be Aiming For?


Hi, Jim

I have seen you mention that you guys shoot for total reps in several threads recently. I have seen the recommended reps for bodyweight assistance, but I can’t recall ever reading any suggestions for main work sets and assistance specifically. What are the total reps one should aim for the two? Right now I shoot for 20-24 reps for my main work and 25-36 reps for my assistance, unless I am running BBB. Am i way off? My assistance consists of the compound variations of the main lifts. SSB, RDL, Close grip bench, etc. Thank you for your time.


If you mean the 5/3/1 sets for your main movements, you do the prescribed reps and shoot for a PR. You determine your goal for the last set based on your estimated 1RM (Weight x Reps x 0.0333 + Weight) & previous PRs.

Compound variations of the main lifts are supplemental work, not assistance. I suggest you read Dave Tate’s take on it:

For programming assistance:

And most importantly, read the books. Sorry if this post appears twice, I tried to edit it once and some parts disappeared so I did it again.


For total reps - this is generally for assistance work. How many total reps you do is 100% dependant on what you do with the main work, supplemental and comditioning. I wrote an entire post about this on this forum. It makes it a “NO BRAINER” now in terms of programming. The problem is when people do too much main work, too much supplemental, too much assistance and too much conditioning.

In the book I talk about recording a song - everyone wants to put everything on “10” and thinks it will sound really good. Doesn’t work like that for long.


Thanks for the clarification!


Thanks for the links!