Five Set and Rep Variations You’ve Probably Never Tried

One variable that most people seem to struggle with manipulating in their training program is sets and reps. They typically look at what is seen in the magazines and it always ends up being 3×10, 2×15, or something like that. Here are a few variations that will not only keep you from getting bored, but will help you to continue to make some progress. 


1. 100 total reps– This is one of my favorites, but a very tough one to do. It’s great for those small accessory movements like band pullaparts, but can be a good challenge for exercises like glute ham raises, back raises and pushups.
2. 50 total reps– While this is similar to the 100 total reps, this one is good for supplemental movements like dumbbell bench press, heavy lat pulldowns, or chin-ups. For dumbbell presses, pick a weight that you can do between 10-15 reps. Rest about 2 minutes, then do another set. Keep track of how many sets it takes you to complete the 50 reps. Next time you perform this, try to complete it in less sets.
3. Timed sets– This works really well with dumbbell presses and pushups, but RDL’s, Kettlebell deadlifts and shrugs would work well too. But don’t limit yourself to just those. When performing these sets, it’s helpful to have a partner to watch the clock or a timer that beeps. Perform one rep every 6 seconds. Start with 2 minutes of total time and build from there. You can also perform one rep every 10 seconds. Again, try to build your time over the course of the weeks and months.
4. Cluster sets– These are sets of multiple singles with very short rest periods. I’ve been using these for deadlifts lately. Start with 60-70% of your 1 rep max and perform 1 rep. Rest 20-30 seconds and perform another rep. Rest 20-30 seconds and perform another rep. That makes up one cluster. Rest 2-4 minutes between clusters and start with 3 cluster sets.
5. A song– That’s right… whatever song comes over your speakers next, perform your exercise until the song ends. Use this for small accessory exercises like face pulls. You can even do high, mid and low rows as long as you keep the weight moving the whole time. 
Try adding one of these to your program for a month and let me know how it works for you!

About Julia Ladewski

2 Responses to “Five Set and Rep Variations You’ve Probably Never Tried”

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  1. says:

    I’ve done something similar to the total reps scheme but with 70. We would use a weight that we could rep 20 times on the first set and use it until we hit 70. It’s definitely something to consider using if you’re a little bored with your current stuff.

    And I just started using cluster sets myself for deadlifts! Love ’em so far.

  2. andis03 says:

    Those sound great! I’ve done the song one when I’m trying to get through something I dread doing.

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