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How NSS Coaches Determine Sets and Reps

We spew A LOT of numbers at clients all day every day at NSS. Yes, it can be a little bit confusing or seem chaotic at times. But rest assured, there is a method to our madness.

It all depends on the intended PURPOSE and WHY.

We'll break it down into the following categories to at least scratch the surface of what we are trying to achieve...


Let's start off with a chat on the warmup series. You will often see 2 or 3 sets of this to serve as a way to get our bodies moving for 4-8 minutes.

The sets depend on how much time we want to invest in that warmup to prepare the body for the session ahead correctly. This could also be an excellent time to introduce and practice a new movement.


If your goal is building muscle mass or changing body composition, we often look at 3 or 4 sets. The first set is usually an ease-in type warmup set. The second set allows you to build the weight toward your working sets.

Those working sets are the third and fourth, where you are trying to push the intensity a bit through reps to fatigue or heavier weight. You ideally want to feel some level of burn or pump in the intended body area for these last sets.


For building strength, we will often look to do anywhere from 3 all the way up to 8 sets! Like the muscle mass above, the first set or two is intended to warm the body and ramp up in weight.

The work sets are typically done for lower reps with a heavier weight and repeat for several sets to "practice" moving a heavier load. Rarely would you go to all-out fatigue on these sets. Instead, we want to teach the body how to move heavy weights with good technique, and multiple sets of low reps are the best approach.


Last but not least is the ideal approach to building stamina/conditioning/endurance. Yes, we am lumping all of those together for this conversation but keep in mind there is some nuance and we can dive into different individual approaches to each.

However, on the whole we would look to do somewhere in the 4 to 20 sets range here. No, that is not a typo, but multiple sets of a movement, circuit, or conditioning machine are necessary to teach the entire body to endure work over a longer time. Thus, we sometimes need many sets to challenge it appropriately.

There you go! Hopefully, that helps just a bit to explain why your coach chose how many sets and reps you're doing and what you may want to achieve from that exercise!

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