How much weight? How many reps?

Coach's Notes

Somewhere between what your ego would have you do, and your body wants to do, there’s a middle ground of enough weight to make progress, and not so much that you’re going to get hurt.

As long as you work within the boundaries I set in whichever VIGOR Training program you follow, which includes your sets, rep ranges, and rest periods, you will make progress as long as you remain consistent.

How much weight should I use or reps should I do?

For most training sessions, each set of each exercise has a target rep number. For example, it might be “Back squats for 4 sets of 10 reps.”

Unless I specifically say, “You must hit 10 reps,” use the rep range I highlight in the app.

In the case of a 10-rep target, the range is 6-10. If you can’t get 6 reps, the weight is too heavy. When you’re able to get 10 reps on all sets, increase the weight the next training session. In this way, your goal is to either get more reps with the same weight as last week, or use more weight, even if you’re at the lower end of your rep range. 

All that said, the first week of a new block of training often requires a little guesswork. By the second week, you should know how much to use. By the third week, you’ll probably be increasing the weight on that specific exercise.

Because the app stores all of your previously logged training sessions, you can easily look back at what you’ve done, and strive to do more the next time. Some sessions you might get just one more rep per set. Others, you’ll be able to bump up the weight significantly.

How many warm-up sets should I do?

For the first exercise of any major muscle group, I recommend anywhere from one to four warm-up sets. The heavier the weight you use, the more warm-up sets you should use. 

Warm-up sets don’t get entered into the app.

Should I use the same weight for all sets, or increase the weight through the sets?

“Pyramiding” your sets means that you increase or decrease your weight, while also decreasing or increasing your reps. 

It’s one of many methods for designing training plans. If I use this method, I’ll be clear about it in the instructions.

Most of the time, I expect that you’re using the same weight for all working sets.

Putting these together…

Using the back squat example again, let’s say your working set weight is 225 lbs.

You warm up with just the bar for a set of 5-10. Then, you do a set of 5 with 135 lbs. And another set of 3-5 with 185 lbs. After a little rest, you do your first working set with 225 lbs. for 10 reps. Your second set, you get 10 again. Then, on your third and fourth sets, you get 8 and 9.

You’d stay with that same weight the next week, assuming the training session is the same, and go for 10 reps on all four sets. After that, you’d bump up the weight.

Coach’s Notes is a collection of insights, recommendations, and tutorials to help my VIGOR Training member-athletes get more out of the program. Though non-members may find the content to be informative and applicable, I’ve written them as though I’m speaking directly to one of my athletes.

Tom Nikkola

Tom Nikkola

Founder, VIGOR Training

Tom is the founder of VIGOR Training, powerful fitness programs for those committed to getting to the gym. He uses his 20 years of experience, and observation, and education in health and fitness to write, teach, and train men and women to feel, look, and perform better than ever. When he’s not working, you’ll find him hanging out with his wife Vanessa, or playing golf with their grandson Asher.