What are Sets in Strength Training?

Photo of man resting in steel bar after intense training


Sets refer to the number of times an exercise is repeatedly performed during a training session. Completing multiple sets builds strength and muscle by maximizing load, volume, and time under tension.


  • Sets are performed after warming up and determine total training volume along with reps. Between 2-6 sets per exercise is common.
  • Take short rests between sets to clear metabolic byproducts and maintain performance. Sets x reps x weight = total volume.
  • Spread weekly volume over multiple sessions. Balance sets and reps as factors to manage fatigue, recovery and progression.
  • More sets allow greater loading, mechanical tension, and time under tension to spur strength and hypertrophy.


  • 5 sets of barbell bench press
  • 3 sets of dumbbell shoulder press
  • 4 sets of lat pulldowns

Related Terms

  • Training volume, progressive overload, intensity, repetitions

Common Questions

  • How many sets should I do per muscle? Around 8-20 weekly sets per major muscle balances optimal volume and recovery.
  • What if I can’t complete all sets? Pick a weight that allows completing the prescribed sets. Dropping sets signals too heavy a load.

Do Not Confuse With

  • Repetitions – The number of consecutive times an exercise is performed per set.
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