Working out can be intimidating enough, and the abundance of lingo and technical jargon surrounding workout programming and exercise science can only add to the confusion and nervousness that many new exercisers may feel. So to provide some comfort and shed light on the meaning of these terms and phrases, I cover some of the top terms and practical explanations to workout programming.
Sets & Reps
A rep is the number of times you perform a specific exercise sequentially, and a set is the number of cycles of reps that you complete. For example, suppose you complete 10 reps of a bench press. You would say you’ve completed “one set of 10 reps.” A set can be any number of reps, so if you complete 10 reps of a bench press, you would say you’ve completed “one set of 10 reps,” and if you complete just five reps, then that would be “one set of five reps.”
Volume is possibly the most important factor to training adaptation and can be measured in the hours and minutes you train at the highest level, or in finer detail, by the number of sets and repetitions programmed in your workouts. To put it simply, the higher the volume the larger the training adaptation will be.
Intensity is the measurement of how difficult the exercise is. In lifting, intensity almost always refers to the weight you lift—in other words, how hard you work to make that one lift. If you do 20 reps, your intensity may be a bit lower but you have increased the volume substantially, and ultimately your total work will increase if you raise either the weight or the number of reps or sets. On the opposite spectrum, if you perform a one repetition maximal lift then your intensity will be very high but the volume will be much lower.
If you do circuits anaerobic endurance is required, then the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) or heart rate can be a guide to intensity. RPE is often measured on a scale of 1 to 10, where one is laying down and 10 is as hard as you can go.
Simply as it sounds, rest is the time of recovery periods following an interval or bout of exercise. Depending on the exercise type the rest time will vary. Higher intensity exercises will require longer rest durations to maximize training volume.
A technique that involves the weight being reduced mid-set, and the exercise continued until exhaustion. Have a partner switch out the weights so there’s little rest time in between reps. Drp sets can add a significant amount of volume as well as contribute to increased blood flow to a muscle group. It should be advised that drop sets may be beneficial for building size and muscular endurance but strength gains wil not typically be attributed to drop sets. It should also be noted that drop sets can create a significant amount of muscle micro trauma and may not be suitable for all workouts.
Tempo in weight training is the rhythm at which you move a weight, including the rest time at the top of the lift and at the return of the weight to the starting position. For example, some training such as plyometrics will involve explosive lifting with a rapid rate, while others may have a slower pace.
Periodization is a form structuring an exercise training programic and involves strategically implementing specific training phases. These training phases are based upon increasing and decreasing both volume (which is reps times sets) and intensity (which is the load or percentage of 1RM) when designing a training program. There are many types of periodization and it is used primarily to encourage overreaching (performance peaking) as well as adequate recovery.