If you’ve been lifting for a while, you’ve probably learned that there’s no perfect number of sets and reps that works for everyone. Or is there? Some of the most effective muscle- and strength-building programs share a common trait— the total number of reps for the main exercises usually add up to around 25. Shoot for that number over the next four weeks and your gains will add up fast, too. How It Works: On your main lifts, keep the reps low and do enough sets to reach roughly 25 total reps. Usually, this provides the right combination of volume and intensity without any wasted effort. We’ll show you how to vary the sets and reps each week. Here your first week’s prescriptions: Directions: Frequency: Perform each workout (Day I, II, and III) once per week, resting at least a day between each session. Time Needed: 45 minutes Do It: Complete the exercises as straight sets, finishing all the sets for one move before moving on to the next. The first several prescribed sets should be done as part of your warm-up. Gradually increase the weight and perform the reps with explosive speed. On your last two sets, use very challenging loads (so that you can get the prescribed number of reps but no more). Don’t go to failure or miss a rep. For the exercises that don’t have prescribed reps, choose a weight with which you can do 10 to 12 reps in your first set. Rest no more than one minute, then try to repeat. Rest and then do your third set. Now add up the total number of reps you’ve done and note the time needed. Set a goal for next week to complete more reps in the same time or do the same number of reps in less time. Week 2: 6 sets of 4 reps. Week 3: 5 sets of 8, 6, 6, 3, and 3 reps. On the power clean, do six sets of 6, 6, 5, 3, 3, and 3 reps. Increase the total number of reps you perform for the dip and pull-up to 60 in Week 3. Week 4: 3 sets of 8 reps. On the power clean, do 4 sets of 6 reps. Use 20%-25% less weight on all your exercises this week than you used on your heaviest sets last week. Perform only 40 total reps on the dip and pull-up. The Workouts:

 

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3
 
 

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Day 1 Exercise 1

Squat

Sets: 5; Reps: 5 Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder width and your toes turned slightly outward. Push your hips back and then your knees, moving them outward as you go down, to lower your body as far as you can. Try to get your thighs at least parallel to the floor. Maintain the arch in your lower back.

Day 1 Exercise 2

Walking Lunge (Not Shown)

Sets: 3 While holding a dumbbell in each hand, step forward with one leg and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Your shin and thigh should form a 90-degree angle. Your back leg should be bent so that your knee hovers slightly above the floor. Push off from your front heel and step forward with your other leg. If you don’t have space to walk across your gym, perform lunges in place by alternating legs.

Day 1 Exercise 3

Romanian Deadlift

Sets: 3 Hold a barbell in front of your thighs with a shoulder-width grip. Then push your hips back, keeping your weight on your heels while maintaining the natural arch in your lower back. Allow your knees to bend slightly and keep going until you feel your back is about to lose its arch.

Day 1 Exercise 4

Weighted Sit-up (Not Shown)

Sets: 3 Hold a weight plate behind your head and perform sit-ups as normal. Back to The 25-Rep Workout >> [pagebreak]

Day 2 Exercise 1

Overhead Press

Sets: 5; Reps: 5 Grab the bar with a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width grip. Nudge the bar off the rack and hold it at shoulder level with your elbows forward slightly so your forearms point straight up. Squeeze your shoulders together and push your chest out. Begin pressing the bar overhead and push your head forward so that the bar ends up in line with the back of your head.

Day 2 Exercise 2

Incline Bench Press (Not Shown)

Sets: 5; Reps: 5 Lie on an adjustable bench set at a 30- to 45-degree incline. Grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip, and lift it off the rack, arching your back. Tuck your elbows and lower the bar to the upper part of your chest. Once the bar touches your chest, press the weight up.

Day 2 Exercise 3

Dip (Not Shown)

Sets: As Many as Needed; Reps: 50 Suspend yourself over the bars and then lower your body until your upper arms are almost parallel to the floor.

Day 2 Exercise 4

Pull-up (Not Shown)

Sets: As Many as Needed; Reps: 50 Suspend yourself over the bars and then lower your body until your upper arms are almost parallel to the floor. Back to The 25-Rep Workout >> [pagebreak]

Day 3 Exercise 1

Power Clean

Sets: 5; Reps: 5 Set a barbell on the floor, crouch down, and grab it with hands outside shoulder width. Your lower back should be in its natural arch. Explosively stand up and shrug the bar, coming up onto the balls of your feet. As the bar rises to chest level, flip your wrists over so that your palms face the ceiling and your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Allow your knees to bend as you absorb the force of the bar at your shoulders.

Day 3 Exercise 2

Bentover Row

Sets: 3 Hold the bar with a palms-down grip. Keep your lower back in its natural arch and bend at the hips until your torso is at 45 degrees. Let the bar hang straight down and then row it to your belly as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Day 3 Exercise 3

Shrug Set

Sets: 3 Hold a barbell in front of your thighs at arm’s length. Shrug your shoulders up as high as you can.

Back to The 25-Rep Workout >>