Cheat Codes: Reps vs. Sets

Fitness Cheat Code - Reps vs Sets

Cheat Codes are fitness tips and facts that you may have heard about, but never fully understood. Like any good code, they are simple, quick, easy, and designed to make your life a little easier–and a lot healthier. (Extra lives and Godmode are not guaranteed.)   

One thing most people get confused about regarding fitness is the distinction between reps and sets. They’re used everywhere: workout plans, gym signs, fitness websites, iPhone apps, everywhere. And despite their ubiquity, it’s easy to gloss over the fact that we were all complete newbies once and had no friggin’ idea what any of that stuff said.

So this Cheat Code is to help you folks understand just what the heck we mean by sets and reps.

Standard Definition? No HD here!

The term rep stands for repetition. One simple movement that is repeated over and over again within a workout. For instance, a single sit-up, one pull-up, or a burpee would each be considered 1 rep, respectively.

A set, then, is a set of repetitions. That is to say, you might do 50 sit-ups as a part of your workout, but not all at once. You could do 5 sets of 10 reps, or 10 sets of 5 reps, or any combination thereof. Any group of reps would be logged as a set.

And to complete the video game metaphor in the Cheat Codes series, you can think of reps as individual levels, while a set is the game itself. You beat World 1-1 through 8-4 (individual reps), which are all contained in a single set called Super Mario Bros.

That make sense?

B.J. Keeton

B.J. Keeton

B.J. is a geek, gamer, podcaster, and livestreamer. He has been the co-host of the Geek to Geek podcast since 2016, and he helped start the Geek to Geek Media Network. His biggest pet peeve is when someone spells Wookiee with only one E. One time, he told his friends he liked vegetables maybe more than he did Star Wars, and they made him put a dollar in the jar. That should tell you everything you need to know about him. Find him on Twitter as @professorbeej or on Discord as @professorbeej#1337.

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  1. badaza

    Hey, you could even go one level further:

    If a rep is a sub-level (1-1, 1-2, 1-3, etc.), then a set is a full level and a complete workout is the complete game. How about that?

    • B.J. Keeton

      I’d actually thought about that and decided not to go that complex, but you’re exactly right. I do love the idea of it, especially considering just how many times most of us had repeated World 1-1. 😉


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