Five Set and Rep Schemes that Actually Work

Whether you are new to the industry or been around for a while you can sometimes get overwhelmed with the amount of articles written that are touting certain set and rep schemes to get strong. No matter what set and rep scheme you can think of, someone has written about it and will claim it’s the best.

The problem is, once you get past the beginner stage a lot of these programs don’t work very well, if at all. Here are five programs that work extremely well for both beginners and trainees that have spent their fair share of time in the weight room.

**As a side note, I didn’t design or come up with any of these programs and am not taking credit for any of them either**

I’m not going to comment much on the 5/3/1 program because there is a ton of information on the internet about the program and I don’t just want to regurgitate it all and bore you to death. I will say this though; Jim Wendler and his 5/3/1 is without a doubt one of the most popular programs out there and for good reason. I along with numerous other coaches have seen great progress and gains in strength using the 5/3/1 program and would recommend it to anyone that needs to gain strength. Simple, straight forward and effective.

You can find a more in-depth write up HERE.

A spinoff of the popular 5/3/1 program previously mentioned by Jim Wendler, Brad Kaczmarski developed and incorporated the same principles at higher reps and lower percentages. This program may be perfect for those that are not interested in the lower reps and heavier weights or just need a change of pace from the lower reps and heavier weights that come with 5/3/1.

The idea of developing the program for Kaczmarski came after using the 5/3/1 program for close to a year. Kaczmarski concluded that his athletes needed more volume — his inexperienced athletes could benefit from more adaptation and his more experienced athletes could benefit from the additional quality volume.

The result: impressive strength gains in the college and high school athletes that Kaczmarski works with. I can personally add that I have used it with success with my athletes and would recommend it as well.

You can find Kaczmarski’s program HERE.

Cluster Sets
I’m not sure who was the originator of this type of sets and reps but I got this from the great Dan John. For cluster sets you can get creative and choose from various rep schemes but I will use the one that Dan John used as an example; a 2-3-5-10 cluster.

First, pick a weight that you can do for 15 or so reps. For the first cluster you perform 2 reps. Rest for 10-15 seconds. The second cluster you perform 3 reps. Rest for 10-15 seconds. The third cluster you perform 5 reps. Rest 10-15 seconds. The final cluster you perform 10 reps. You’ve now completed one set which you performed 20 reps with a weight you can in theory only lift for 15 reps. Rest 3-5 minutes, add some weight to the bar, and repeat the cluster for a total of 3-4 sets depending on your goals.

I’ve used this and not only does it help in strength gains, but it adds some fun and a challenge to the workout. It definitely spices things up and keeps things interesting.

100 Rep Challenge
This again is a program that I found via Dan John. This program is about as simple and straight forward as you can think of. Pick a weight that is moderately heavy but not crazy heavy. Do as many reps as possible without failing (one rep shy of failure). Rest for 2-3 minutes. Repeat until you hit 100 total reps. Do the same thing the following week and try to do it in less sets. Simple but by no means easy.

3×3, 2×8
This is a scheme that I came across about a year ago, and subsequently used it for a period of time (along with others at UNH) and we all saw some great progress in strength while using it. I found this via Eric Cressey and he calls this the “Stage System.” In this type of training, you perform your first sets (3×3 in this case) at a heavy weight and slower speed. Once you are done, you move on to your second grouping (2×8 in this case) which will be performed at a lighter weight and more bar speed. The program should help with size, strength and speed.

A variation of the program can be found HERE.

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