I often get asked what are the best sets and reps for strength training. And although I think you can do any number of set and rep schemes and get good results (it’s more about how use them and how you progress those schemes) so here are the ones that I find myself coming back to the most!


Yes this old standard scheme has stood the test of time. It’s the mainstay of the Starting Strength program and if you follow a linear progression model with it will get pretty strong over time. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!


This is a great way to get a little volume in and practice with some heavier weights. Same total volume as 3×5 but the doubles and triples make it a tasty option for strength athletes.

3×5(1) CLUSTER

Cluster training has never failed to get me stronger! But use sparingly as too much can lead to burnout quickly. Best to taper off volume following a cluster phase. To be clear it consists of 3 sets of 5 singles. Usually you use 90% +


This is a more conservative version of the 5/4/3/2/1 which I tend to use more often. It falls in line with Dan John’s recommendations in Easy Strength, as do most of these set rep schemes?! Funny that!

5/4/3 WAVE

I’ve written about wave loading in the past and have had really good results with it. Usually I will only prescribe 2 waves but some may be able to tolerate more. Make sure you strive to increase the loads for each wave.


Again another traditional set rep scheme. It will get you strong, need I say more!

1,2,3 LADDER

Ladders are great to work for working on technique as you perform low reps relatively fresh at first. I’ve had best results with exercise pairings eg. do 1 press, do 1 chin, do 2 presses, do 2 chins etc. Again I usually only do 2-3 ladders.


I use this more and more when looking for strength with any size gains and of course it is the starting point of The Abacus Method. Straight sets or step loading both work great and be used depending on your training phase.


Remember set and rep schemes aren’t the be all end all and need to part of a structured all be it simple plan. That being said these are great set and rep schemes for strength development so give them a go and let me know how you get on!

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