Very often we hear gym-goers, personal trainers or even strength coaches throw around fancy terms such as repetitions, tempo or rest periods. They all claim that we must manipulate these variables in order to stress our systems in order to achieve the desired effects. They are not wrong. However, at the same time this is a case where “talking is easy, doing is hard”. In this article I aim to breakdown these terms and highlight key points lifters can use to achieve a more powerful training effect. Ask your personal trainer in Richmond about the key variables in training. 

Exercise Selection

This is THE most important training variable out of all others (in my opinion). The movements you choose have a direct effect on the outcomes; whether it is sports performance, rehab or general fitness. An obvious reason for this: if you want bigger calves, you are going to choose exercises that target the calves. A less obvious reason is that the exercises you choose have a direct impact on the sport, if you are aiming for sports performance. A poor exercise selection and cause the athlete to move less efficiently on the field, which causes as decrease in sports performance. 


This is how often you tax the body for the desired training outcomes. For example, for hypertrophy, it is recommended that you train each muscle group 2 – 5 times to induce training effects. Any less would be less desirable. Another example is power training – sprints, power cleans, etc. It is recommended that power is trained 1 – 3 times per week. This refers more to the central nervous system and the fatigue during training, but that’s for a different article. How often you train, while allowing recovery also has a direct correlation to training outcomes. Ask your personal trainer in Richmond how often someone should train for their goals. 


This is the speed at which the movement is performed. With hypertrophy, tempo is used to manipulate the time-under-tension. In order for muscle growth to happen, it is recommended that the time to complete a set should occur between 30 – 40 seconds. Thus, the speed of the exercise needs to be maintained so that the set can be completed between the recommended time. 

With power training, such as sprints and power cleans, movements must be performed at an explosive manner (or as fast as you can). The reason for this is to program the muscles and body to move at an explosive rate. In addition, it re-wires the nervous system so that it is able to move the body in the same way in the gym as on the field or court. 

Repetition and sets

I will group these together as they definitely go hand-in-hand. Repetitions refer to how many times a movement is performed consecutively and sets refer to how many times those movements are performed as a group. For example, 3 sets of 10 repetition of squats simply refers to the squats are done 10 times in one go then separated in 3 groups. 

A lot of people will manipulate the repetition variable in order to achieve the proper time-under-tension for hypertrophy, which is a great idea. You want to stress and break down the muscle tissues in order for them to “tear” and re-grow. They also increase the number of sets in order to introduce more trauma to the tissues. Ask your personal trainer in Richmond for their recommendations on repetitions and sets. 


Last but definitely not least is the rest variable. People often exaggerate this variable by taking way too long to “rest” for the next set. With hypertrophy training, you almost want as “little” rest as possible. The reason for this is to maintain time-under-tension. Of course, this does not mean the same as when you are performing a set. Over the course of multiple sets of an exercise, it is recommended to rest only to the point where you can just complete the next set. This is so that the muscle group is being taxed at a rather “compact” frequency, compared to resting too long. 

Get out there and train! 

Until next time, 

Coach Marco

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