Exercise Prescription

Why Doing 3x10 Could Be Wrong for You!

What is the best way to build muscle/burn fat etc?

If you have ever had a programme written for you at your gym that has been designed for you to lose weight. However it has been copy and pasted with 3x10 throughout? Then the likelihood is that your exercise has been “prescribed” incorrectly and you are actually training for muscle growth!

Before we move onto what sort of sets and reps you should REALLY be doing, you first of all need to ask yourself: “What do I want to achieve from my workouts?”

Once this question has been answered, then you can start working and tailoring your workouts towards THAT goal, as said earlier you don’t want to be purposely trying to promote muscle growth if you are really wanting to improve muscular endurance, or even perform some sort of corrective exercise.

Therefore, I have put together a small guide of what sets and reps work best for different goals.

Strength / Power

  • 3-5 sets per exercise/muscle group
  • 1-5 repetitions per set
  • 80-100% 1 rep max (80-100kg)
  • “Lift with maximum intent”

If you’re main goal is to improve strength and power then you need to lift heavy, and with maximum intent – which ultimately means shift the load as quickly as possible! When performed correctly, max strength training can be massively beneficial for anyone as heavy lifts promote more muscle fibre recruitment which can lead to increased performance whilst maintaining efficiency!

However, PT Kevin Whitehead at MovePerform, Northwich says “Although true strength training has its benefits, it is key that you have had a few weeks of lighter weights sessions in order to become familiar with good technique – this is where hiring a Personal Trainer can help structure your training properly and help avoid injury when you lift heavy!”

To view a video of PT Kev’s max strength 170KG deadlift click here

Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth)

  • 3-4 sets per exercise/muscle group
  • 8-12 repetitions per set
  • 60-80% 1 rep max (60-80kg)
  • "Time under tension" or "Control throughout range"

If you are looking to add more muscle mass, then the above intensity should be performed during your weights sessions. By decreasing the weight slightly and increasing the reps you increase the time in which your muscles are working (time under tension). In essence, there will be more microscopic tears within the muscle from the eccentric portion of an exercise e.g. lowering the bar to your chest during a bench press. Over time, this will lead to an increase in muscle size (general consensus is this is usually 6-8 weeks).

Muscle Endurance

  • 3-5 sets per exercise/muscle group
  • 15-20 repetitions per set
  • 40-60% 1 rep max (40-60kg)

For more endurance based work, again we up the repetitions and bring the load down. By performing a large volume of work up to almost 100 reps per exercise/muscle group, the demands on the body changes as your workout soon becomes more testing on the cardiovascular system. This is mainly due to your body now beginning to continuously supply your muscles with fresh oxygen to keep performing a greater number of repetitions before you “feel the burn”. Naturally, as your body adapts, you will increase your Lactate Threshold – meaning you won’t feel the burn as easily.

For a great example of muscular endurance, check out PT Paul Connor’s Kettlebell Video

Motor Control (Corrective Exercise)

  • 3-5 sets per exercise/muscle group
  • 20-25 repetitions per set
  • 30-50% 1 rep max (30-50kg)
  • Goal specific i.e. maintain a certain joint position throughout exercise etc.
  • Mainly used in rehab to correct faulty movement patterns


Finally, we come onto corrective exercise. This is where we go after certain muscle groups – more often the more stabilising muscles in the body such as the rotator cuff, core musculature or muscles that can help improve with posture. The aim of keeping reps high and resistance very low is to encourage more of a “localised endurance” within muscles. By “waking up” certain muscles that might not be firing properly, it encourages them to work during day to day life. Additionally, by improving joint control incorporating some motor control work into your training can help “injury proof” joints which can be extremely beneficial for troublesome areas; especially if you have had previous injuries!


This blog will probably give you some food for thought going into your next workout  I also hope I have provided a useful guide as to what to be aiming for so that you can begin to “fine tune” the load that you are using for certain moves whether you are a fitness fanatic or a trainer that is looking to update their knowledge.

If the intensity and load of the exercise is correct, you will see the results that you want to achieve!