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  • Writer's pictureMarc Lalonde

The pyramids weren't built in a day

How many sets should I do? The answers are here for you.

We are what we consistently do.

That’s why I go to the gym every day. That’s why I know that to be at my best, I have to be slightly tired and a little less on-edge – and that is supported by putting in a workout every single day. I know some people who love and require rest days in their schedule, but that’s not me – and that’s ok.

Setting aside time for working out is the same as setting aside time for anything else as a grown-up: you have to put it in your schedule if you want it to be a priority.

Making yourself and your exercise a priority will have myriad health benefits. Suffice it to say movement is medicine and putting your body up against resistance strengthens every aspect of your body systems – not just your muscles.

My rule of thumb for weight training is three sets of an exercise. Popular statistics indicate your muscles will retain about 92 percent of the benefits of the exercise after three sets. After five sets, you’ll retain 100 percent, but five is a lot of sets of any one movement, especially for new-to-intermediate weight trainers.

So, three it is. My rule of thumb is to do six exercises (doing three sets of each) your first week, seven sets (three times, again) your second week, and so on, increasing by one set every week. This will give your muscles time to adapt themselves to the new loads you’re putting on them and the climb to 10 sets three times will seem a lot easier, both mentally and physically.

But in this space of three sets, you can also play with the loads you’re asking of your body by doing a pyramid set: starting at one weight, climbing to a higher weight for set two and dropping back down to the original weight in your first set. This ‘pyramidding’, as we call it in weight-room parlance will allow your muscles to work upwards, and then be a little less taxed when they are at their most fatigued.

This mental game also helps us internally realize that our last load is lighter and intrinsically, we are more likely to try to pick it up.

In that way, pyramid sets are like a small mental break when you are working out and not forcing yourself to push your maximum with every single set, which in theory is a wonderful idea, but in practice is not as successful – especially with older adults.

So, consider building that pyramid next time you’re in the weight room – or even if it’s the first time.

In just over a week, I'll be seeing my clientele at Monster Gym in Dorval, near the corner of Sources Boulevard and Highway 40 on gthe north side of the highway. I'm excited about and if you're interested in beingt a part of that exciting, supportive atmosphere, message me at and maybe we can find space for you.

This piece was originally published in Iori:wase on March 16, 2023. See for more great stuff!

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