Timed sets for a new challenge

Training can get a bit stale at times, we’ve all gone through phases where, halfway through a training block, we want change. Well, what if there were ways to change training without losing the effect the program is steering you towards?

Well, it’s you’re in luck!


Timed sets allow you to work in the required rep ranges and challenge yourself differently from your typical sets of 5, 8 or more. With these types of sets you can make training more interesting and use them as a gauge of progress.

How does it work?

Take a set of 8-12 reps as an example, typically this set would last anywhere from 25 to 35 seconds (based on my own timings and those of my clients) so giving yourself 30 to 40s to do as many reps as you can keeps you within the rep range asked for, and adds a little challenge to the set. You might find that the new way of attacking the set ends up in more reps than you thought, in which case you have a good indicator of progress and time for a load increase. For longer sets, 12-15 reps say, 40 -60s works well.

It also works as a kind of autoregulation on your session, getting more reps done when you are feeling fresh and strong, reducing the reps if you are a little more fatigued/ stressed and unable to perform to the same level. In this circumstance your goal becomes working for the set time and not a specific rep target.

I find that this approach works pretty well for sets of 7 or more but not so well for strength/ power rep ranges due to the nature of the lifts and efforts involved. Next time you are looking to make your session a little different without sacrificing the aim of your session, give this a try and see how you get on!

As a progress check

Charles Staley used this idea in his escalating density training idea, using a set time to try to gauge volume and progress by monitoring total volume done in certain times, aiming to increase total work done in the same amount of time. Using the same time and load after a period of consistent training will allow you to check progress and look for areas of improvement.

Put 10 minutes on the clock, start with 4-6 reps of your chosen exercise, rest as needed and repeat for the full time. You’ll probably find that reps drop from 6 to 4, 3,2 and 1 but rest as required and note the total you complete. Next time, try again and see how many you can add to your total, if the weight becomes to easy, increase the loading and match or beat the previous total rep count.

Enjoy 🙂





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.