Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Why 3 sets of 10 is ok for your patients!


Our articles are not designed to replace medical advice. If you have an injury we recommend seeing a qualified health professional. To book an appointment with Tom Goom (AKA ‘The Running Physio’) visit our clinic page. We offer both in-person assessments and online consultations.


Prescribing 3 sets of 10 sets for exercises has received a lot of criticism in recent years but it can be effective for developing strength and hypertrophy providing the load is sufficient. Recent research has shown we can develop strength using a variety of rep ranges so it may be less about the numbers and more about effort and consistency.

That brings me to an important point and a big reason why 3 sets of 10 reps still has a role – simplicity. Patients are more likely to do their rehab if it’s simple and easy to follow. If they’re not sure what to do, they won’t do it! 3 sets of 10 is easy to remember and easy to do.

When you consider that a recent study in runners found that less than 30% were highly compliant with their exercises it really highlights the importance of using an approach that patients can understand and stick to!

In my opinion, the problem with 3 x 10 is when it’s at a level where a patient can easily do far more than 10 reps. This won’t challenge them and it won’t change them! 3 sets of 10 rep max (or close to) is a different proposition. That will be challenging and much more likely to increase strength and muscle growth.

For many of our patients, they may not have much experience with strength work or understand what ‘rep max’ means. So again I favour a simple approach and suggest the exercises should be “tough at 10”. If it’s tough at 10 reps great, if not, make it harder! That way patients can progress independently by adding load or increasing range of motion.

3 sets of 10 can be valuable but it won’t be optimal for all. See the graphic below for 3 important provisos.

Learn more about strength and conditioning and running rehab with our Running Repairs Course. You can learn from home with our comprehensive online course or join us for a weekend with our in-person courses. Visit our course page for our latest dates in the UK and overseas.

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