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Q | What are reps, sets, supersets, circuits, and intervals — and when do you use them?

A | If you’re new to lifting weights, it might seem like you need to learn a whole new language just to get started in the gym. Jeff Rosga, NASM-CPT, senior director of Life Time Academy in Chanhassen, Minn., explains these common workout terms.

Term Definition Example
Rep Short for repetition. The number of times you perform an exercise. Perform 15 reps of squats.
Set A group of reps performed of one exercise prior to resting (also referred to as a round). Perform three sets of goblet squats, eight reps per set.
Superset Two different exercises performed in back-to-back sets with no rest. Front squats paired with pushups.
Circuit Two or more exercises repeated for an amount of time or number of reps, performed in sets as a series, usually with minimal rest between each set. For time: 40 seconds each of rows, lunges, pushups, and deadlifts, repeated three times with no rest between exercises and 60 seconds rest between sets.
For reps: 10 reps each of squat press, single-arm dumbbell incline press, and plank with alternating arm reaches with 30 seconds of rest between each exercise and 90 seconds of rest between sets.
Intervals A combination of short, high-intensity bursts of exercise and lower-intensity recovery phases, repeated in one workout session. Different work-to-rest ratios help achieve different training and fitness goals. The Tabata Protocol: Six to 8 maximum-effort 20-second intervals each followed by 10 seconds of rest, for a workout totaling three to four minutes.

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