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When Do YOU Terminate your sets?

Posted by Joel Marion

Last Monday I was at the gym performing my regular “Monday” squat workout.

There are several reasons why I choose to squat on Mondays (I also squat at least one other time during the week as well), but the major reason is that everyone else seems to be working chest on this day.

Walk into any gym across America on a Monday and I can almost guarantee you that every bench press station will be occupied, along with just about every flat bench to boot.

For whatever reason, Monday has become the “unofficial” day to work chest nationwide.

And while I don’t really understand why, it works out just fine for me as the squat racks are never occupied (let’s be honest, they’re hardly ever occupied, but on Monday there’s even less of a chance).

So there I am, Audioslave pumping on my iPod getting ready to start my second set of wide-stance squats and someone taps me on the shoulder.

“Would you mind giving me a spot?”

The kid was probably about 18 years old, maybe 150 lbs.

And even though I genuinely hate to be interrupted while working out, I’m still a nice guy, so I agreed to give him a hand.

And yes, he was bench pressing.

About 5 or 6 reps into his set, his form started to break down and he started to struggle with the weight. On the 7th rep, he made it about half way up.

As his spotter, I guided him up the rest of the way and then proceeded to rack the weight.

“A couple more reps. A couple more reps.”

Was this guy serious? He couldn’t even get the last rep up, yet he wanted to do more.

So I reluctantly did most of the work as he forced his way to “squirm” through not two, but three more repetitions.

Later, I asked the guy how long he had been working out. He told me about 6 months.

Like me at that age, if you saw him on the street, you’d never guess that he worked out. An awful lot of work with very little to show for it.

Clearly, his style of training wasn’t working…

This week, we’re going to talk about “failure” and what I feel the ideal time to terminate a set is.

But before I do that, I want to open things up for comments by asking you this question:

When do YOU terminate YOUR sets? Is it the same for every set of a workout? Does it differ/depend? What’s your rational?

And why the heck does everyone train chest on Monday?

Let’s have a great discussion with a TON of comments.

Talk to you in the comments section,



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162 comments - add yours
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I usually stop when my muscles have fatigued enough that my form starts to suffer and I am struggling to complete the exercise correctly. After that, you are most likely “cheating” to complete the following reps and there’s a chance that you could hurt yourself.

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hi joel, i tend to set a number of reps to complete in my head say 12/15 then aim for 2 more if form is still good. or generally stop when form deteriorates and i can’t feel the muscles that shoulkd be doing the exercise working but every other muscle helping out simple :-)

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At 64 yrs old, and have A-fib,just diagnosed.I do a routine of 30 min on the treadmill,usually at 2.5 mph with short bursts evey 2-3 min.Then I do a short workout on my bowflex. I try for 30 leg curls,thirty leg extensions. Then 3 sets of 10 reps each of bench press,chest fly,and resisted ab crunch. I usually try untill, not complete failure but I reall have to work for the last press,crunch or fly. With one day rest it’s back at it only add 2 more reps per set. I am not yet “ripped” but in one week have lost 10 lbs. Seems like a good start anyway.I have to be careful as I work out alone. Thats the beauty of the bowflex, you never get trapped.

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Depends on the exercise. When I start losing form, I decide how bad it is. If it’s a chest exercise and I’m just shaky, I try to pump a couple more or until I’ve reached my desired set of reps. If it’s something such as pullups, I’ll stop when I can’t get more than halfway, rest a minute, then try to finish the set. When it’s legs, I try to push through for the whole set.
By the way, what is the DEAL with chest on Mondays? Is it written on the men’s bathroom wall or something to do this on Mondays?

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re: Terminating sets

Myself, I terminate all my sets but the first on either when I can not complete the current rep, when the next rep will have bad form (or the current one did) or when no spotter, when the last rep was a struggle and I have doubt for the next rep be successful (bench, military press, anything that it is bad to get stuck on)

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i personally work my legs on mondays.not daring to be different, but its just that ive always preferd working other parts of the body, so i figured id do legs on the 1st day of the week when im still fresh…that way im less likely to skip the leg workout

about the sets…i rarely work with a spotter, so i usually push my sets to the last rep i can do with good form on my own, and i dont mean PERFECT form.and if that doesnt allow me to get to the number of reps id like to do, i take a short rest n throw in an extra set

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One rep before failure, because I am working out alone and at home….

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I stop when my form goes. If I have a spotter I trust then I will push out 2 more reps with guidance.Useless pushing the muscles when form is not good. I may then go for another set with less weight. At 61 I guess I am more careful than I was at 30.

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I terminate my reps when I can’t do anymore reps with good form. I also take into consideration the amount of time it will take me to recover. Mostly, I just do enough reps to induce the desirable training outcomes. Right now, I am training to develop strength and my reps ranges from six to eight- all done with good form.

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I always pre-plan what I’m going to do, so I stop when I’ve finished what I planned. If I feel great, I might go ahead and do extra, but I find that just going to work out without a set plan in mind makes it easier to stop before I should. And everyone chest trains on Monday because they’ve all read the same book or website that makes Monday chest day!

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I terminate my sets when I can no longer hit a rep with perfect form. I usually keep a rep or two in me. I never train for failure… I train for success.

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