Train by the numbers to change up your workout

Get out of that training slump by chasing the numbers.

Are you in need of a training revival? Or maybe you’re just looking for something new to try? Why not try going back to basics and following number-based training styles?

Each of these training styles is simple — but extremely effective. It’s worth adding them to your program, even just for a little while, to give your body a new burst of energy.


The idea behind 5×5 is simple: five sets of five reps. With each set, you increase the weight you’re using.

Because it’s only five reps, you can push yourself with the weight while still maintaining good form. It’s most effective for strength gains but the volume you’ll do with it by the end of a session is also beneficial for building muscle. You probably won’t fatigue yourself until you get further along into the fourth and fifth sets, so your muscles will be getting lots of time under tension.

The beauty of a 5×5 program is that it’s very versatile. You can use it for almost any strength training exercise. Not only that but in terms of programming, you can build a whole workout around it (meaning every exercise gets the 5×5 treatment) or simply throw it in for one major exercise.


What you can use it with: Deadlifts, squats, bench press, standing shoulder press

Most effective for: Building strength



For as long as people have wanted bigger arms, there has been the 21s system. You might have even learnt it in your first gym session.

Again, it’s a simple concept: take a barbell (straight or EZ-bar) and curl it halfway to full range. Stop and return it to the starting position. Do that seven times. Then you curl it from the midpoint to the top of the movement, again for seven reps. Finally, you complete the full movement: seven reps from the very bottom to the very top. No resting in between.

This movement is progressive, so if you can make it to 21, you can raise the weight and go again.

The combination of partial reps with full range-of-motion reps floods your biceps with blood and gives you an incredible pump. Many people use this to finish off a biceps workout so they leave the gym feeling spent — and swole.

What you can use it with: Biceps curls

Most effective for: Hypertrophy



Sometimes called German Volume Training, the 10×10 system needs little explanation. You pick a weight you could lift for 20 reps but you only do 10 reps. Then you do that for 10 sets. Sound easy? It’s not.

Upping the volume and intensity is a great way to inspire new muscle growth. The volume you use by doing the same exercise for 10 sets puts so much stress on the target muscles that the body has little choice but to adapt and grow.

What you can use it with: Triceps press, biceps curls, ab crunches

Most effective for: Building muscle (Hypertrophy)



The 5/3/1 program was invented by world champion powerlifter Jim Wendler to build serious strength. But you can still adapt it yourself to build as much strength as you want.

The program uses four main lifts: the overhead press, deadlift, bench press and the squat. You can also add accessory work of your choice.

5/3/1 is based around four week blocks. The first week, you perform sets of five reps across your  lifts. The next week, your reps come down to three but the weight goes up. The next week, you’re working up to ONE rep at your heaviest weight. The fourth week is a ‘deload’ week to recover. Then you start all over again.

The best way to start a 5/3/1 program is find an app or website to keep track of your numbers. It can get quite complicated! You’ll also need to know your 1RM (one-rep max) to generate your spreadsheet. (You can download a spreadsheet here to get started.)

Give it a go if you want to test your strength. It’s super fun to watch your personal best numbers go up.

What you can use it with: Overhead press, deadlift, bench press, the squat

Most effective for: Strength



Although Tabata’s not a number per se, it’s actually all about the numbers.

Tabata training involves alternating high-intensity, flat-out exercise for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest. You then repeat this for a given number of rounds. Think quick sprints or kettlebell swings.

In a way, it’s a form of HIIT that has a more specific rule about time. Often trainees will do eight rounds of the 20/10, amounting to four minutes. Hence, Tabata training is often called the four-minute workout.

Again, Tabata can be done with basically any exercise you choose. It’s particularly effective in cardio or conditioning-type exercises.

What you can use it with: Push-ups, sprints, indoor cycling, kettlebell swings

Most effective for: Cardio/conditioning

For more workout tips, check out more of our training blogs.



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