# More sets with smaller weight vs. more reps with higher weight

I have read the old saying that one should focus on more weight and fewer reps for muscle gain and vice versa for endurance gain. I have also read about most exercises that a set should be between 8 and 12 reps and should be done with the weight that fatigues you on 12 reps. If you can do more reps using a particular weight, you should progress to a higher weight.

With that in mind, I decided to go with 5kg for my dumbbell curls because that's the weight that fatigues me after 12 reps, which is fine. The only problem is that I can only do one set of 12 and another of 5 with that weight. Is it okay to continue like this or should I reduce the weight to be able to do more sets? My aim is to gain muscle mass.

I face the same problem with other weight-related exercises (pecs fly, shoulder press, etc.) as well. I can do only one perfect set with the right weight that fatigues me in about 12 reps but unable to follow through with subsequent sets. If I reduce the weight, I can do more sets but then it allows me to do more than 12 reps in the first set. I fear it might be less efficient but not sure.

• How much time are you taking between sets?
– Eric
Jan 9, 2016 at 16:43
• 30 seconds to a minute Jan 9, 2016 at 19:16

Anything that allows you to put in more overall fatigue inducing volume will be good. If you can do the first set at 12 reps, you have a few options:

• Do 3 sets at whatever you can get, and focus on building up even one more rep each time you do the exercise until you have the full set/reps
• Reduce weight for each set and use the last set to get as many as possible
• Instead of 12 reps, do 8 or 10 reps per set and focus on more sets.
• I have very good experiences with decreasing the amount of reps per set while increasing the amount of sets to get over a hurdle yet increase the total amount of reps. For example: 2x12 => 3x8 => 3x10 => 3x12 => 4x10 => 4x12. Small increments, yet the result goes from 24 to 48.
– Mast
Jul 30, 2020 at 11:29