How to Read a Workout Program

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So you get the workout program and now what? What does 3×8 mean? Learn how to read a workout program below.

Reading the Sets & Reps

Let’s use an example:

1a)3×8 Deadlifts
1b)3×5 overhead press

What is a set? A set is the number of cycles you complete the specified reps for the exercise. The repetitions (reps) are the number of times you perform the exercise at a time. In the example above 1a)3×8 Deadlifts, 3 is the number of sets, 8 is the number of reps.

What does ea (each) mean? Usually written when you are performing a single limb activity. It signifies the number of repetitions you should perform on each side.


Now that you know what a set and rep are, let’s talk about what 1a and 1b mean prior to the sets and reps. A superset is when you alternate between exercises, in this case, two different exercises, typically with minimal rest between exercises. In this example, you would perform the Deadlifts for a set of eight reps, then perform the overhead presses for five reps. That completes one set of each, and perform two more in order to complete the superset, prior to moving on to the next superset (i.e. 2a and 2b).

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