How Many Exercises to do per Muscle Group for Results

man holding black dumbbells

If you are trying to get serious results in the gym, you need to go in educated and with a plan. Sure, you can get results from just going to the gym every day and doing something. But, they most likely won’t be the results you want.

A common question for gym goers who are serious about results is how many exercises to do per muscle group. Obviously you are a part of this club now, so let’s get you up to speed so you can get the results you want!

How Many Exercises to do per Muscle Group: The Short Answer

Depending on your goal, below are some fast answers, but don’t hurt your results by just stopping here. Keep reading after this section to understand sets work so you can apply it to your training as you progress!

  • If you intend on gaining strength and size the best thing you can do is maintain constant intensity and vary your exercises.
  • How many exercises per muscle group hypertrophy- the more weekly sets you perform for a given muscle group, the more it will grow
  • How many exercises per muscle group for strength and endurance- one good working set can be enough

For specific strength it is best to stick to compound movements like bench, squat, and deadlift. However, if you are going for hypertrophy try to switch up what movements you perform.

I know that lacked depth, but it was only the short answer. Keep reading to understand how many exercises to do per muscle group.

What Results are you Trying to Get?

Strength training is awesome for increasing muscle mass, muscle strength, bone health, weight management, and more! But how can you know you are getting the most out of your workouts?

First you need to understand what your goal really is. If you are just trying to stay active and healthy sets don’t matter as much as time spent being active. However, this is not the case for those interested in muscle hypertrophy, strength, or endurance. Especially if they have have experience in the gym already.

How to Count Volume

Many people get confused about what goes into their workout volume. Although there are many factors such as time under tension that can come into play here, the largest ones are going to be sets, reps, and weight.

But should you look at daily volume or weekly volume? Regardless of your training split, you should be more concerned with weekly volume.

For example: lets look at two different scenarios:

  • Individual one does four different chest exercises for three sets each once a week
  • Individual two does one chest exercise for five sets three times per week

Although individual two does less daily volume, they are getting two more sets per week and will likely get better results as they have higher weekly volume. This is especially true if they are doing a compound movement like bench press as they will be working with more weight every set and getting better recovery between training sessions.

Now, don’t think you need to split up your workouts because of this. As I said before, this is entirely goal dependant.

Sets vs. Reps for Results

It’s also important to think about the amount of sets versus the amount of reps. The more reps you do, the fewer sets you will likely need to do, and the less weight you will be able to use.

Here is where your goals can help you determine how many sets you should be doing:

  • For strength: use lower rep ranges of five or less and heavier weight
  • For hypertrophy: six to twelve reps will get you the best results
  • For endurance: high rep ranges of thirteen or more will get you the best results

Identify your goals in the list above to determine if your weekly volume needs to include more or less sets.

Weekly Volume and Frequency

You also need to consider how frequently you can train. If you have the ability to spread your training volume throughout the week, doing so can help your results immensely. 

I want to give you a couple scenarios again:

  • Scenario one: You do 30 total sets once a week for chest
  • Scenario two: You do 10 total sets three times a week for chest

Which do you think will provide better results? Most likely scenario two, because of one key factor: recovery.

You will be less fatigued and your muscles will be well rested for each session.

Choosing Your Training Split

Training splits allow you to target individual muscle groups or regions during different workouts as opposed to full body workouts. A very basic training split would be an upper/lower split where you train upper body in one workout and lower in another.

These can be broken down even more into body part splits where you only train one muscle group per workout. The point of the splits is to give that muscle group time to recover before training it again.

Note: sets, reps, and weight are important for results. However recovery is even more important. If you don’t get adequate recovery you could end up sending yourself backwords with too much volume.

For strength try something like this.

For size a body part split might be best.

For a combination of strength and size DUP is amazing.

How Many Exercises Per Workout Session?

how many exercises to do per muscle group - 3-4 twice per week is recommended for large muscle groups
How many exercises per workout to build muscle: 3-4 exercises per muscle group per training session (twice per week) is recommended.

The recommended number of exercises per workout is 3-4. Set breakdown is up to your goals but you should be getting at least 15 total reps per exercise. If you are using primarily compound moves this will be plenty of volume to make progress!

Don’t forget to train large muscle groups at least twice per week to get the most progress!

Get the Most out of Your Training

how many exercises to do per muscle group is important, but rest and recover are more important
Rest, recovery, and volume are all important factors in getting results.

Regardless of what style routine you choose to follow, there are some key factors to keep in mind:

  1. Rest: the more you’re lifting, the longer rest you should take between sets.
  2. Weight: With the exception of specialized training programs like DUP the weight you should use will be the weight that challenges you on the last reps.
  3. Recovery: Time between training sessions is only a part of recovery. Sleep and nutrition are equally or even more important!

How Many Exercises to do Per Muscle Group for Results

The first step in figuring out how to optimize your training routine is deciding the results that are most important to you. This may change over time and your routine can change with it!

It doesn’t have to be complex though, even 5 sets per muscle group per week can grow muscle. So start training, make changes as you go, see what works for you, and never stop learning!

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