Muscle growth is not just adding sets each week because this type of training eventually will lead to overtraining. Start with small increases in volume. Increase volume slowly over the course of a training cycle (i.e., start with 1 to 2 sets). Everyone has a unique capacity to recover from a workout. Some people will respond better to more sets, while others will grow with fewer sets.

HOW MANY EXERCISES PER MUSCLE GROUP KEY POINTS


  • How many exercises per muscle group is dependent of training status, intensity, and current training volume.
  • There is a relationship between volume and muscle growth until a certain point; no further growth will occur.
  • There is an individual response to volume; some respond better to low volume, whereas others respond to high volume; it’s a unique occurrence for each person.
  • Slowly add volume (i.e., 1-2 sets) to see if you get better muscle growth responses rather than just adding 10 sets per week.

HOW MANY EXERCISES PER MUSCLE FOR HYPERTROPHIC TRAINING?

For years, it was advocated to add a German Volume training plan to gain muscle. German volume training involves performing 10 sets per exercise with short rest periods (i.e., 60 seconds rest). The program gained popularity when the late Charles Poliquin introduced the Charles Poliquin german volume training for muscle growth.

OPTIMAL VOLUME FOR HYPERTROPHY

Current research indicates there is an inverted relationship between volume and muscle growth.(1)  This means that muscle growth increases with sets up to a certain point, and after that, no further increases in muscle growth occur, or sometimes, it can decrease.

HOW MANY EXERCISES PER MUSCLE SHOULD I DO?

The current research suggests between 10-20 sets per week seems to be the optimal threshold for volume per week.(2) There is an individual training response unique to each person. Some people will respond better to lower amounts of volume, whereas others will respond to higher volume. Here’s some research where people responded better to lower training volume.

GERMAN VOLUME TRAINING PROGRAM STUDY (GVT) (2016)

Researchers compared a GVT program (10 sets) with 10 sets of 10 repetitions for the main lifts. The main lifts were bench press, lat pulldowns, incline bench press, seated rows, crunches, leg press, dumbbell lunges, leg extensions, leg curls, calf raises, shoulder press, upright rows, triceps pushdowns, bicep curls, sit-ups with twist.

The control group performed a traditional resistance exercise program with 5 sets of 10 repetitions for the main lifts (5 sets). Each group trained three times per week for 6 weeks, and measurements of hypertrophy, strength, and body composition were assessed and compared between groups before and after training.

At the end of the study, the 5-set training group made better strength gains than the 10-set training group. There were similar increases in muscle growth between the groups; however, some body parts responded better to more sets and fewer sets. For example, the 10-set  program favored increased triceps muscle thickness (10-set: +10.7% vs. 5-set: +5.6%), but the 5-set program favored biceps muscle thickness (5-set: +7.3% vs. 10-set: +0.9%).

RESULTS

Both groups increased lean mass, but the greater trunk and arm lean body mass increase favored the 5-SET group. The author concluded that to maximize hypertrophic training effects, it is recommended that 4–6 sets per exercise be performed, as it seems gains will plateau beyond this set range and may even regress due to overtraining.(3) See the graph below.

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HOW MANY EXERCISES PER MUSCLE GROUP IS AN INDIVIDUAL RESPONSE

The million-dollar question is how many sets I should do to maximize muscle growth. How many sets per muscle group per workout depends on your current training volume.

The research suggests that volume is optimized between 10-20 sets per bodypart. Let’s say you want to be extreme and start hitting 20 sets per bodypart per week.

THE STUDY

Researchers divided subjects into 22 sets per week or a program that gradually increased volume by 20% per week for 8 weeks.

All the subjects were trained to complete muscular failure. The increase in volume was based on the subject’s current training volume. For example, one subject that performed the lowest volume per week was performing 10 sets per week.

The following week, the subject did 12 sets per week. The subject doing the highest volume per week was performing 48 sets per week; his volume was increased to 52 sets per week.

RESULTS

At the end of the study, the individualized volume program in which they increased volume by 20% resulted in greater muscle growth (+9.9%) than the group that performed 22 sets per week (+6.2%).

The individual responses were dramatically different. Remember, one leg did 22 sets per week, but some people who entered the study were doing more than this, reducing the number of sets per week they were performing.

HOW MANY EXERCISES PER MUSCLE GROUP IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE

Some subjects had better muscle growth by reducing the sets, whereas others had better gains in muscle growth by increasing their sets.(4) Comparing individual increases in muscle growth responses, 10 subjects (62.5% of the sample) had greater responses for an individual increase in volume. For 2 subjects (12.5% of the sample), the 22 sets per week promoted better responses. Responses were similar between protocols for the remaining 4 subjects (25% of the sample).

This suggests that volume should be increased individually rather than just picking some random number. Increased workout volume requires more recovery.

The subjects in the study that reduced their training volume and grew more muscle indicated overtraining and doing too many sets per week. Slightly increasing your training volume by 1-2 sets can be beneficial for increasing muscle growth.

Also, the study proves that instead of jumping into 22 sets per week, a gradual increase in training volume is best for muscle growth. A similar study found no differences in muscle growth between groups performing 12, 18, or 24 sets per week.(5)

Muscle growth is not just adding sets each week because this type of training eventually will lead to overtraining. Start with small increases in volume. Increase volume slowly over the course of a training cycle (i.e., start with 1 to 2 sets). Everyone has a unique capacity to recover from a workout. Some people respond better to more sets, while others grow with fewer sets.

HOW MANY EXERCISES PER MUSCLE GROUP FOR OPTIMAL MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS

There has been some interesting work on the optimal amount of sets in a workout to maximize protein synthesis. In well-trained lifters, muscle protein synthesis returns to baseline at 24 hours, whereas it can be elevated for 48 hours in untrained lifters.(6, 7) Here is the research to date on sets and muscle protein synthesis:

·      3 sets resulted in greater muscle protein synthesis than 1 set.(8)

·      5 sets resulted in similar increases in muscle protein synthesis as 20 sets.(9)

·      There was no difference between 8 and 12 sets for muscle growth, but muscle protein synthesis was elevated more in the 12 sets group, which could have been the result of more muscle damage.(10)

HOW MANY EXERCISES PER MUSCLE GROUP FOR OPTIMAL MUSCLE GROWTH?

There seems to be an upper limit to muscle protein synthesis ranging from 5-8 sets per bodypart. If 5 sets are performed with maximal intensity, they can be as stimulating as 20 sets.

If you need to track your workout volume, I recommend a workout volume calculator and increasing volume slowly over a few weeks.

how many exercises per muscle group, how many sets per workout, how many sets should i do, german volume training plan, hypertrophic training, how many sets for muscle growth, how many sets per muscle group per workout

HOW MANY EXERCISES PER MUSCLE GROUP KEY POINTS

  •       There is a relationship between volume and muscle growth until a certain point; after that, no further growth will occur.
  •       There is an individual response to volume; some respond better to low volume, whereas others respond to high volume; it’s a unique occurrence for each person.
  •       Slowly add volume (i.e., 1-2 sets) to see if you get better muscle growth responses rather than just adding 10 sets per week.
 

REFERENCES

1.         Figueiredo VC, de Salles BF, Trajano GS. Volume for Muscle Hypertrophy and Health Outcomes: The Most Effective Variable in Resistance Training. Sports Med. 2018;48(3):499-505.

2.         Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sports Sci. 2017;35(11):1073-82.

3.         Amirthalingam T, Mavros Y, Wilson GC, Clarke JL, Mitchell L, Hackett DA. Effects of a Modified German Volume Training Program on Muscular Hypertrophy and Strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(11):3109-19.

4.         Scarpelli MC, Nóbrega SR, Santanielo N, Alvarez IF, Otoboni GB, Ugrinowitsch C, et al. Muscle Hypertrophy Response Is Affected by Previous Resistance Training Volume in Trained Individuals. J Strength Cond Res. 2022;36(4):1153-7.

5.         Aube D, Wadhi T, Rauch J, Anand A, Barakat C, Pearson J, et al. Progressive Resistance Training Volume: Effects on Muscle Thickness, Mass, and Strength Adaptations in Resistance-Trained Individuals. J Strength Cond Res. 2022;36(3):600-7.

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