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%).
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.