Doubling the number of sets in the 24-set group from baseline did not favorably increase muscle growth. The authors suggested that well-trained athletes may not benefit from performing additional sets once a ceiling threshold of volume is reached.
HOW MANY SETS FOR MUSCLE GROWTH IS DEPENDENT ON THE TRAINING STATUS SUMMARY
- Well-trained subjects who performed 24 sets per week did not have greater muscle growth than those that did 12 or 18 sets per week.
- There was a trend for the 18 sets per week to have the best gains in muscle mass.
HOW MANY SETS PER MUSCLE GROUP PER WEEK FOR MASS IS DIFFERENT FOR ADVANCED LIFTERS
If you look on social media, everyone is talking about volume or the number of sets per week for muscle growth. Previous studies have found a dose-dependent increase in muscle growth in response to increasing volume in untrained individuals(1-3). However, most studies have not found that increasing sets increase muscle growth in trained individuals.(4)
Schoenfeld found that similar growth occurred in the mid-thigh muscle of subjects training with 27 sets and 45 sets weekly. However, the 27 and 45-set groups had greater muscle growth than the 9 sets per week group. Thus, a certain volume threshold must be met for muscle growth to occur.(5) There have been contradictory findings regarding the optimal training volume in well-trained resistance-trained men. The newest study by Aube et al. may have the bodybuilding community re-examine how many sets per week they are performing.(6)
HOW MANY SETS FOR EACH MUSCLE GROUP PER WEEK STUDY
Researchers had well-trained men who had been training for at least 3 years of resistance exercise and had a relative squat strength of at least 1.5 times their body mass. The subjects were divided into 3 different training volumes regimens 12-sets per week, 18-sets per week, and 24 sets per week. Strength tests and body composition were assessed before and after 8 weeks. All groups trained 2 times per week for 8 weeks. Volume was calculated to assure that not only sets per week but also total work performed would be different between groups.
At the end of the 8-week study, the 24-set group did more volume than the 18-set and 12-set groups, as expected. All groups increased strength, but there was a trend for the 12 and 18-set groups to increase strength more than the 24-set group. The 18 sets per week group demonstrated the greatest increases in 1-RM strength adaptations. In terms of muscle growth, all the groups gained equal muscle mass.
However, there was a strong trend for the 18-set group to be more effective for muscle growth than the 24-set group. The authors suggested that all trends towards superior increases in muscle growth with the 18 sets per week, thus an inverted U response, with 12 sets and 24 sets being suboptimal for muscle growth.
Interestingly, compared to the subject’s initial baseline volume training, the 24-set group doubled their volume, which did not result in greater muscle growth. The study concluded that 18 sets per week appeared to be the optimal set range for gains in strength and muscle growth. Doubling the number of sets in the 24-set group from baseline did not favorably increase muscle growth. The authors suggested that well-trained athletes may not benefit from performing additional sets once a ceiling threshold of volume is reached.