Ever wonder how many sets and reps you should do per muscle group, per workout, and per week to build muscle? Learn how you can have muscle mass & strength growth through these 3 techniques.
A very common question that many people have is how many sets and reps are you supposed to do for each muscle group to build the maximum amount muscle?
In today’s article I’m going to dive deep into answering this question.
The reality is that, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sets and Reps.
In case you’re an absolute beginner let me start by clarifying what a set is.
A set is a group of consecutive repetitions. So what that means is that if you do 10 reps of let’s say a shoulder press and then you put the weight down that’s considered a set.
Now the reason why I can’t tell you to do 6 sets or 9 sets or 20 sets is because building muscle is not simply dependent on the number of sets.
Building muscle is a function of total training volume and volume is your sets times your reps times intensity.
At this point you already know what sets and Reps are.
Intensity in regard to building muscle is usually defined by how much weight you’re using during that set.
So you could generally view volume as sets X reps X your weight load.
For the most part, the more volume you do the more your muscles will grow.
So your goal should be to increase your volume overtime if you want to gain some muscle mass.
Something else that you should know is that different people have different ratios of muscle fiber types in their body.
We have slow twitch muscle fibers which are mostly used for longer duration activities such as running at a steady pace and performing exercises at higher rep ranges.
We also have fast twitch muscle fibers which you would use when you’re going really heavy with lower reps and when you’re doing something explosive such as sprinting.
The percentages of slow and fast-twitch muscle fibers is highly dependent on your genetics.
One isn’t necessarily better than the other however each requires a different approach to stimulate growth.
Fast twitch require less sets less reps and heavier weight, while slow-twitch will require the opposite, more sets more reps and lighter weight.
When I say lighter weight I still mean you should go heavy. You should be going heavy enough to where you’re still failing at the end of your set.
All I mean by lighter weight is that you’re obviously not going to be able to lift the same weight for 15 reps that you could lift for 6 reps.
However, if you have mostly slow twitch muscle fibers that doesn’t mean that you pick a weight that you could easily do for those 15 reps. It should still be heavy and you should be failing by the 14th or 15th rep.
You may be wondering what type of muscle fibers you have. It’s not that important what type you have however, you may be more dominant in one or the other.
Here’s a simple test you can take. Simply click on the image below or “click here” and you’ll discover your muscle fiber type, learn how to adjust your training to optimize your genetics, cut your time in the gym in half and get you the lean muscular body you’ve dreamed of…
The reason for that is because you have both. The important thing is to understand that you have two different types and you should train both types of muscle fibers.
You can do this by doing periodization.
A simple way to define periodization would be to mix up your rep ranges.
As an example, for 3 weeks you would do three reps then for 3 weeks you would do 6 to 8 reps and then for 3 weeks you would do 10-15 reps.
This will guarantee that you stimulate both of your muscle fiber types.
When choosing how many sets to do, generally the heavier the weight that you lift and the less reps… believe it or not you’ll usually have to do less sets because you’re getting a lot more volume from the higher intensity.
The opposite is true for when you go for the higher rep ranges and the lower intensities… you’re going to have to do more sets.
With periodization the reps, sets, and the length of time for which you do it for is not set in stone.
For example, a different popular approach is to do 2 days of higher reps and sets like 8 to 12 reps for 6 sets and then one day of heavier weight for less reps and sets like three to six reps for only three sets.
Periodization is just another way of saying mix it up.
You could do smaller cycles of mixing it up like the two lighter days and one heavy day that I just mentioned, or you could do larger Cycles like the 3 week cycles that I was talking about earlier.
Both approaches work and you should try both.
So I still haven’t given you guys a solid amount of sets that you should be doing to grow your muscles.
Like I said it’s not a very straightforward question, but what I could do is give you guys an answer based on my experience.
Mix It Up
After years of training I’ve learned that I have a good balance of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, probably leaning a little more towards the fast twitch.
So usually my body responds best to using heavy weight for 6 to 8 reps for three sets per exercise and that’s not including warm-up and then for at least three different exercises per muscle group.
Again, that’s three different exercises times three sets each which gives us a total of nine heavy work sets.
Then I’ll usually throw in a couple isolation exercises performing super sets for maybe another three to six sets at the end of
the day. That will give me a total of nine to 15 sets for my large muscle groups such as my chest, back and my legs.
For smaller muscle groups like my biceps and triceps I’ll still keep it heavy, but I won’t really go past nine sets that’s because the smaller muscle groups don’t need quite as much stimulation.
If I’m trying to build muscle I’ll hit the same muscle groups two times per week so that would give me a total of 18 to 30 sets for the larger muscle groups for the week and no more than 18 sets for the smaller ones.
Keep in mind that I’ve been doing this for a long time so it might be much smarter for you to limit yourself to only nine heavy work sets per muscle group per week when you first start out.
Also keep in mind if you plan on doing higher rep ranges or if you’re really advanced you’re going to have to do more sets.
Remember that the most important thing for building muscle is a higher training volume and you could create a higher training volume by manipulating sets, reps and weightless.
For me to build muscle it’s always been best to stick to a really heavy weight for roughly three sets for three different exercises, but to progress I would always cycle in some higher rep range periods for more sets to increase my strength.
When I want to go back to the lower rep range periods try to cycle different rep and set ranges to see what works best for you, but remember that to build muscle as a natural you should always keep the weight heavy for the particular rep range that you’re working on.
So that’s it! I really hope this article has helped you and please feel free to comment below.