How Many Sets Per Workout for Different Muscles

how many sets and reps

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You can often hear that the number of exercises and sets for large muscle groups should be greater than for small ones. Is it true? How many sets per workout to do?

Number of sets for large and small muscles

What a dimensional discrimination? Indeed, when working with the same of the one-repeat maximum (1RM) in the quadriceps and triceps in muscle contraction, it takes an approximately equal percentage of active fibers. Then why, for example, is it customary to perform 3-4 exercises on the back in 2-3 working sets per training session, and about 2 times less for biceps?

Science and common sense help us. Studies and empirical knowledge of athletes coincide and show that 6-12 working sets per 1 muscle group per week are optimal for hypertrophy. Let us remind you that we are talking about working sets performed before an arbitrary muscle failure or a state close to it and not sets in general.

How many sets per workout to have

Now from theory to practice. For the majority of large muscle groups, such as the chest, back, and legs, the assortment of exercises for 90% consists of basic (multi-joint) muscles, which actively connects small muscles to work, assistants – triceps and front delts to the chest, to the back biceps and rear delts. Moreover, the same majority, performing basic exercises, are denied an assistant (triceps in presses, biceps in raws) and not in the target muscle, which in fact is not an indirect tonic work, but a development one that has hypertrophic value.

how many sets per workout
An example of a set of exercises in one workout, in which the triceps is almost fully trained
  1. Bench press
  2. Dumbbell bench press at an angle
  3. Dips with a wide grip.

Of course, with this amount of “indirect” load, killing triceps with 3 more exercises is crazy.

Another example of a set of exercises:
  1. Dumbbell flyes lying at an angle
  2. Training apparatus crossovers
  3. Cable crossovers.

In this embodiment, the triceps work is minimal and, accordingly, the scope of targeted work on it should be greater than in the first version.

Output. In most cases, small muscle groups do not really require the same amount of work as for large ones, but not because they are considered small, but because of their active involvement in multi-joint exercises, when training large muscles.

Additionally, see whether the number of sets matters to build muscle.

What is more, we’ve prepared an answer on how long should you rest between sets.