T Nation

How Many Sets Per Muscle for You?

Some swear by as much as 16+ sets per muscle while others have gotten much better results with only 4-7 sets. frequency is of course important when dealing with this but thats not why im asking so you dont need to put that part in. So whats worked best for you/what do you like best? (im sure there will be some differences in bigger/smaller muscles)

7-10 sets depending on the muscle and how I am feeling that day.

EDIT: muscle being trained once a week.

11-16 sets depending on the muscle

6-8 sets for bis/tris though

6 - 8 on pretty much everything. Training each bodypart once a week on the following split -

Day 1 Chest/Back
Day 2 - Legs/calves/lower back
Day 3 - Shoulders
Day 4 - Biceps/tris/forearms

I never understand what the point of counting sets or number of total sets was. It makes zero sense to me.

[quote]mr popular wrote:
I never understand what the point of counting sets or number of total sets was. It makes zero sense to me.[/quote]

It’s a way to determine progression, one of the cornerstones of exercise :smiley:

[quote]mr popular wrote:
I never understand what the point of counting sets or number of total sets was. It makes zero sense to me.[/quote]

Well then you got to get some sense smacked into you. Sometimes I go into the gym not really knowing exactly what I’m going to do, but I always count how many sets I am doing.

I am of the low volume school. I recently made the switch from 2 main sets per exercise and now it is 1 set per exercise.
Chest: 4
Bis: 3
Quads: 3
Hamstrings: 3
Calves: 2
Shoulders: 3
Traps: 1
Triceps: 3
Lats and upper back: 4
Rear delts: 2
Abs: 2

These are main sets. Big exercises may need 4 to 5 warmup sets while small ones done later in a workout may need as little as 1. EVERY exercise gets at least 1. Despite what people think, even though warmups are not strenuous, they are still WORK and groom neural pathways, leading to more strength, even if not terribly demanding.

Up until last month, I used to do twice the volume - obviously - since I cut the sets in half, from 2 to 1. I cannot remember the last time I did 3 work sets with straight weight except for my early days. Those 3rd sets were really a waste of time for me, personally. Good for a beginner, but not for a more advanced person.

But keep in mind, I have been heavily influenced by Ellington Darden, Dorian Yates, Mike Mentzer, Mark Dugdale, Dave Palumbo, Ian King, Jason Ferrugia, and other like minded people who feel that more than 2 sets per exercise with straight weight is a waste of time and energy.

If I feel Like I have alot of energy the last few weeks I’ll do 10 - 17(including warmup), if i’ve been feeling lackadasical 3- 5(at most 1 warm up set).

Generally

9 For Biceps
9 For Triceps
12 Chest
14 Back
16 For Legs

On a true split…

Chest 12 - 16
Back 12 - 16
Delts 9 - 12
Bicep 6 - 10
Tricep 6 - 10
Legs 12 - 20

The reps are king when accomplishing a desired training effect. They dictate the # of sets I use when I design a program. In the most general of terms lower reps/higher sets; higher reps/lower sets.

[quote]jehovasfitness wrote:
It’s a way to determine progression, one of the cornerstones of exercise :D[/quote]

Are you saying that performing more, or less sets during your workout is necessarily better? Or are you specifically referring to a set-progression where you would obviously be counting work sets

[quote]PF_88 wrote:
Well then you got to get some sense smacked into you. Sometimes I go into the gym not really knowing exactly what I’m going to do, but I always count how many sets I am doing.[/quote]

I just write down how many reps I did with my working weight for an exercise. Why would I bother counting how many sets I did during the entire workout when this is all I need to know in order to make progress?

to be clear: I’m asking, not arguing. I really don’t understand why people count total sets during a workout and how they are comparable with other people’s total sets.

[quote]mr popular wrote:

I just write down how many reps I did with my working weight for an exercise. Why would I bother counting how many sets I did during the entire workout when this is all I need to know in order to make progress?
[/quote]

I do this too. I think most people log their workouts this way, but the written number of sets is more of a general rememberance of the amount of work I did on an exercise. The number of sets ultimately doesn’t matter as long as the weight on the top set is going up.

I’m with mr. popular here, guys…
I only care about the last “all-out” set of each exercise… I’ve done the previous sets a dozen times (or even a hundred times) before, I doubt they add anything to my growth…

Didn’t we have a discussion about that stuff in the t-cell, i.e. people saying that pros do 12 sets per bodypart while in truth 8-9 of those are really progressively heavier non-failure warm-ups…

[quote]Bricknyce wrote:
I am of the low volume school. I recently made the switch from 2 main sets per exercise and now it is 1 set per exercise.
Chest: 4
Bis: 3
Quads: 3
Hamstrings: 3
Calves: 2
Shoulders: 3
Traps: 1
Triceps: 3
Lats and upper back: 4
Rear delts: 2
Abs: 2

These are main sets. Big exercises may need 4 to 5 warmup sets while small ones done later in a workout may need as little as 1. EVERY exercise gets at least 1. Despite what people think, even though warmups are not strenuous, they are still WORK and groom neural pathways, leading to more strength, even if not terribly demanding.

Up until last month, I used to do twice the volume - obviously - since I cut the sets in half, from 2 to 1. I cannot remember the last time I did 3 work sets with straight weight except for my early days. Those 3rd sets were really a waste of time for me, personally. Good for a beginner, but not for a more advanced person.

But keep in mind, I have been heavily influenced by Ellington Darden, Dorian Yates, Mike Mentzer, Mark Dugdale, Dave Palumbo, Ian King, Jason Ferrugia, and other like minded people who feel that more than 2 sets per exercise with straight weight is a waste of time and energy. [/quote]

Hmm, what’s the benefit of doing 2 or more sets with the same weight?
I’ve read about it(Poliquin wrote something about multiple sets allowing for better adaption/strength gains or whatnot, don’t remember too well, I think laroyal can tell us) and tried it out but found that neither came progression easier nor did it provide any other benefit…
Add to that that it felt just flat out wrong :wink:

So regardless of what style of training I utilize (was forced back to regular bb training not too long ago due to gym situation), I do 3-6 (5-6 on Squats and Rack-Pulls) progressively heavier sets and keep the reps roughly the same each time until I reach my all-out set, where I do as many as I can…

And I try to beat that next time I perform the same exercise again.

[quote]Cephalic_Carnage wrote:

Hmm, what’s the benefit of doing 2 or more sets with the same weight?

[/quote]

I can’t fathom not doing more than 1 set at a really tough weight. Warm-ups or not, you’re not putting a lot of stress repeatedly on a muscle with only one set.

Maybe an example.
Say you can do 8 reps on the bench press with 225 lbs and it’s really tough on the 8th rep. You can with rest do another set of 8 but it’s a little tougher. On the last set you can barely get 8,maybe only 7.

Or by your method
You do 235 on the bench press but you can barely get 8. But only for 1 set.

The overall workload will be greater with the 1st example, thus causing more muscle damage, thus more growth.

[quote]jehovasfitness wrote:
Cephalic_Carnage wrote:

Hmm, what’s the benefit of doing 2 or more sets with the same weight?

I can’t fathom not doing more than 1 set at a really tough weight. Warm-ups or not, you’re not putting a lot of stress repeatedly on a muscle with only one set.

Maybe an example.
Say you can do 8 reps on the bench press with 225 lbs and it’s really tough on the 8th rep. You can with rest do another set of 8 but it’s a little tougher. On the last set you can barely get 8,maybe only 7.

Or by your method
You do 235 on the bench press but you can barely get 8. But only for 1 set.

The overall workload will be greater with the 1st example, thus causing more muscle damage, thus more growth.

[/quote]

That sounds nice in theory, but you don’t see too many big guys do it that way, do you?

I’d rather do a second exercise than performing 2+ sets with the same weight on the same exercise…

Also don’t forget that most of us do a form of rest-pause (for the lack of a better term) even if we call it a straight set.

Example: I squat. I get ten reps(which is where most people would stop as this is perceived as “reached failure”), lock out and catch my breath quickly, perform more reps, repeat till deity of choice appears and tells me that I’m going to die if I do another rep (by this time I’ve done 16-22 reps, maybe).

Same for BB/EZ Curls: I do my set, hit failure, catch my breath while resting the bar on my thighs and then perform more reps, cheating on the positive and resisting the negative… Till my arms are toasted.

Edit: Not knocking you or anything, just stating what I think here… Where did that notion of doing multiple same-weight sets come from, anyway? It sure isn’t popular with the large people…
Sounds like personal-trainer-seminar type stuff to me…

Mine varies week to week, with an increase in weight whenever the number of sets and reps goes down. This obviously can’t happen every single week if I use the same movements, but over time it helps me progress.

[quote]Cephalic_Carnage wrote:
I’m with mr. popular here, guys…
I only care about the last “all-out” set of each exercise… I’ve done the previous sets a dozen times (or even a hundred times) before, I doubt they add anything to my growth…

Didn’t we have a discussion about that stuff in the t-cell, i.e. people saying that pros do 12 sets per bodypart while in truth 8-9 of those are really progressively heavier non-failure warm-ups…

[/quote]

You call a warm-up putting everything you have into your last rep of a set just because you didn’t fail? Or are you saying they are just bullshitting for those 8 or 9 sets after their warm up.

If I do 2 warm up sets then do 5 sets after, whether the weight is the same or more, the last rep of each set may not be me “absolute” failure but it’s damn sure all I can do. I can’t consider that a warm up.

Maybe you and popular never plataue but for those of us who have knowing how many sets you’ve done before sure helps with progressing. A fast set of one rep is nearly useless to me, so we’re talking about sets of 3 or 5 reps, when I’m at my max I just can’t add more weight or reps…so how would I progress?..Add a set.

Sure adding endless sets can lead to overtraining but not if you don’t do it every workout for the rest of your life. I will continue to add sets until my reps go up. If it goes up I drop all the extra sets. That way I have progressed, plus my training capacity has increased, so the number of sets is not as taxing and “feels” like a recovery week, when it’s really a normal workout week.