T Nation

Number of Sets per Bodypart.

This is not one of those lame ass questions in which someone basically asks you to write a workout routine for them. I am just curious as to how many sets some of you use. I understand that sets are periodized just as reps, TUT, exercise selection, etc. Coach Davies’ Renegade Training workouts can total a high amount per single bodypart. Ian King recommends a much lower approach. I know some guys who have used 16-18 sets per bodypart since “day one” of their training career, taking each set to failure and still manage to see progress. Personally I use a 3:1, low volume to high volume ratio. I train each bodypart once a week. I consider low volume anywhere from 5-7 sets per body part and high volume from 8-12 per body part sets. I am not a fan of taking sets to failure when training naturally. However, when using androgens I usually train in the 10-12 set range, and take at least 35% of the sets to failure. Curious to see what you guys and girls feel is optimum. Train Smart.

Hey Justin, how’s it goin’? For larger bodyparts (legs, back, chest), I guess you can say that I am a high-volume chick performing 9-12 total sets. I very rarely go above even 10. Rep ranges are from 6 to 10 in each set. As for the smaller muscles (shoulders, biceps, triceps), I stay at 6-9 sets. But sometimes for my biceps, I do even less - performing only 2-sets of 8-10 reps. Each bodypart is trained once a week. As for calves, I train them completely different. I have to “flush” them with activity. I’ll perform 6-10 sets and each set will be performed until “failure”. I don’t bother counting the reps.

I betcha you're gonna get a whole bunch of different answers here. Due to the whole "individual" thing. We just completed the 5x5 program and that went very well. Now we're looking to begin a different program and one that we'll perform up until my pre-contest prep in late August. Justin, how did 5x5 go for you?

Hey Patricia. How’s it going? Well concerning the 5x5 it WAS going great. I was very pleased with the progress I was making UNTIL I fractured the fifth metacarpel of my right hand in an accident. This knocked me out of any type of training for five weeks. In the end, I lost around eight pounds. This is why you haven’t heard from me recently. A bit difficult to type with a cast on your hand. I am back in full swing now and I plan to pick back up on the 5x5. Keep me informed on what you plan to move on to. I like the idea of cutting back on the biceps and triceps. I have a hard time getting my arms to grow. Mostly I beleive because they are overtrained. Would love to hear how some of the other T-mag people train!

I use 6-10 sets for chest, 8-12 for back, 6-8 for delts and traps, 6 for quads, 6 for hams and 4 for calves, and 3-6 for bi’s and tri’s. This is not including warmups. These are all taked to failure, no forced reps or anything beyond failure. This will be interesting to see what different answers you get.

Wow, Justin: glad you’re back. Was wondering where you’ve been…Anywhoos, 'k, I’ll keep you informed. Keep me updated as well, I’m curious as to how the 5x5 goes for you.


Sets and reps are always phase specific, but for a “natural” bulking phase I like to do about 6 working sets of one exercise, followed by a superset of an isolation movement for the same muscle group, followed by one final set of the second exercise (after resting a few minutes-probably 2). I’ll do that for each body part and generally work 2 body parts per session. That brings me at about 5 workouts per week, but it keeps the sessions short and the metabolism up (even in the absense of cardio).

A sample workout for biceps and triceps is found below:

Parallel bar dips (6 sets with 2 minutes rest between each set)

Unilateral overhead triceps extensions (one set immediatly after the 6th set of dips, and then another set after resting 2 minutes)

Barbell curls w/ flexed wrist (6 sets with 2 minutes rest between each set)

Alternating incline dumbbell curls (one set immediatly after the 6th set of BB curls w/ flexed wrist, and then another set after resting 2 minutes)

This setup allows for maximum fiber recruitment without taking a toll on the weight used during the compound movements (as does the pre-exhaust theory)

That’s a hell of an idea Joel. I really like the idea behind that.

Do you stay in the same rep range for a bodypart or do you perimid reps? I have always kept the same rep range for each bodypart throughout the phase.

Because I believe pyramiding is overrated, I generally stick with the same weight for all sets. I use a weight so that I can just/barely get 12 reps on my first set; by the time I hit set number 6 its more like 8 reps due to nueromuscular fatigue. That puts me in the 8-12 range and seems to work rather well considering my needs.