T Nation

Optimal Sets Per Week Per Body Part?

Hi coach. What would you say is an optimal weekly number of sets per a body part, when the reps are mostly kept between 6 and 12?

There is no such thing. It depends on the person. Some can do a lot more sets than others. It depends on many variables.

  1. Genetics… some people just have a better predisposition to tolerate physical stress

  2. Strength … the stronger you are, the more weight you can use, the more draining the sets will be and the less you can do

  3. Neurotype … Some have a neurological profile that make it impossible to do lots of sets without crashing their nervous system

  4. Fast twitch ratio … the more fast twitch dominant someone is, the less volume he can do

  5. Type of exercise … a set of deadlift or squat is a lot more demanding than a set of bench press or military press, which is more demanding than lat pulldowns, which is more demanding than barbell curls (for example). So a set is not a set… one set of deadlift might be worth 3-4 sets (if not more) of curls.

  6. Weekly physical work level… someone who works a physical job cannot do as much job as someone who works at a desk. And someone who works at a desk cannot do as much volume as someone who doesn’t work.

  7. How close do you go to failure … going to failure is harder to recover from than stopping 1-2 reps short. Going past failure (drop set, rest/pause, added negatives or partials) is harder to recover from than going to failure, etc.

And I could go on. You really need to factor all of this and find out how much volume YOU can recover from.

I’ve trained athletes all over the spectrum… from an olympian who had to work a full time job and raise a kid by himself, who was a fast twitch MACHINE, could only do 6-9 work sets per workout, 3x a week. To a Crossfit Games athlete who can train 6h per day, doing set after set after set.

Another example, when I competed in olympic lifting I had to drive 90 minutes to the training center. In 4 months the guys who were on the same program as me got a lot stronger… I got overtrained and weaker. Just the fact that I had to drive 3h per day messed up my capacity to tolerate volume


Coach thank you for your insight. I find it extremely valuable. You da man!

Thank you very much for a very insightful and detailed answer!