How many sets should I be doing per body part?

One of the age-old questions of training. Is how many work sets you should do per body part?
You had the two camps. Arnold Schwarzenegger who swore by training high volume 30+ sets per
body part or you had Dorian Yates 6 times Mr Olympia who said you only need one work set per
exercise and 5 work sets per body part.

Both have huge amounts of muscle tissue but who actually is right?
Well the great news is there are now studies that answer this question.

How many sets should I do per body part per week?
A study by Dr Brad Schoenfeld et al
Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle
mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Link is here https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27433992/

N.B. when we refer to sets we are only referring to work sets not warm up sets. So sets that are
within 3 reps of failure or less

A Graph to show Number of work sets against muscular hypertrophy (ABOVE)

Shown in the graph above the optimal number of working sets per body part per week was between
10 and 20 sets.
You would see a rapid increase in muscle hypertrophy up to 10 sets then between 10 and 20 sets a
slower increase and after 20 sets an actual decrease in hypertrophy. As shown in the graph above.

10 working sets is minimum effective volume (MEV)- This is the minimum training volume to keep
you from losing muscle size.
20 working sets Is maximal recoverable volume (MRV) – the most amount of work you can still do
and benefit from.
After 20 sets your body will find it hard to recover and more sets will actually reduce muscle growth.

Some important things to note
Larger the muscle group is I.e. back and legs the closer you’ll want to be to 20 working sets and
smaller muscle groups delts and arms you would want to be closer to 10 working sets.
More advanced athletes will have high work capacity so again will be closer to 20 working sets per
body part per week.
It’s important to note there is a crossover between exercises. For example, back squats will hit your
glutes and quads. So 3 work sets of back squats will count towards your total work sets for the week
for glutes and quads.
A good number of sets per exercise is 3-4 working sets within 2 reps of failure. Anymore sets and you
will end up losing form and concentration and any less you will not get the required stress on the
body for adaptation.

How Many Working Sets per Body Part Per session?
A study was done by James Krieger et al where he grouped together 9 separate studies to find out
how many sets per body part per session was best for building muscle.
As shown by the graph below the optimal amount of work sets per body per session is 6 to 8.
Muscular hypertrophy was increased the more sets you did up to 6 to 8.
Anymore that that saw a drop off in muscle gain.

Link to study below
https://weightology.net/the-members-area/evidence-based-guides/set-volume-for-muscle-size-
the-ultimate-evidence-based-bible/#Schoenfeld

How many times should you be hitting each body part per week?
It has been shown that hitting a body part twice per week is optimal for maximum amount of muscle
growth even when performing the same total number of work sets per week.
So hitting chest for 5 sets twice a week rather than 10 work sets in 1 session will elicit more growth.
The proposed mechanism is by hitting a muscle group twice a week you will get an extra spike in
muscle protein synthesis.

What is the Best programme for this?
This is why “bro splits” body part split training isn’t optimal as you’re only training each body part
once per week also you would have to get more than 8 work sets per body part in each session
which as seen above is not the best for building muscle.
Push,pull,legs or upper body/lower body splits are much more favourable as you can hit muscle
groups twice a week and keep the sets per session between the optimal 6-8.

Conclusion

10 to 20 work sets per body part per week is best
6-8 work sets per body part per training session
Split this between 2 sessions for each body part
Smaller muscles hit closer to 10 sets and larger muscles 20 sets
The best programmes are push, pull, legs or upper body/lowerbody . . .

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