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How Many Sets Are Normally Used?

Generally in basic training it is recommended doing 4 sets of each bodybuilding exercise, except where otherwise specified. You need to do at least 4 sets in order to have the volume of training necessary to fully stimulate the available muscle fibre.

Avoid Overtraining

If you do more sets per exercise, your total training volume will be so great that the potential for overtraining exists. Doing 4 sets per exercise for a total of 12 sets per body part (for the larger muscle groups) in a basic training program, and 20 sets in an advanced programme. This enables you to do a sufficient variety of exercises to work all areas of a body part. For example, the upper and lower back, the outside sweep of the lats, and inner back could all be included in a training day using this methodology. Five decades of experience by bodybuilders has proven that the maximum amount of weight you can handle allows you to just make it through 4 sets of an exercise, to stimulate the muscles and make them grow.

Sets for Small vs Large Muscle Groups

Yes, there’s a difference in how much training small groups require compared to large muscles or muscle groups. For example, if training your back, that does not involve just one muscle – there are many different muscles, such as lats, rhomboids, traps, spinal erectors of the lower back, and each of these areas has to be trained specifically. This is also true for the thighs, which consist of four quadriceps muscles, as well as the adductors at the inside of the upper leg. To fully train this area, both power and isolation movements are needed, and you have to hit the different heads at different angles. This would not be accomplished with just a few sets. Training smaller muscles (like the biceps and triceps), fewer total sets are needed as those muscles are not that complex. A complete biceps workout can be achieved by doing a total of about 9 to 12 sets, whereas most 16 to 20 total sets would be required to work the thighs. The rear deltoid is an even smaller muscle, and 4 to 5 sets would be enough to train this muscle. As the biceps are the fastest recuperating muscles, if you feel like training them using higher sets, they are still able to recover. The calf muscles, which are relatively small, are designed to do virtually endless repetitions when you walk or run, so these can also be trained with a relatively high number of sets.

How Many Sets?

The amount of sets required to exercise a body part depend on the complexity of the muscle. As a general rule, 4 sets per exercise for a total of 12 sets per body part is recommended for larger muscle groups in a basic training program, or 20 sets in an advanced program. Generally smaller muscle groups require less sets overall, however biceps have shown fast recovery and are able top be trained using a greater number of sets compared to other smaller muscle groups.

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