A common misconception from beginners who have just started working out is that every exercise has to be 3 sets. Of course you can do more (or less) than 3 sets per exercise, so if you have that in your mind you need to get rid of that theory.
I think most people get that from the magazine workouts that are the generic 3 sets of 10 reps x 7 exercises or whatever (although the magazines have gotten much better lately).
The number of sets you perform will depend on your individual goals and your workout program. Numbers of sets could range from 1 to 20 if it made sense, but I think anything past 10 would be extreme and a range between 2-10 works best.
Your workouts, no matter what your goals, should usually be somewhere between the 30-60 minute mark, so you need to remember that when putting together a workout and the number of sets you’ll be performing.
I won’t go into giving out any recommendations on the numbers of sets you should be doing, because it all varies depending on your individual workout program, but I will say if you are trying to build muscle try bumping up the sets on your biggest lifts (bench press, shoulder press, pullups, squats, deadlifts, rows) to 5-6 sets and cut out one of your isolation exercises.
I will also give you an example of the workout I performed today, which included 2 exercises with 10 sets each below.
My Tuesday Back/Shoulder Workout
Thankfully my legs weren’t too sore today from yesterday’s workout (although my lower back was still feeling the workout). I woke up this morning feeling refreshed, came downstairs had my daily morning shake followed by a turkey bacon + egg whites and one whole egg breakfast about an hour later.
I waited about another hour and half and hit the gym after taking my pre workout SuperPump MAX supplement. (*side note* I wouldn’t recommend taking Amino Energy and SuperPump as close to each other as I normally do in the mornings if you aren’t tolerant to caffeine).
Today was back and shoulders and it was the first day of a new program I’m trying. I found an idea for a program online and I altered it to a way that I think will work best for me and my goals. The workout includes doing a few exercises for 10 sets in each workout (which is why I talked about the “3 set mentality” above). It also includes a strict 60 second rest period that gets reduced each week as your endurance gets better.
Here is what I plan on doing…
Day 1 – Back/Shoulder 10 set endurance day
Day 2 – Chest/Arms 10 set endurance day
Day 3 – Lower Body/Core strength and hypertrophy day
Day 4 – Back/Shoulder strength and hypertrophy day
Day 5 – Chest/Arms strength and hypertrophy day
Day 6 – Lower Body/Core 10 set endurance day
Day 7 – Rest
So today my workout started with 10 sets of lat pull downs with 60 seconds rest (this reduces by 10 seconds each workout – so next back day will be 50 seconds rest). I followed that up with cable rows. Next was 10 sets of standing dumbbell shoulder press. Then seated dumbbell lateral raise followed by band pull aparts. And I threw in a finisher of 30 second high cable rows.
Overall it was a good workout, but I went a little too light with my weights on the 10 set exercise. I picked a weight that I thought I would really be struggling with after 6 or 7 sets, but I didn’t really get a good enough workout come the last few sets as I should be.
It was good to get used to the program though, and tomorrow’s chest/arms day is going to be painful (in a good way)!
I followed up my workout with a scoop of Vitargo S2 and then a little bit later had some steak with whole wheat pasta. Dinner was steak again with mushrooms, onions and spinach. I’m off to play hockey in a few minutes here, and will finish off the night with a protein shake and possibly a healthy snack.
Overall another good day in the gym and in the kitchen, and it is shaping up to be a good week all around. I’ll try to get another post up tomorrow if I can find the time. If you have any questions leave them below in the comments.