The number of exercises per muscle group

A key factor in developing an effective training program is an appropriate selection of exercises. It is very difficult to determine the optimal number of exercises, and some trainers in their desire to develop as many muscle groups as possible select too many exercises. As a result, the program is overloaded with exercises and tiring for the athlete. Instead, you should choose the number and types of exercises in accordance with the age and level of preparation of the athlete, the requirements of this sport and the stage of the training process.

You can train hard or long. To get the most out of training in the form of mass or strength, you must take care of quality, not quantity, and cut back on excess volume.

It is clear that you need a certain training volume in order to give sufficient stimulus to the muscles, but more does not always mean better. Excessively prolonged workouts, after which you do not have time to recover, and completing additional sets in such fatigue, when training is already unproductive and even harmful, are a great way to stop progress.

When you exercise, striving to change your body for the better, emotions is strongly involved in the matter. It begins to seem to you that the more exercises you do, the better you will look. If you add only one exercise, or two, or three, you will work out the muscle from all angles, and this will only help. In fact, it will only hinder you from reaching your goal. It’s great when you strive for success, but if your workouts are driven by emotions, the result can be very hurt.

Do a total of 4 to 6 exercises in training. If you are working on two muscle groups, do up to 3 exercises each. If three – 1-2 exercises for each. If you are training the whole body, then does only one exercise for each muscle group. Simple arithmetic, didn’t right?

Sometimes you need to do more than 6 exercises (circular training workout, for example); sometimes you have to limit yourself to only two or three. But 90% of training should contain 4-6 exercises.

When you work on strength, do more approaches of each exercise to improve nervous adaptation. Conversely, when you gain mass, you need to do more exercises to diversify your workout and balance muscle development.

Strength = Less Exercise, More Sets

Mass = More Exercise, Less Sets

For muscle hypertrophy, it is recommended to do from 5 to 12 approaches per muscle group.

Read more: How many sets to do.

From the following table, select a scheme of exercise sets in accordance with your training goals and split program. For example, if your goal is strength, and you are working out on a split bench press / traction, loading three muscle groups in a workout, then you need to do 2 muscle exercises, 4-6 sets per exercise.

Purpose6 muscle groups in training (whole body)4 muscle groups in training (top/dawn)3 muscle groups in training (bench presses or traction)2 muscle groups in training (antagonists, by type of exercise)1 muscle group in training (split in parts of the body)
Strength1 muscle exercise, 4-6 sets per exercise1-2 muscle exercises (total exercises no more than 6), 4-6 sets per exercise2 muscle exercises, 4-6 sets per exercise
Bulking2 muscle exercises, 4-6 sets per exercise3 muscle exercises, 3-4 sets of exercises4 muscle exercises, 2-3 sets of exercises

The total number of exercises per workout for both mass and strength is approximately six.

Read more: Training Strategies

The number of approaches in different exercises may vary; here are examples of the distribution of the training volume:

Two exercises for the muscle group, a total of 10 sets:

First exercise: 5 sets

Second exercise: 5 sets or

First exercise: 6 sets

Second exercise: 4 sets or

The first exercise: 7 sets

Second exercise: 3 sets

In the first exercise, which is the main one, there are as many or more approaches than in subsequent ones.

Age and level of training

One of the main goals of the training program for beginners or young athletes is to develop a reliable anatomical or physiological base. For strength training, the trainer should select a lot of exercises (from nine to twelve) aimed at developing the main muscle groups. The duration of use of such a program can be from one year to three years, depending on the age of the athlete and the expected age at which the maximum level of performance will be achieved.

On the other hand, the main goal of training professional athletes is to achieve the maximum possible result. Thus, the strength programs of these athletes should be characterized by specificity, especially at the competitive stage, and only a few exercises should be aimed at the development of the main moving muscles.

Sport requirements

Strength exercises must meet the specific requirements of the selected sport and use the main moving muscles that prevail in this sport, which is especially important for high-level athletes. For example, a high jumper may need to perform only three or four exercises in order to properly strengthen the main motive muscles.

On the other hand, a wrestler or American football player will need to complete six to nine exercises to achieve a similar goal.

All short distance runners must perform one exercise for flexing the hip joint with the straight knee (for developing the muscles of the posterior thigh), one exercise for flexing the hip joint with the bent knee (for developing the gluteal muscles), one exercise for flexing the knee joint (for development quadriceps) and one exercise for flexion of the sole (to strengthen the calf muscles).

Thus, the more main driving muscles used in sports, the more exercises you need to perform. However, the number of exercises performed can be reduced through the use of properly selected high-quality multi-joint exercises.

Stage of training workout

Upon completion of the transitional phase, the laying of the base for future training should take place during the new annual plan. It is desirable that the anatomical adaptation in the general program of strength training occurs at an early stage of the preparatory phase. In order for this program to include the maximum number of muscle groups, you need to choose a large number of exercises (from nine to twelve), regardless of the specifics of the sport.

As the program progresses, the number of exercises decreases, while during the competitive stage the athlete performs the minimum number of exercises – from two to four special exercises that are important for a particular sport.

For example, American football, hockey, basketball, or volleyball players will likely perform nine or ten exercises during the preparatory phase, but during the season the number of exercises will drop to four to six. Due to the right choice of exercises, trainers can increase the effectiveness of the training process and reduce the athlete’s overall fatigue.

Strength training is carried out in addition to technical and tactical exercises. In short, there is an inverse relationship between the load applied during the workout and the number of exercises performed during the training session. The decrease in the number of exercises indicates that the athlete performs a specific training.

As the number of exercises increases, the number of approaches in the exercise also increases. Thus, most of the load falls on the main driving muscles for a particular sport in order to achieve optimal muscle strength and the athlete’s power to participate in competitions. As soon as the competition season begins, adaptation fades into the background, and fewer exercises are used and the number of approaches is moderately increased in order to maintain the existing level of physiological adaptation.

Even though in some sports (for example, football, many disciplines in athletics and cycling) the upper body is involved to a small extent, many strength training programs pay special attention to exercises aimed specifically at developing the upper body. In addition, many fitness trainers who are influenced by bodybuilding offer their students too many exercises. In reality, athletes performing a large number of exercises reduce the number of sets aimed at developing each of the main moving muscles. This approach leads to a low level of adaptation, as a result of which the training effect is very weak.

The desired result – a high level of adaptation and improved performance – is possible only if athletes perform a large number of sets in which the selected kinetic chain is involved. The trainer can distribute all sets of fundamental exercises necessary for execution between several training sessions throughout the micro-cycle or group these approaches to reduce the number of training sessions. When using the first option, the athlete performs shorter training sessions in which there are more auxiliary exercises, while using the second option, the duration of the training session’s increases, and the number of auxiliary exercises decreases.

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