Nowadays, whether it’s because of the obesity pandemic sweeping the globe, because society dictates that being muscular is now all of a sudden considered attractive, or simply because people want to improve the way they look and feel, weight and resistance training is currently more popular than ever before. All across the globe, countless individuals are hitting the gym, pumping iron, downing protein shakes, but unfortunately are not seeing the results they may have been hoping for. These individuals may have been lifting weights for a number of months, yet when they look in the mirror, take their measurements, or look at progress pictures, they simply have not made the gains they were hoping they would have done. Now, if we assume that they have their diet and nutrition right on point, the next logical reason for their lack of progress is that they’re simply not training correctly in the gym. Despite what some people would have you believe, building muscle and getting in shape requires a great deal more effort than just grabbing a set of dumbbells and busting out a few sets of curls. Building muscle is an art, a science even, and if you don’t know what you’re doing you simply won’t get anywhere fast. One common question that would-be bodybuilders tend to ask is “how many exercises per muscle group is optimal”? To help provide an answer to that very question, plus to clear up a few common misconceptions regarding weight training as a whole, here we’ll be looking at how many exercises per muscle group is optimal.
How many exercises per muscle group should you be performing?
In reality this question is all relative because it all depends on what your training goals, methods, and targets actually are. For example, if you’re trying to tone up, you may wish to perform more exercises per muscle group than if you were trying to increase your strength. Every person is different and everybody responds differently to training stressors and methods. Some people may find that they grow the best when they stick with few exercises but more reps, whilst others may find that low reps but more exercises is ideal instead. Beginners for example, will not be training in the exact same way as a seasoned IFBB pro bodybuilder. To help make a little more sense of what we mean, here’s a look at a few common examples:
Beginners – Say you’re new to bodybuilding and weight training and are considered as a beginner. You’re new to the sport, you’re hungry for knowledge, but as things stand you don’t currently know all that much about weight training and which exercises are considered effective, and why. That’s ok, we all started somewhere and as time goes by it will all make sense. In the here and now however, your training will differ vastly from an experienced bodybuilder with years upon years of training experience under their belt. Beginners are recommended to shift their focus slightly so that rather than focusing on training muscles, they should instead focus on mastering the movements and the exercises as a whole. Mastering form and technique should be their priority, which is why as far as exercises per muscle group go, often it is simply one exercise per muscle group that is considered optimal. The reason for this is that full-body programs are ideal for beginners, because they clearly identify which body part is being worked, they allow them to master the movements, and they aren’t too draining or physically demanding. So, for example, they may perform: One exercise for chest, one for back, one for their shoulders, one for their legs, one for their triceps, and one for their biceps.
Experienced lifters looking to build muscle – For experienced lifters looking to build muscle however, the number of exercises per muscle group will differ greatly to those performed by beginners. Again however, the number of exercises per muscle group will depend on which training program they happen to be following. Most experienced lifters tend to follow either a 5 day split, in which they train one different body part each day for 5 days, or they follow a split which means they pair up various muscle groups such as: chest and back, shoulders and arms, legs and core etc. For those following a 5 day split, as they only work one muscle group per week, they need to ensure that they really stimulate the muscle and put it through its paces. Typically, lifters following a program of this nature will perform an average of 5 or 6 exercises per muscle group. For those pairing up various muscle groups however, they will perform 3 or 4 exercises per muscle group. So, on chest and back day, they may begin with 3 or 4 chest exercises, then move on to 3 or 4 back exercises.
Individuals following specialised programs – The great thing about training, is that as there are so many different training principles and programs out there, you can always mix things up and try new things. German Volume Training for example, requires you to perform just one or two exercises for the entire workout as it is comprised of 10 sets of 10 reps. Other people may follow circuit training-based workouts or may finish off with supersets or giant supersets to really shock the muscles into new growth. This means that as they’re performing more reps and more sets for each exercise, they don’t actually have to perform as many exercises as those following a regular program, because they’re performing more volume with fewer exercises.