Ideal training volume has been a big debate for years, so today i’m going to clear it up for you once and for all and help you answer the age old question: How many sets should you do per week to grow?
Many trainers and gym bros debate if there’s a point in doing more than 10 sets per week. You will soon see just how foolish this is, as assuming you are able to recover - more volume up to a certain amount usually equates to faster muscle growth to an extent.
Sit back, take some notes, and get ready to be wowed on how many sets is ideal for building a muscle group!
This is extremely important information if you have a lagging muscle group. I applied this science to my training and was able to grow my biceps and calves much faster after I knew how many sets was ideal for fast growth.
If you have a lagging muscle group you desperately want to build, or just want to see the fastest muscle building results possible each week, keep reading.
Let’s dive into the ideal training volume for hypertrophy.
Comparing Light vs. Heavy Training Volume For Hypertrophy
One of the most interesting studies on heavy vs. light training volume and how it relates to hypertrophy was a 2018 study by Brad Schoenfeld in which strength-trained men performed 1, 3 or 5 sets per exercise during an 8-week study.
Group 1: Performed 1 set per exercise for a total training volume of 6 sets in the upper limbs and 9 sets in the lower limbs.
Group 2: Performed 3 sets per exercise for a total training volume of 18 sets in the upper limbs and and 27 sets in the lower limbs.
Group 3: Performed 5 sets per exercise for a total training volume of 30 sets in the upper limbs and 45 sets in the lower limbs.
All of these sets were performed until failure or at least very close to failure. As you can see the training volume was 50% higher for the quads than for the triceps and biceps.
Very interesting to note as there was no effect of training volume on strength development at all, as the group that did 1 set actually increased their 1 rep max on the bench press and squat more than the 5 set group, however did not gain nearly as much muscle mass as the group that performed 5 sets.
The group that did 5 sets literally did 5x the amount of sets and training volume per week and had way bigger increases in bicep thickness, tricep thickness, and quad thickness.
As you can see in the chart below - when we are talking hypertrophy, aka “muscle growth” higher volume equates to much faster muscle growth, at least up until 45 sets per week!
Obviously performing 30-45 sets in a given week is a ton of training volume, and I recommend that you only do this for 1-2 muscle groups at a time unless you plan on living in the gym!
For example if your biceps are lagging like mine, I recommend you to train them 3x per week for 10 sets per bicep workout.
This means that you are performing 30 sets per week of biceps, the exact number from the group in the study.
This is where the Balloon method workouts come in handy, because you can maximize the intensity and volume of a given muscle group in a very short period of time and train each muscle more frequently and subsequently increase your training volume.
The biggest takeaway from this article isn’t to have you become an obsessed robot terminator and spend hours in the gym. It’s more about understanding how much training volume will help you build muscle faster, and setting up your workout split accordingly.
If you are currently doing 5 sets per week of shoulders and you want to grow your deltoids faster, it’s pretty obvious that doing 10 sets per week will speed up your results.
The easiest way to increase your training volume is simply perform more sets of each exercise in your routine.
This is why I always recommend some type of push, pull, legs split so you train each muscle at least 2x per week, as it is unrealistic to maximize your training volume training each muscle just one time per week.
So now we know there are science backed studies supporting the more sets you do for a muscle, the more it grows, up to at least 45 sets until failure per week.
45 sets to failure sounds pretty insane when most lifters only do 10-15 sets per week max, but keep in mind that it’s now all about how many sets you do per week but also how you do them.
If you are doing Balloon method workouts you are triggering the only 3 ways your body builds muscle, so 10 sets of a Balloon Method workout is going to help you build muscle more than 10 sets of any other type of workout.
Before you decide to do 30+ sets of training for a muscle group per week, we also need to consider other factors at play.
- Are you stressed out and working a lot?
- Are you a beginner trainee?
- Are you not getting good sleep?
- Is your diet poor?
- Are you not eating enough protein?