How many sets to do in a Weight Training/Lifting workout per exercise

Discover whether Multiple sets are better than single ones.

Find the correct set range for maximum results in minimum time with these simple yet powerful weight lifting techniques.

What is a Set?

In Weight Training, set is simply a bunch or repetitions you perform at once without rest. Every time you lift 5,10,15 reps and stop due to muscle fatigue, you have completed a set of weight training exercise.

Warm Ups Sets - I suggest you perform 2 warm ups sets, one with an empty bar and then bar loaded to 25-50% of your maximum lift. These are called warm up sets as they warm up the individual muscle for heavier sets.

Work Sets - After you finish warm up sets, you should add enough weight which helps you fail in the required rep range. This called work sets and may be single or multiple.

Single set or Multiple Sets?

For any given weight training exercise like bench press, you can either do one single set after 2 warm ups sets or perform more sets for total muscle fatigue.

Dorian Yates, a multiple Mr. Olympia champion is a great fan of single set training. But many weight trainers, including me, find it difficult to bring all the energy and converge in to a single set, not to say the first set.

Although Beginners have benefited from single sets, as you train for more than 4-8 weeks my suggestion is to add 2 more sets, making it to at least 3 sets per exercise.

There is enough evidence to suggest that single sets are enough, but I have found my biggest gains when I do 3-5 sets per exercise. The last 2 sets are usually the killer ones for me. Exercise Science explains this as additional fiber recruitment, the fibers which were not used in the first set are being used in subsequent sets.

Choosing number of sets does depend on your training level and time availability. I hope I have not confused you.

Final Say - If you are a Beginner to Weight Training or simply short for time { although it takes only 30 minutes to do my recommended workouts }, you may use the Single set method. But if you are looking for real gains, I highly suggest you use at least 3-4 sets per exercise before you move on.

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