How To Build Muscle: How Many Sets And Reps?
What is the optimum amount of sets and reps you should do when exercising? Is this important to building muscle? This article will discuss the importance of doing the right amount of sets and reps for various exercises. It will also explain that the amount of sets and repetitions will vary depending on your goals.
What is your goal?
Is your main goal to build a lot of muscle or strength? This main sound like an oxymoron, but it is possible to build more muscle than strength or vice versa. Your set range and rep ranges will be a major contributing factor to this. A bodybuilder wants to get gain a lot of muscle mass, they generally do not care how much they can lift for one rep. A power lifter, on the other hand, wants to lift as much weight as possible (primarily in bench, deadlift, and squat).
Generally speaking, to build more muscle mass, you need to stay within the (6-12) repetition range for multiple sets in one exercise. This promotes more hypertrophy, which is the increased recruitment of more muscle fibers. The total number of sets for one exercise should be around 3-4 sets because you are doing a moderate amount of reps (6-12).
Another thing that should be taken in consideration is the amount of time between sets. To give the muscle a reason to recruit more muscle fibers, your rest time should be approximately 2-3 minutes. Anything longer will focus on strength and less muscle mass, while anything shorter will focus on more muscle endurance (or stamina). Note, however, the amount of rest may vary for individuals, but if you do not rest enough, whether it is to either build muscle or strength, your results will NOT be as great.
To build more strength, you need to stay in the lower repetition range (3-6). This focuses more on the CNS (Central Nervous System). When lifting weight that is in this range, your body will build strength more effectively. You will still gain muscle, but not as much as higher rep ranges. When you are lifting in the (3-6) range, your body adapts to the heavier weight. But since the muscle is not under as much tension for a long time, you will build less muscle mass, but strength gains will be significantly higher.
Also, since you are lifting very heavy weight in the lower rep range, you will need to add more sets. For example, you may do 6 sets of 4 reps for one exercise such as bench press. That is a total volume of 24 (6 x 4=24). You need to do more sets because you are doing less reps per set. When doing higher reps (6-12), less sets are needed because you meet higher volumes faster. The time between sets should also be 3-5 minutes to allow muscles to recover strength.
Compound Exercises and Isolation Exercises (Sets and Reps should differ)
While (6-12) reps focus on size more, and (3-6) focus on strength more, this is not necessarily the case with isolation movements. Isolation movements recruit less muscle and generally do not respond as well with lower rep ranges. For example, lateral raises may be unsafe to do with heavy weight. You can seriously hurt your shoulders by sticking in the lower rep ranges when performing that exercise. Another example is bicep curls. Bicep curls will not respond to lifting heavy weights in very low rep ranges. If you can only lift 50 lbs 3 times, you are probably wasting your time, as smaller muscles do not respond to low rep ranges as well as larger muscle groups.
Isolation exercises are mainly used to help lagging assistance muscles for help on compound exercises like bench press. Repetition range should be at least 8, and may even go as high as 20.
Lower rep ranges work better when doing compound exercises such as bench press, squats, leg press, deadlifts, rows, and shoulder press etc. Compound exercises also work more muscles. For instance, the bench press works the chest (primarily), shoulders, and triceps. It is okay to lift heavier in the lower rep ranges with this exercise because there are more muscles involved in the lift. But be aware, lifting in lower rep ranges can lead to injury easier.
Incorporating both lower and higher repetition ranges
Whether your goal is to gain more muscle mass, or gain more strength, it may be a good idea to change your workouts from time to time. Staying within the same set and rep ranges for a long time may cause your muscles to hit a plateau (they don't get stronger or larger)
Technically, muscle builds strength, and strength builds muscle, but one of them is usually more dominant than the other. Training properly will help you meet your goals faster.