How Many Exercises Should You Do For Each Muscle Group? - NANBF

How Many Exercises Should You Do For Each Muscle Group?

Strength training is a great way to enhance your quality of life and improve your ability to do day-to-day activities. From stronger bones and increased muscle mass to weight loss and stronger joints, strength training should be a part of everyone’s exercise regime.

While deciding to incorporate strength training into your fitness routine is the first step, trying to figure out what kinds of training to perform can be pretty challenging.

Firstly, you need to find the right exercises for your muscles, then figure out how many days a week you should be working on said muscles.

How Many Exercises Should You Do For Each Muscle Group?

You also have to find the right number of reps and sets to get the most out of each exercise and how many exercises you should do for each muscle group.

That’s a lot to think about! Fortunately, there are numerous ways to approach different training techniques and what exercises you should perform. And, that is precisely what we are going to guide you through in today’s article.

So, get those muscle groups ready because you’re about to transform your body into the best shape it has ever been.

Exercises Per Muscle Group 

The number of exercises for each muscle group essentially depends on the muscle you’re working on.

Some muscles, such as your biceps can be trained well with just one exercise while others like your quadriceps and pectorals typically require several different exercises to properly stimulate the muscle fibers. 

Some muscles require different exercises because of the direction of their muscle fibers, how they function, and the difference in their muscle heads. 

Our muscles consist of thousands of muscle fibers that contract when being moved. When performing weight training exercises, these muscles generate force and tear which leads to the muscle repairing and becoming stronger over time. 

However, only muscles that have contracted with enough force or power will become triggered to grow and get stronger.

Not all muscles consist of the same types of muscle fibers either. Some have muscle fibers that are bundled tightly together in muscle heads while others are situated in all directions and angles.

For those bundled together, you would need to target the muscle heads and for those in different directions, you would need to target each direction for increased muscle growth.


An example of a muscle that consists of muscle fibers running in different directions is the pectoralis major.

For this muscle group, a flat bench press will usually work most of the fibers but if you wanted to develop the whole chest area, you would typically need to exercise from different angles. 

On the other hand, the tricep’s muscle fibers are more uniform in terms of directions. These are bundled together and split into three different muscle heads which all have various functions. 

For the best muscle growth results, your training routine needs to work all of these muscle fibers in a muscle group with the correct volume of training.  

Let’s take a look at the exercises needed for different muscle groups in the body.

Chest 

To achieve optimal chest muscle development, it’s recommended that you include several exercises such as:

  • Bench press, dumbbell chest press, and/or dumbbell fly (flat)
  • Incline dumbbell press, cable chest fly (low to high), and/or incline bench press (incline)
  • Push-ups, dips, cable chest fly (high to low), and/or decline bench press (decline)

If three sets of exercises seem a bit much, we recommend sticking with the flat bench press and leaving out the decline exercises to sufficiently target your lower pecs. 

You should perform chest training sets evenly across the three categories. For instance, you can perform 9 sets of training on your chest a week with 3 sets per exercise. Or, you can choose to do 15 sets with 5 sets per exercise. 

Example:

  • Dumbbell fly: 3 sets x 5 reps
  • Incline dumbbell press: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Cable chest fly: 3 sets x 12 reps

Shoulders

Training your shoulder muscles alongside the rest of your upper body is very important to maintain a well-balance workout routine. Exercises for your shouiders include: 

  • Overhead press, dumbbell press, bench press, or front raise (front delts)
  • Dumbbell press, overhead press, or dumbbell lateral raise (lateral delts)
  • Reverse machine fly, face pull, reverse dumbbell fly, or barbell rear delt row (rear delts)

It’s important to note that your shoulders may also be getting used in other exercises for other muscle groups such as chest workouts.

This means that the number of sets primarily for your shoulders may vary. At least 10 sets a week should be sufficient for shoulder development.

Example:

  • Dumbbell press: 3 sets x 5 reps
  • Incline dumbbell press: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Overhead press: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Reverse dumbbell fly: 3 sets x 12 reps

Back

To efficiently develop your back muscles, you should be looking to perform one of the following exercises into your routine:

  • Deadlift, back extension, good morning, or rack pull (back extension)
  • Pull-up, chin-up, lat pulldown (vertical pull)
  • Barbell row, cable row, dumbbell row, or inverted row (horizontal pull)

Again, you should perform your weekly sets evenly across these categories. For example, 9 sets of back training a week equates to 3 sets per exercise.

Example:

  • Deadlift: 3 sets x 5 reps
  • Lat pulldown: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Barbell row: 3 sets x 12 reps

Abdominals 

Examples of ab exercises include:

  • Hanging less raise, crunches, and/or kneeling ab wheel roll-outs (frontal flexion)
  • Horizontal wood chop, oblique crunches, and/or high to low wood chop (side rotation/flexion)

We suggest training your abs with at least 10 sets per week for each muscle. Remember, several ab muscles overlap some of their functions so when you train, you may train them at the same time. 

Example:

  • Crunches: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • High to low wood chop: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Kneeling ab wheel roll-outs: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Hanging leg raise: 3 sets x 12 reps 

Biceps 

If you decide to perform one variation of bicep curls, you should do all sets in this one exercise.

We recommend starting with ten sets per week. But, if you do more bicep workouts, you should split these evenly between each other. 

Example:

  • Dumbbell curl: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Dumbbell preacher curl: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Cable curl: 3 sets x 20 reps 

Triceps 

The triceps is regarded as a three-head muscle. All three join in one tendon that then inserts into the elbow bone. We recommend training your triceps with 9 sets a week with 3 sets per movement. 

Example:

  • Overhead press: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Overhead cable triceps extension: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Triceps pushdown with rope: 3 sets x 12 reps 

Other Muscle Groups

Glutes

Perform at least 10 sets per week that work on your glutes in hip extension and an additional 5 sets a week to work on hip abduction.

  • Squats: 3 sets x 5 reps
  • Romanian deadlift: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Barbell hip thrust: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Banded sidekick: 3 sets x 20 reps per side 

Quads 

To begin with, start by doing 9 sets per week of quad training.

  • Barbell squats: 3 sets x 5 reps
  • Bulgarian split squats: 3 sets x 10 reps per side
  • Leg extension: 3 sets x 20 reps

Hamstrings 

We recommend doing around 10 to 15 sets per week dividing the volume of hip extensions and leg curls to around 50/50.

  • Good morning: 4 sets x 8 reps
  • Lying leg curl: 2 sets x 20 reps 
  • Seated leg curl: 3 sets x 12 reps

Calves 

We suggest performing at least 10 sets per week or even more as your calves are more accustomed to training from walking. 

  • Standing calf raise: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Seated calf raise: 3 sets x 15 reps
  • Eccentric heel drop: 3 sets x 10 reps per side 

It is also important to know how to stretch your calves and to incorporate them into your routine. This will reduce the risk of injury and muscle cramping in your lower legs.

Summary 

As you can see, the number of exercises, sets, and reps differs for each muscle group. These are guidelines above that are a great place to start for newbies at strength training.

Make sure you choose weights that you are comfortable with within the beginning as too many people injure themselves early on in their exercise endeavors.

Kevin Harris
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