How Many Reps AND Sets? – Build Muscle Quickly Using the Right Amount!

How Many Reps AND Sets? – Build Muscle Quickly Using the Right Amount!


If you’ve seen this channel’s video on “how
many reps you should do,” there’s a good chance that you’re probably thinking, “what about
sets?” And for good reason because it’s good to know both if you want to maximize your
workout gains. Now before getting into any suggestions, I
do want to preface that since the nature of this topic is widely debatable with many experts
advocating different approaches, there’s a good chance that this video might speak differently
or against what you might currently have heard to be optimal. That being said, please note
that these suggestions are merely suggestions and if you find what you’re currently doing
effective for you, by all means continue to do so.
Now let’s start off with beginners. If you’re new to weightlifting or exercise in general,
the amount of sets and reps you do is much less important than you just consistently
working out. As a beginner, there are many adaptations that will take place once you
start exercising that pretty much any mixture of reps and sets will create results. Simply
going to the gym in the first place and making sure you go frequently, such as 2- 4 times
a week for many weeks, months, and even years, is by far the most important step.
For non-beginners, reps and sets do start to matter quite a bit. Now there are many
experts within the industry that has advocated and shown great results with all types of
reps and sets. Former heavyweight bodybuilder Mike Mentzer suggested that you only need
to perform one set of an exercise all the way to concentric and eccentric failure, meaning
that your muscles are so fatigued that you cannot possibly move the weight again under
your own power. More sets were considered unneccessary. Mentzer, along with other notable
figureheads in fitness such as Arthur Jones and Dorian Yates, went on to popularize a
workout program known as high intensity training, aka HIT, focusing solely on one set training.
Of course, this philosophy goes against typical bodybuilding schemes which employ 3-5 sets.
Fortunately for us, there is research comparing the two. Two meta analyses done in 2009 and
2010 took 22 studies in total comparing single set training with multiple set training, particularly
2 to 3 sets. One meta analysis measured difference in strength gains while the other measured
difference in muscle gains, aka hypertrophy. In both researches, multiple set training
came out on top. The studies showed a significant 40% greater increase in hypertrophy for multiple
sets versus single sets and an even more significant 46% greater increase in strength gains.
So no doubt multiple set training is the way to go. But now the question is, how many sets?
Perhaps what can shed some light is not exactly looking at reps and sets, but looking a little
bit more broad in the terms of total volume. Total volume is a number generated by multiplying
the amount of reps, sets, and weight you’re moving. For example, performing 3 sets of
10 reps with 100 pounds equals to a total volume of 3,000. Conversely, if you do 10
sets of 3 reps with the same weight, you’ll also come to a total volume of 3,000. What
the research says that, even though the number of sets and reps are different, the gains
in muscle hypertrophy are very close to the same using the same total volume. In essence,
this throws the claim out the window of performing 8-12 reps in order to “build muscle,” since
the rep range isn’t nearly as important as the total volume. But this only applies to
hypertrophy. When it comes to strength, the studies show that the most important factor
is the intensity. The heavier you lift, the stronger you become, therefore, it still stands
that a lower rep range between 3-5 reps is perhaps best for getting stronger since going
heavier means you shouldn’t be able to do a lot of reps.
But does this mean that if you’re trying to build muscle, you can do pretty much any amount
of reps and sets? Well, not exactly. If you were to do 10 sets of 3 reps per exercise,
you’re looking at well over an hour and a half just to complete four different exercises.
That’s not exactly convenient for most people. Performing 3 sets of 10 reps, however, takes
about 25 minutes to complete the same four exercises. It’s also important to know that
the 3 reps for the 10 sets are going to be pretty heavy, which can also increase chances
of you hurting yourself. The risk might not be worth not only the reward, but also your
time. Boiling all this information down, you’re
probably best off doing about 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps for strength gains, 3-4 sets of 8-12
reps for hypertrophy, and 1-2 sets of 15 or more reps for muscle endurance. The reason
for muscle endurance is because at such high reps, fatigue is much more of a factor restricting
you to perform additional sets. But with all this being said, still nothing beats you just
going to the gym in the first place.

100 comments

  1. It’s funny, rewatching these videos after a couple of weeks of having started working out, They take on a whole new meaning and understanding.

  2. but what does 8-12 actually mean? Pick a weight where I can do 8 reps and then once i get past 12 reps with that same weight i up the weight enough to only be able to do 8 reps?

  3. Hey PictureFit, I typically do deadlifts in 4 sets: I'll do 1 set of 5 at about 135lbs to warm up my chain, 1 set of 5 at 220lbs and then I do my heaviest lift I can muster, right now that's only 270lbs for 2 sets of 2 reps, or more if I can possibly do it. Am I wasting time for strength gains? Do you need at least 3 reps to get any benefit? Thanks to anyone who can help!

  4. Iv been doing 4sets 10-15 sometimes 20. Lowest to highest and sometimes i throw in an extra set and so the heaviest I can with some help. Been doing it for 3 months now and have seen results in both muscle gain and strength.

  5. I really liked your video because it was the first to address the problem I am facing. Time. I am currently doing 4 sets of 10 but that is too long, when my break is over I won't have the time do it. I guess 3 sets will have to do

  6. "but just going to the gym is the most important thing" or whatever he said…. this is pure truth, I love the logic of this guy 🙂 there are so many different things you can do in a gym…. but just going there is good enough

  7. What about execution speed of rep (execution time of a set) and rest time between sets, for muscle growth please? (3-4 sets of 8-12 reps)

  8. This contains factually incorrect information. 'Multiple sets brings absolutely no additional increases in results compared to single set training.' P53, Body by Science, McGuff & Little.

  9. I do 3 sets of each exercise as fast as I can for 20 sec with 1 minute rep only 5 pounds in each hand I want to build up to 6 sets for endurance, strength and tone does this sound logical?

  10. Wait so I was getting endurance this whole time (btw I was doing 1 set of 100 rep)and it was push ups my arms would fall off after

  11. 3 – 5 sets of 3-5 reps -> strenght
    3 – 4 sets of 8 – 12 reps -> muscle
    1 – 2 sets of 15+ reps -> endurance

  12. You have made clear how many sets and reps i should be doing but how do i figure out how much weight i lift? And how do i find the right workout plan for me, i m not fat i would say i am pretty lean

  13. So, you talked about sets and reps. My question now is: how many exercises per muscular group? This video makes me think we should only perform one exercise per group.. but I am not sure if that would be accurate..

  14. Dear PictureFit…excuse me for the disturbance…honestly thank you for your excellent work and all the informations that you provide…
    I've been over a year subscriber of your channel and I have to admire that you have answered all of my possible questions except 1…I have seen almost the 90% of your videos and I would like through a comment like this to make my last (I think) question and it would be a pleasure for me if you could answer to me…thank you in advance although for everything…so, to the point! I have noticed in at least 5 of your videos, that you mentioned the "sweet spot of hypertrophy" thing that being heard a lot of times and I would finally like to ask you in my realistic example…I've learned from you and heard from a lot of people that the almost ideal way for building muscle is hitting every muscle group 2 times per week…so I will simplify my example and continue to mention a specific muscle group e.g. chest…So, if I would like to train my chest twice a week with 48-72 hours rest between every session…Will I go for 3-4 sets with 8-12 reps per set both days?? And if yes, how many (estimated of course because I will see also how my body will respond to your answer/advise) exercises of 3-4 sets with 8-12 reps per set should I do to not overtrain? Because for an example of 3-4 sets × 8-12 reps × 3-4 exercises pre muscle will be a 1 solid session…but If I will do this 2 times per week, that means that my workload will be doubled! Is that right to do? Will this lead to overtraining? I have to mention that my intensity will remain the same in both of my session for all the muscle groups…thank you for your time, and hope I wasn't annoying…

  15. I do 5 sets of 10 reps , my last set I try to go until my body cant no more so I do about 13-15 rep in last set

  16. Help me.Is it good or bad?
    Example Bench Press 9sets but 3 sets per weight.3 sets 15kg,3sets 20kg,3 sets 25kg.
    Am i doing too much?

  17. There's literally no perfect rep and set range. You just start somewhere and work up in weight & set while including pyrimid sets ( 5 reps at 145 or 15 reps at 100)

  18. So what does this mean exactly – when you say 3-5 sets of 8 reps, does that mean for one excercise for one muscle group per week? So on monday I do 3-5 sets of pushups that get me close to failure near 8 reps, and then I'm done with chest training until next monday?

  19. I dunno, from when I first started working out till today i`ve always done 3 set of 15 reps and made mad progress, might consider switching to 3 sets of 12 reps as the rate at which I gain is decreasing

  20. I 15 to 20 reps is ideal for body building, I could be wrong but I would always switch from power lifting to 12 reps from week to week and I never built muscle but I would always make progress, I was benching over twice my body weight and I haven't picked up a weight since 2010 and I could still probably do slightly over my body weight max…

  21. Best fucking fitness channel. No clickbait, no boring 10 minute videos, no "this will kill your gains" dumb shit. Thank you!

  22. I've been doing the PHUL workout for months, first on 2790 calories a day, then began eating some of the calories burned in the work about a month ago, and a target protein range of 140-160 grams a day. I started at 186 lbs, and now I'm 189 lbs, but my muscles aren't getting any bigger and I still have loose skin/fat around my stomach. I also do cardio, between 20-30 minutes when I do strength lifting, and on the off days I do about an hour. Am I overdoing the cardio? Not enough protein? What am I doing wrong? I really appreciate the feedback.

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