Friday, February 15, 2013

Working Out: 3 Sets Is The Magic Number In The Beginning BUT!!!!

    How many sets of bench press should you do for a bigger chest or bigger max? How many sets of squats are needed to be able to build up to squatting 3 plates for reps? What about moving up my pull ups? 

    Ok, to simplify this, if you are a beginner, and in your first 2-3 years of training, 3 is "probably and most likely" the magic number. It's a great number of sets to build muscle, to build endurance, and to be tone/fit. Bigger muscles groups will have more exercises, but 3 sets in the beginning is a great start. 

I.E.

Chest: 4-5 exercises, 3 sets. 12-15 sets total.
Back: 4-5 exercises, 3 sets. 12-15 sets total.
Legs: 4-5 exercises, 3 sets. 12-15 sets total.
Calves: 1-2 exercises, 3 sets. 3-6 sets total.
Biceps: 3-4 exercises, 9-12 sets total.
Triceps: 3-4 exercises, 9-12 sets total.
Shoulders: 3-4 exercises, 9-12 sets total.

Okay, still with me? If you have been training awhile though, it's time to kick three sets out the door, especially for lagging parts! I can't sit here and write a generic article of intelligent design, but I can give you some tips on training with instinct as you are advancing:


  • If you are planning on doing 3 sets, and on the 3rd, you are doing extremely well, you may want to amp it up and do a 4th, maybe a 5th set.
  • If you have a body part that is terrible, you may want to add sets, or even decrease sets, as you may be over training and should consider doing 2 sets, and less work if you have been killing it and it hasn't been growing. 
  • For triceps in particular, I get bored doing 3 sets, and only 3 exercises, so sometimes I do 4-5 exercises in 12 or so sets, I train instinctual,  I know I need to do at least one set of heavy overhead tricep extensions, some days I can do them with up to the 125 pound/56 kilo dumbbell for reps and many sets, other days my elbows start telling me at 100 pound/45 kilo lift that today isn't going to happen, and I may end up doing 5 sets of push downs instead. Sometimes I have the luxury of an empty gym and could do a circuit of 10 exercises for one part. 
  • If you have a very specific "high rep" goal, like doing 20 to 30 pull ups, or benching 225lbs for 20 reps, you will likely need to do a lot more than 3 sets. If your goal is power, 3 may be more than enough.
  • Knowing when to do more or less than 3 sets will come only with experience, and experimentation. You need to find out not what works, but what works for you!

     And if all else fails, and you are clueless even though you have been training for years, go for the 3 sets! They worked every other time, they will at least hold you up today!


Feel free to email or facebook me with any questions!


Arizona Fitness at Inbox dot com

Consult a doctor or medical professional before beginning any fitness, diet, or weight training program.

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