Skip to main content

This is How Many Exercises Per Muscle Group You Should Do

Working out can be a big undertaking for a lot of people. Unless you grew up in a weight room or played sports throughout school, it can seem like a daunting task. While the best piece of advice is to just start, where exactly to start can be a bit of a complicated question. 

Sure you could just decide to join a gym, buy some weights/bands/equipment, but then what? While doing something is going to be better than doing nothing, as time progresses, you want to start a plan of attack. This will help you maximize time spent working out and exercising and let you see the best results as fast as possible

Guy at a gym grabs a barbell to start a snatch exercise.

As you progress and start to build out your workouts, a commonly asked question arises: How many exercises should you do per muscle group? 

The answer. It’s a bit complicated.

How Many Exercises Should You Do Per Muscle Group?

Ultimately, this is going to vary depending on multiple factors:

  • Type of training you’re performing
  • Time availability such as session length and how many times per week you train
    • Session length
    • How many times per week you train
  • Goals
    • Sport/Performance
    • Size/Bodybuilding
    • Total Body Toning
  • Your current fitness level

All of these concepts will come into play once you start building out your workouts. Once you have answered those questions, then you can look a little further into the specifics of training volume. 

Guy in a gym performs a pull-up on a bar.

What is Training Volume?

In general, training volume refers to the number of exercises, sets, repetitions, and weight used during a given workout, more specifically, over a given amount of time (commonly a weekly basis). From here we can break down the workload even further. 

Considerations for Sets & Repetitions

To truly maximize exercises per muscle group, we need to break down sets and reps and define different schemes that have shown to be effective for specific goals.

Strength Training

  • 5 repetitions or lower
  • Generally higher rest between sets (2-5 minutes)  to allow full CNS (central nervous system) recovery
  • 5 sets or fewer on working sets (this does not include warm-up sets)
  • Weight should be near maximal

Bodybuilding and Size Training

  • 8-12 rep range is ideal for maximizing muscle hypertrophy (growth), with decent strength improvement
  • Moderate rest usually 45-90 seconds between sets
  • Moderate to heavy weight without sacrificing good form
  • 4-6 sets

Muscular Endurance Training

  • Generally working within the 15-20+ rep range
  • Weight is on the lighter side
  • 30-45 seconds rest between sets
  • 3-4 sets
Guy working out is performing a mountain climber on the ground.

Training Goals

Now that you have a better idea of the training volume needed to maximize the workouts, you need to figure out what your exact goals are. Once that is figured out, then you can plan out the workout split (how many times) for a given week.

Total Body Toning Training

  • A great starting point to maximize fat loss and build muscular endurance is through total body workouts
  • Perform them three (3) days per week – one (1) full rest day between sessions
    • Typical Total Body Splits
      • Monday, Wednesday, Friday
      • Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
  • Typically start with 1-2 exercises per muscle group with a total of 6-8 exercises per session

Sport/Performance Training

  • Typically to maximize this type of training goal, working out muscle groups 2-3 times per week is best
  • Typical splits: push/pull or upper/lower body days
    • Monday/Thursday:  Push or Upper body sessions
    • Tuesday/Friday:  Pull or Lower body sessions
    • All other days are rest days
  • Typically start with 2-4 exercises per muscle group per session

Bodybuilding & Size

  • A general rule of thumb to maximize muscle size and growth is to work out each muscle group 1-2 times per week
  • Sample Workout Split
    • Monday – Chest
    • Tuesday – Back
    • Wednesday – Rest
    • Thursday – Shoulders
    • Friday – Legs
    • Saturday – Abs
    • Sunday – Rest
  • Typically start with 6-8 exercises per muscle group per session
Runner running up a set of staris.

Starting & Your Goals

The main goal is to figure out your starting point, given your current fitness level, your goals, then go from there. Once you know that you can start creating your workouts. Most people that do struggle with the question of how many exercises per muscle group, fall on the beginner side of things.

A great starting point would be total body workouts, three (3) times per week until you start to get your fitness level built up. Then as you progress, play around with the different workout splits to keep things interesting, and that way your workouts never get boring.

Editors' Recommendations

7 fantastic reasons why deadlifting should be part of your routine
Whether you want to boost your metabolism or strengthen your core, you need to add deadlifting to your routine
man doiung deadlifts for strong glutes.

You’ve probably tried many different forms of exercise and training on your fitness journey, including powerlifting and weight training. One type of exercise you might not have tried is deadlifting. This can be a simple and easy way to maintain your ability to do heavy lifts from the floor. Believe it or not, you see this action in your daily life, ranging from everything from lifting a toddler to picking up a bin from the ground. These exercises help strengthen your functionality for everyday activities.

This type of workout usually involves the glutes and hips, but it can be far more than a butt-building mechanism, as deadlifting benefits your flexibility and stability. When starting this workout, we have to consider, "What does deadlifting work out?" This type of strength training works on the quads, hamstrings, and spinal muscles, among others. Total-body benefits are also garnered, such as bone health maintenance and protection against muscle loss. 
What muscles does deadlifting target?

Read more
The ultimate resistance band arm workout guide: How to boost your fitness game
All you need for a solid arm day workout are some good resistance bands and these tips
Man using bands for arm day.

People love working out their arms with resistance bands because it’s a convenient way to build strength. You can also use them in a variety of ways wherever you go. This is especially helpful when traveling, because a dumbbell or kettlebell might not be so easy to find. 

If you’re new to regular strength training or you’ve recently recovered from an arm injury, resistance bands will allow you to increase mobility and flexibility in that area. Below, check out the top six exercises to include in your resistance bands arm workout.
Anatomy of the arms 

Read more
The best stylish workout gear to help you stick to your 2023 fitness resolutions
This is the best men's fitness attire to work out in
running workouts fitness jump rope

If you’re reading this by now then that unfortunately means that 85% of individuals who set forth to crush a fitness, health, or wellness goal to start off the year have sadly already admitted defeat. And that's not just fitness, that is all New Year’s Resolutions, of which, an overwhelming number of those are health-related. However, come January 21st, nearly five out of every six that committed have determined to not keep trying to improve themselves.

Hopefully, if you're reading this, maybe, just maybe you are part of the fifteen percent that are still hanging around, determined not to become just another stat casualty. However, maybe you are the larger percent that might have lapsed on crushing your newfound fitness goals, and maybe, just maybe this is what you needed to read to help get back on track.

Read more