Testosterone Boost Tuesday – How Many Reps & Sets To Build Muscle Faster?
If you’ve been training for a couple weeks than you’ve probably noticed how difficult it is to find the right mix of exercises along with how many sets and reps for each. Well in today’s testosterone boost Tuesday post we are going to help you figure out how many reps and sets you need to do in order to build muscle faster. However there are many different opinions on how many sets and reps a person should do to achieve there goals. Some set and rep ranges are made for strength while other might be more effective as building lean muscle.
One of the reasons there are so many different opinions on sets and reps is because everyone is genetically unique and responds differently to various combinations of sets and reps. For example, unless you are extremely genetically gifted, you will need to spend time experimenting with all the different advice you are given to see what your body reacts best to. You should be approaching every set with intensity. So if you find you are easily flying through a certain weight you should be using that as a warm-up for the more challenging sets to follow. These heavier sets also known as “working sets” are where the real muscle-building work is done.
Here’s an example of how to structure your sets for bench press or squats:
First set: warm-up 20 reps at 50% of your maximum weight
Second set: warm-up 12 reps at 60% of your maximum weight
Third set: warm-up 8 reps at 70% of your maximum weight
Fourth set: working set 6 repetitions at 80% of your maximum weight
By maximum weight we are referring to your 1 rep max or the highest amount of weight you can lift for 1 rep. In this case the first three sets are warm-up for the last set which, given the amount of weight you are lifting, is where you will really stress your muscles. Now for another example let’s say you add in two more exercises, the incline press and dumbbell flys.
Incline Bench Press:
First set: warm-up for 1-12 reps
Second set: warm-up for 1-8 reps
Third set: warm-up for 1-8 reps
Fourth set: working set 6 repetitions
Three working sets of 12 repetitions, all high-intensity at about 65% – 1 rep max.
If you follow this chest routine you are looking at 5 working sets. There are some people who do as high as 25 working sets. So the questions is how can you hope to build muscle on so few sets?
Well a pro bodybuilder named “Tony Pearson” (seen in the picture above) preformed between 6 to 8 sets per every body part he trained. He explained that 6 to 8 sets of heavy weight is more than enough to stimulate the muscle into growth and if you are doing more than this you aren’t training hard enough. What Tony is saying is that if you condense all of your sets into 6 to 8 make sure they are challenging, as apposed to doing 15 sets where some sets aren’t challenging and not as effective.
Bodybuilding is about intensity and how you need to force your body to grow. In order to do this you need to continue to increase the amount of weight you are lifting during your sets. If after a year or training you are still using the same amount of weight for the same number of repetitions… than you won’t grow or get stronger, its as simple as that. If you workout chest 60 times a year it doesn’t need to go up each individual workout but by the end of the year it should be significantly higher than where you were when you started out – particularly if you are relatively new to bodybuilding. Here’s an example of what a one week improvement would look like. Say for example you did the following on week 1:
1×20 @ 135 pounds
1×12 @ 185 pounds
1×8 @ 225 pounds
1×6 @ 250 pounds
The following week you can keep everything the same but add a couple extra reps to set four or add a little bit of weight. So it would look like this:
1×20 @ 135 pounds
1×12 @ 185 pounds
1×8 @ 225 pounds
1×6 @ 260 pounds or 1×7-8 @ 250 pounds
Your warm-up sets aren’t the ones going up here, just your working sets. Even though the example here might not seem like a lot over time it really adds up some it’s important to stay consistent! Let’s say for example you add 2.5 pounds per week to your bench press. Even if you are only able to lift the bar when you start (that’s 45 pounds) by the end you will be able to lift 175 pounds:
Week 1: 45 pounds
Week 2: 47.5 pounds
Week 3: 50 pounds
Week 52: 175 pounds
Now chances are if you are only able to lift 45 pounds you are extremely skinny – so how much better do you think you will look at the end of the year when you are able to lift 175? Probably a lot better than most people!
Make sure you are feeding your body with the right foods and getting plenty of rest. Compare the workout and progress above to if you had done 25 sets of various isolation exercises for your chest and arms – do you think that would have got you better results? Chances are it would have distracted you from your important lifts and your gym session would have taken you forever!
This technique for sets and reps is very important because a lot of guys make mistake of adding too much weight to fast each week. If you are set on adding 10 pounds to your bench press every week, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. 10 pounds a week is 520 pounds a year this is next to impossible if you think you could boost your lift by that much by the end of the year… you not superman. Your strength and muscle mass won’t grow that quickly so your body will compensate for the lack of strength by “cheating” on the rep – using momentum, not locking out, swinging the weight, etc. Not only are you now not actually working the muscle fully but you are also exposing yourself at the risk of injury.
That brings us to another point – by performing less sets but at higher intensity you are able to get through your workout a lot quicker. Most people go to the gym during there lunch breaks at work or for half an hour before they head into the office. Going through an extended routine of 20 exercises for tons of reps will take a long time – add in shower and getting changed and you are looking at well over an hour. How motivated will you feel to go through all of that? However, if it’s only 30 minutes you are far more likely to stick with it and get through the workout.
If you are just starting out you will be able to add quite a bit over the first year – so much in fact that future you will be jealous of just how easy you had it! If you’ve been working out for some time now and haven’t seen the type of progress you want (or any progress for that matter) try changing up your routine and focusing on fewer sets but with more intensity. It’s easier to have that maximum intensity if you are at the gym for a shorter time and doing fewer sets. Once you change things up and boost your weight on every lift week over week you should start seeing a very nice transformation in your physique! Follow these tips in this article on how many reps & sets to build muscle for greater results!