The Lifting Guide – Part 2: Your sets – the difference between progress and failure

Do you really know how many sets you should be doing in order to make your muscle grow?

If you aren’t sure and have doubts about the training volume you should be using, then this article is exactly for you.


The number of sets for each muscle group per week or per training session depends on your training stage.

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Beginner: If you are a beginner to resistance training than you will see results with as little as < 3 sets per training session per muscle group, if you train twice a week (< 6 sets per week). 

Advanced: It seems that advanced lifters and athletes in particular should do even more sets per muscle group, per week.

But is there a cap? How much is too much?

Even though the evidence is lacking, it seems like doing 9 sets per muscle group per training session is too much. There seem to be an upper limit of what gives you more gains.

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2017). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2017). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

If you were to ask me about how I design training programs, I would tell you that I usually use 10-20 sets per muscle group, per week for intermediate lifters and for advanced lifters 20-45 sets per muscle group, per week, depending on their training history and the ability to recover.

Well, after clarifying how many reps and sets you should do, one question remains:


How much weight should I use?

I think the answer to this question is the simplest one:


I hope this article can help you with making sure that your training volume is high enough for gains!

If you don't want to bother with calculating the optimal training volume for each muscle group and want to get an optimal program designed for your training stage right now, then check out my Training Plan Package.

The package includes whole-body workouts, upper-lower body split workouts and 3-day body-part split workouts with training volume adjusted to different training stages.


In part 3 of this series I will address the question of how to design a training program for fat loss. Stay tuned!