If you’re thinking, “How many exercises per workout should I do ?”
Then you are not alone in this one. It’s a dilemma plenty of beginners face at the cusp of their fitness journey.
So how do you get the right balance between the volume and frequency of your workouts? What are the essential factors to consider?
Don’t worry. This article has you covered. We’ll give you a complete guide on:
- The number of exercises you should do: per workout and muscle group,
- The essential factors to every workout routine: Sets, Reps, Volume, & Frequency and,
- Construct a workout routine that will help you reap maximum benefits.
Let’s get started.
How Many Exercises Per Workout Should You Do?
How many exercises per workout should you do? You have to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all program. Brad Jon Schoenfeld’s research has shown that there is no significant difference between higher and lower frequencies on the basis of equal volume and that for the amount of exercise, you can choose how often each muscle group should workout per week. [ 1 ]
The number of exercises you do depends on your fitness goal and fitness level.
However, an ideal number is doing three to four exercises per workout session.
It’s a number that’s easy to follow if you want to achieve consistency in your workouts. But the thing is, how can you maximize the volume of your exercises to get optimal benefits?
Two things that would help you get the optimal benefits from your workout:
- Find the right ratio in your exercise volume and workout frequency.
- Target the right muscle groups in your workout sessions.
Both of these combined can help you achieve your fitness goals faster. Either for strength gains or weight loss.
Understanding Volume and Frequency of Exercises
In understanding how many exercises per workout session you should do, you have to consider the ratio of your workout volume and frequency.
It would help you construct a workout regimen that can specifically target your fitness goal.
Volume refers to the number of sets and reps you do within each exercise per workout session.
Frequency refers to the number of times you do each workout session for a certain period.
It’s vital to find the right balance between these two components to make the most of your fitness routine.
Let’s focus on the volume first.
How Many Reps and Sets Should You Do Per Exercise?
You are probably wondering, “How many reps should I do and how many sets to maximize my workout?”
The number of reps and sets may vary for each person. It depends on their fitness goal. Studies showed that the recommended frequency of endurance training ranges from 2 to 5 days per week. [ 2 ]
Below is an ideal set-to-rep range you can follow across different fitness goals:
- General Fitness – Two sets. Eight to fifteen reps.
- Strength Gains – Two to three sets. Six reps.
- Hypertrophy – Three to six sets. Six to twelve reps.
- Muscular Endurance – Three to four sets. Fifteen reps.
Tip: If you’re aiming to lose weight, a healthy balance of alternating full-body workouts and cardio can help. If you’re strength training, you should gradually add volume to your regimen for muscle gain.
How Many Exercises Per Muscle Group To Get The Best Results?
How Many Exercises Per Muscle Group Should You Do? It would ultimately vary from person to person.
Some would recommend doing 2-3 exercises for your secondary muscle group and 3-5 for your primary muscle group.
However, if you are a beginner, an ideal number would be two exercises per muscle group and target each muscle twice per week.
Understanding Muscles Groups: Primary and Secondary Muscle Groups
Primary Muscle Groups are the larger group of muscles in our body. They bear the most brunt in our workouts; hence, they recover slowly.
It consists of:
While Secondary Muscles are the small muscle groups in our body, it supports movement and recovers faster after a workout.
In creating the perfect workout regimen, you have to be strategic in targeting these muscles. You have to find the best type of exercise that would effectively utilize multiple muscle groups at once.
What Type of Exercises Can You Do For Each Muscle?
Your goal is to target one primary muscle group and two secondary muscle groups per workout session.
The primary muscle group carries most of our body’s weight and movement. Training one primary muscle per session is more than enough to reap results without risking injury.
You have to do the right type of exercise that can target that one major muscle group effectively.
Below are some examples of exercise variations you can do for your primary muscle group:
Chest Exercise Variations
- Chest Dips
- Barbell Bench Press
- Incline Bench Cable Fly
- Seated Machine Chest Press
- Incline Dumbbell Press
Back Exercise Variations
- Wide-Grip Pull-Up
- Horizontal Pull-Up
- Chest Supported Rows
- Lat Pull-Down
Legs Exercise Variations
- Dumbbell Squat
- Goblet Squats
- Bulgarian Split Squat
- Dumbbell Step-up
- Romanian Deadlift
Below are some examples of exercise variations you can do for your secondary muscle group:
Shoulders Exercise Variations
- Front Weighted Raise
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Standing Barbell Shrugs
- Seated Lateral Raise
- Bent-over Reverse Fly
Biceps Exercise Variations
- Standing Cable Curl
- Barbell Curl
- Seated Cable Row
- Seated Dumbbell Curl
- Seated Alternating Hammer Curl
Triceps Exercise Variations
- Tricep Dips
- Lying Tricep Extension
- Overhead Tricep Extension
- Underhand Cable Pushdown
- Dumbbell Tricep Extension
Abs Exercise Variations
- Swiss Ball Crunch
- Ab Wheel Rollout
- Barbell Russian Twist
- Horizontal Cable Woodchop
- Medicine Ball Russian Twist
Calves Exercise Variations
- Dumbbell Jump Squat
- Dumbbell Calf Raise
- Barbell Squat Rack
- Bent Knee Calf Raise
- Box Jump
Three Types of Workout Split
Now that we have covered the training volume and exercise variations. Let’s proceed to the workout frequency.
Having a well-distributed workout session can be done by doing a Workout Split. A Split is how your workout sessions are distributed or divided in a week.
Below are three types of workout Splits you can do:
Full Body Split
The full body split is an excellent routine beginner can easily follow.
This type of split focuses on hitting both upper body and lower body muscle groups at once. Not necessarily all of your muscle groups, but you should aim to hit most if not a lot.
It’s also a useful method for people who have a tight schedule since this routine must have one rest day between each full-body workout.
If you’re a beginner, you can do at least three sets of ten to twelve reps.
Upper-Lower Body Split
An Upper-Lower Body Split is an alternating workout.
It is composed of targeting your upper body on one day and training your lower body on the following day.
This workout routine sits well with a 4-day workout plan. You can accomplish two upper body workouts and two lower body workouts per week.
Last, of the three, we have the Push-Pull Split. It is an alternating workout routine. It involves pushing/pressing-muscle workout on one day and pulling-muscle on the next.
Pulling targets muscles like the biceps, hamstrings, and back. The Pushing composes of the shoulders, triceps, chest, calves, and quads.
A four-day workout routine is also suitable for this split method. You can have two Pull days and two Push days.
How Many Workouts Per Day Should You Do: Is Working Out Twice A Day Effective?
Now that we have gone through the number of exercises, exactly how many workouts per day should you do?
The number of times you get moving depends entirely on your schedule. For beginners, working out once a day is enough. A duration of 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity is more than enough to be beneficial.
Some people who live busy lives even opt to divide their routine in the morning and evening. A study also shows how working out in the morning and evening has many health benefits in total body fitness. [ 3 ]
With that in mind, can we consider working out twice a day?
Is Working Out Twice A Day Effective?
Working out twice a day isn’t bad. It can even be beneficial. A study indicated how people who worked out twice a day had a significant increase in their endurance. [ 4 ]
Don’t over-do each session. Try to set a limit and don’t go ahead in putting too much volume in your exercises.
Working out twice a day can burn out your body.
But if you have the endurance for it and if you know your body well enough, then you can go on ahead and give it a shot.
If you’re going to do this, keep in mind to avoid working out every day to prevent health risks and injury.
Tips to workout safely twice a day:
- Allot 6 hours between your workout sessions.
- Engage in high-impact and high-volume exercises on the first workout. Do a mild and less demanding work out for the second. Add cardio to not over-fatigue your muscles
- Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Water is crucial in aiding circulation in your body.
- Nap in periods during the day. Give your body enough time to recover.
- If you’re a beginner, it is vital to start slow and not over-do it.
- Keep your diet in check and make sure that you have all the necessary nutrients to recover.
- Do stretches and meditation.
- In a day, you can combine Strength-training and Cardio.
How Many Exercise per Muscle Group for Different Ages and Genders?
As everyone knows, the amount of workouts you can do also depends on your age and gender.
How many exercises per muscle group per week for a young man&woman (18-40year old) and old man&woman(40-70year old)?
Well, Physical ability also varies with different ages or gender, so it’s essential to try and stick to the exercise guidelines.
A Study of muscle strength in old age has shown that training 2 to 3 times a week could promote improved muscle outcomes.[ 5 ]
It’s recommended that older adults engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, preferably throughout the day, and 1-2 sets per exercise is enough. If 30 minutes is too long, don’t worry, because some activity, no matter how light is, do exercise is better than nothing.
Remember, even 1 or 2 times per week of physical activity will give you real health benefits.
How Many Times a Week to Work Out for Best Results?
Ideally, working out four to five times per week is recommended to get better and faster results.
But if you’re a beginner, keep in mind to gradually build up into a routine. You don’t have to target four to five times a week immediately.
You still have to adjust. There isn’t any rush. Be patient. You’ll be able to increase your workout routines in no time.
Is Daily Exercise Safe?
It is often a familiar debate. While exercise is good for the body, how beneficial can it be if you do it every single day?
Some people and fitness experts do not recommend daily exercise. According to them, it would not allow your muscles enough time to rest and grow.
However, some research suggests otherwise. A study from 2018 explains the health benefits of daily exercise. It shows how exercising every day can even lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. [ 6 ]
Let’s take a look at this further by weighing in the pros and cons of daily exercise.
Pros of Working Out Everday
You Can Easily Fall Into Your Workout Routine. Others would argue that it would be easy to stay consistent if you workout every day.
Humans are creatures of habit. If you set yourself to daily workouts, you will have no room to debate whether to work out that day or not.
It just becomes a part of your routine. You’ll easily stay committed.
You’ll Hit Muscle Groups More Frequently. Another advantage of working out every day is that you will have the opportunity to hit your muscle groups more frequently.
If you are looking for hypertrophy or gains, you have to work out more regularly to stimulate protein synthesis.
It would give your muscles twice the amount of stimulation, which would make them build at a faster rate.
Cons of Working Out Everday
Overreaching. If you work out every day, you might end up “overreaching,” which is another term for over-training. Despite all the hard work you put in, you would get fewer returns if your muscles are sore and over-fatigued.
Muscle Injury. Working out every single day can heighten your chances of getting muscle injury. Over-fatiguing your muscles can cause tissue tears. It’s the last thing you’d want out of your workout.
If you want to work out every day, experts recommend having one rest day or a full-out rest week. Doing so can aid your muscles to recover.
The 45-Minute Window For Exercise
A 45-minute workout can be ideal for those who want to work out every day.
When people get into the gym or their workout session, they can sometimes do too much than what is beneficial for them. But sometimes, doing less time can give you more results.
When you work out, you have 45 minutes before your body responds and produces cortisol. Cortisol is this stress hormone that kills muscles.
It’s counterproductive to exercise beyond that time frame if you want muscle gain. You will have to maximize your workouts within those 45 minutes.
This way, you don’t over-fatigue your muscles. You’ll have enough time and energy to rebuild your muscles and start fresh the next day.
How Active Rest Day Can Help
Adding an active rest day to your workout routine can be beneficial in a lot of ways. It can prevent muscle pain, encourage recovery, and help prepare your body for the next day’s workout.
There are plenty of ways to stay active on your rest day. You can head to the grocery or do chores. If you have a dog, you are free to give them a walk to the park.
You should find more and more ways to be productive. Having an active rest day can keep your body in top condition as it recovers well enough for your workout the very next day.
Other activities you can do on your rest day:
Yoga – it’s the most advisable thing to do on your rest day. It can improve the recovery of your muscles and improve your mental focus.
Cycling – If you have a stationary bike or a bike in general, it won’t hurt to pedal along with the neighborhood for 20-30 minutes. It is low-impact and can be quite efficient if you are aiming for fat loss.
Swimming – If you have a pool, this is easily one of the best ways to release your muscles’ tension from your previous workout. You can do a few laps, and it would benefit your entire body.
The Bottom Line
Your fitness goal is the foundation of your entire workout plan.
Having a goal in mind can help you formulate the right exercises. It can align your targets. It would help you identify the right number of exercises to reap maximum benefits.
However, as you progress, you should keep stepping up and add more volume to get better results.
For example, if you’re going to aim for strength gains, choose a challenging weight. Not too light since you’re just going to be doing cardio, but nothing too heavy beyond your capacity.
All of your hard work would fall flat if you are not consistent with your workout routine and your diet.
Remember, find the right balance between the volume and frequency of your workouts. It will be your key to success.