Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Experiments in Hypertrophy: Part 3 - Reps, Rest and Tempo.

In parts 1 and 2 I covered the best training splits and how many exercises to do. For part 1 and part 2 go here and here.

Note: if you don't want to read the whole post, skip to the bullet points at the end which tell you everything you need to know.

Rep Ranges.

The classic hypertrophy rep range is 8-12. Most guys (and women) training for mass spend the majority of their time in this rep range, with the occasional venture into the strength range of 6 or less during winter bulking phase and into the higher 12-15 'endurance' range when getting ready for summer.

But some athletes appear to increase muscle mass and never go near the 8-12 range. For example, Olympic weightlifters are normally way below this and Crossfitters are normally near maximal or doing some crazy high rep range (55 rep deadlifts anyone?).

So what does the research show. Previously in part 2 I outlined Brad Schoenfelds research where one group did 7x3 and another 3x10 and basically got the same results and improved muscle hypertrophy. However, the 7x3 workout took more than twice as long as the 3x10 and the strength group started to break down and complain of overtraining.

In a follow up study Schoenfeld et al (2016) did something interesting, they compared 3 sets of 2-4 reps with 3 sets of 8-12 in experienced lifters. This meant there wasn't a big difference in volume, 3 sets of 2-4 is achievable. Both groups did 7 exercises to failure in the prescribed rep range with 2 minutes rest between sets. They measured the cross sectional area of the triceps, biceps and lateral thigh before and after the 8 week trial. There was an increase in biceps in both groups but not much difference, an increase in triceps in both groups but not much difference and an increase in lateral thigh in both groups but a statistical significant difference between groups, with the 8-12 rep range working best. So even though the study shows moderate 8-12 rep range to be better, both schemes increased cross sectional area and when you look at the raw data it is really not that much different. The authors put some of the strength groups success down to the novelty of changing the programme, as most participants were training 8-12 before the trial. Unsurprisingly the group training heavy increased their squat 1RM the most as well.

But what about high reps?

Two studies stand out showing very high rep ranges, Schoenfeld et al (2015) compared 3 sets of 8-12 reps with 3 sets of 25-35 reps, using 7 exercises, 3 times a week.

Both rep schemes significantly increased the cross sectional area of the biceps, triceps and quads. There was no significant difference between the groups. None of the high rep group had lifted with this many repetitions before despite being experienced lifters. But they were experienced, this was not 'newbie' gains. It could be they were targeting the type I endurance fibres, whereas normally they would be targeting the same fibres all the time - the type II ones.

But don't be fooled, very high reps to failure is taxing, as Schoenfeld says "half the subjects in the low load group puked during the first week of training"!!

And in another study by Fink et al(2016) which was actually about rest periods (which I will get to later); they were using 4 sets of 40% 1RM for squat and bench press to failure,  in non experienced lifters (but involved in sports). All the participants showed significant increase in cross sectional area for triceps and thighs and they all increased their 1RM! The cross sectional increase was 9.8% and 10% in the triceps in both groups in the study. The paper doesn't say how many reps they were doing but the authors say it didn't drop below 12 even on the last set and using their data I have worked out the rep ranges would have been between at least 19 and 36 per set!

The authors say that low load training (less than 30% of 1RM) may cause a prolonged period of post exercise muscle synthesis compared to 90% 1RM.

We know that muscle growth is due to a whole range of factors such as mechanical tension, metabolic stress, chemical release, hormones and more.

In this case the conjecture is high reps may result in sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, so called non contractile protein and fluid. For the average gym jock, this makes no difference. Mass is mass.

Where does this leave us?

From personal experience low strength reps don't increase muscle mass that much in me. But the mass it does produce is qualitatively in my opinion denser and more likely to be the functional strength and power fibres. What is known as myofibrillar hypertrophy. I respond best to higher reps for hypertrophy.

In reality, for most trainers the rep range will vary with the exercise. For example, no one is going to try a 3 rep max rear delts flye, but a 15-25 rep rear delt flye seems reasonable. The same could be said for calves, if you are going to train them. This then comes down to the old adage about different parts of the body having different fibre mixes, if the calves are mainly type I endurance fibres then high reps would work best. Conversely, no one is probably going to do 3 x 35 reps for pull ups, so the exercise itself makes you go into moderate rep ranges.

Some things intuitively don't make sense, for example, if you do 35 reps of deadlifts you are inadvertently doing Crossfit. Whereas, 35 reps of a bodyweight 1 leg glute thrust would work.

The research does seem to show the benefits of high rep squats increasing muscle mass, see my post here on high rep squats. This is a taxing exercise but well worth putting in occasionally.

Exercises like cable flyes and machines lend themselves to high reps 12-15 whereas I think things like your classic dumbbell bench press are better in the 8-12 rep range.

I also like timed sets, set a stop watch for 35 or 45 or 55 seconds and then see how many bicep curls or press ups you can do with controlled tempo. This type of training keeps you honest!

I think many guys avoid high rep training because it is hard and burns, plus you have to leave your ego at the door and venture over to the chrome dumbbells.

Could you use interval endurance/ training?

Given that very high reps of 35 have caused hypertrophy could you not use sprint intervals on a bike or rower or ski erg or hill sprints to increase muscle hypertrophy? If the intervals are all out intense 10-20 seconds I can't see why they wouldn't work. The size of track cyclists legs is probably a testament to this.

I would also think exercises like prowler pushes could result in increases in muscle mass and strength depending on load and timing.

The perfect rep.

One thing I have really being trying to do over the last few months is feel every rep.

It doesn't matter what rep scheme you use if all your reps are crappy.

Really try and feel the muscle you are working on every rep. Let go of the ego of the weight, there is always the temptation to try and move up to the next set of dumbbells on the rack. Before you know it, you are going partial range and cheating the weight up.

Although there are times when partial range may be beneficial such as when doing 21's, in most cases go full range.

Also note in all the studies above they make the participants go to failure.

Lift with focus and intensity!

How long to rest?

The research is not consistent on this issue.

Schoenfeld et al (2015) compared resting 1 minute versus 3 minutes when training 3 sets of 8-12 reps. This research actually showed resting longer was more beneficial for hypertrophy. The authors state that in the long rest group "muscle was significantly greater in the anterior thigh and a trend for greater thickness in the triceps brachii"

However, when you look at the actual data from the study, there is not that much difference between groups. And as the authors state 1 minute is probably too short but 2 minutes would be long enough.

The difference in the anterior thigh would makes sense. As anyone knows, leg exercises such as squats are systemically taxing and need longer rest than some upper body exercises. A tricep kickback might only need 30 secs rest.Therefore, regional hypertrophy in the body may mean different rest periods (and rep ranges) for different body parts and different types of exercises.

Schoenfeld et al state

"Longer rest periods can allow for the completion of a higher number of repetitions and the maintenance of a higher training intensity and volume, and this may allow for greater muscle activation per set."

However, another researcher studying elderly men (average age 68) found a 1 minute rest period was better than a 4 minute one, and resulted in greater gains in lean mass and strength.

And don't forget how much longer it takes to rest an extra 2 minutes per set, that would be an extra 6 minutes per exercise for 3 sets, and an extra 42 minutes if you do 7 exercises. If you used those 40 minutes to do additional exercises and sets with less rest would you get better results?

And could you not maximize time efficiency with rest by doing supersets and if you are alternating limbs, say in a tricep exercise, one side is resting while the other is working?

High reps need less rest.

In a study already mentioned, Fink et al (2016) compared resting 30 seconds with resting 150 secs when lifting 40% 1RM squat and bench for 4 sets.

Both groups got increases in muscle mass and strength, with no significant difference between groups. And the blood work showed the metabolic stress for both groups was the same.

This shows that when doing very high reps, 20-35 - then you can rest less. Caveat being if you have ever tried to rest 30 secs between high rep squats you will blow up or throw up.

Where does this leave us?

Most studies that are not testing different rest periods seem to use 2 minutes.

In reality now I do not measure rest periods, by the time you changes your weights over, take a sip of water, write in your training diary what you just did you will be ready to go again. This means I am probably resting about 60-90 secs at most and no where near 3 minutes. The difference between resting 2 or 3 minutes is very marginal and other factors come into play

If you are mainly interested in strength, definitely rest longer.

Supersets are a good way to maximize rest efficiency, for example superset a dumbbell row with dumbbell chest press.

In my opinion, isolation exercises like tricep extensions and high rep exercises like rear delt flyes will need very little rest, 30 secs, legs will need more.

The caveat is special training techniques like descending sets and rest pause, where rest may be 10 secs or less, which I will cover in part 4 of this series.

In my experience, most clients and women will not rest enough when you are training them, they will rest a few seconds and try and go again. This means you need to educate them and make sure they are going to real failure!


There was a time when tempo was big, mainly because of Ian King and Poliquin programmes. You would see things like 51X0 and 3111 written on programmes.

Normally referring to how fast you should lower a weight, eccentric, then concentrically press it up and may be squeeze and hold a peak contraction.

This seems to have fallen out of favour recently. I would imagine probably because when you are trying to focus on perfect reps and counting to 15, the last thing you want to do is try to count exact tempo as well.

The caveat would be triphasic training, this is using eccentric, concentric and isometric contraction in a specific way. For an explanation of triphasic training go here, and how to apply it here.

The eccentric phase is the part of the movement causing muscle soreness. Sports like Olympic weightlifting and track cycling do not have much eccentric loading of muscle but can still result in muscle mass. (Yes, I'm aware these groups may do some training use eccentric loading and possibly have chemical assistance). Soreness is not necessary for growth but we all like the feeling of DOMS!

In most of the studies I have read they normally get the participants to do a 2 second eccentric and 1 second concentric. This would seem about about right, I would probably go closer to 3 second eccentric and possibly a 1 sec squeeze on things like latpulldowns , with an explosive but controlled concentric. But I wouldn't spend too much time thinking about this.

Of course, I am talking specifically about hypertrophy training here. Strength and power are different.

One thing I would avoid is super slow training, this seems pointless to me, as do super slow concentric phases.

No studies involved women!

Its important to note that none of the studies cited used women. It was the usual young male college student in most cases.

Would women respond differently to high reps, and different rest periods? Who knows. Someone needs to do that research.

Take away points.

  • You can increase muscle mass in all different types of rep ranges, 2-4, 8-12, 25-35
  • Moderate rep ranges are probably better than lower reps for hypertrophy.
  • Keep most of your training in the 8-12 rep range for hypertrophy but..
  • Try some high rep stuff, its hard, and occasional strength work. In other words periodise and vary. Leave your ego at the door, the chrome dumbbells are calling you!
  • You could try 3 total body sessions a week, one strength 3x2-4, one moderate 3x8-12, one high rep 3 x 20-30. 
  • Different exercises lend themselves naturally to different rep ranges and rest periods. 
  • Try some high reps squats!
  • Different body parts can be trained with different rep ranges and rest periods. Rest longer on legs.
  • Rest period, if you are an experienced lifter self selecting will work best.
  • Rest 30-45 secs for small body parts/isolation work and very high reps.
  • Rest 90 to 120 secs for compound movements, legs and taxing exercises.
  • The benefits of resting 3 minutes is marginal at best for hypertrophy and very boring and time consuming. If you have time give it a go and see if it makes a difference.
  • Tempo, don't get obsessed, slow eccentric 2-3 secs, fast concentric, squeeze hold where you can.
  • To increase 1RM do more work in the 2-4 rep range, and rest longer. Bizarrely your 1RM will also increase if you do high rep training with minimal rest.
  • Go to failure at some point. Not on every set, but definitely on some of your work sets.
  • Think about executing the perfect rep and feeling the muscle working probably trumps everything else for hypertrophy.
Next time special techniques - rest pause, descending sets and more.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Coaching Ethos.

How do you create a high level coaching team?

This is a question I think about a fair amount.

These are my thoughts after talking to people who have been in high level coaching teams, observing how organizations like the NFL work and reading some of the literature.

Much of the literature and most of the books are about teams within business organizations. Some of this applies to the 'actual' coaching fitness professionals do. Some of it applies to professional sports teams, but is not so applicable to paying clients. I think it was Mike Boyle who said it is way harder to coach the general public than professional athletes.

I am also assuming you are not a lone personal trainer, in which case you are the coaching team, and should build a referral network for things that may be beyond the scope of your skill set at this moment such as nutrition and sports injury. Unfortunately, many lone personal trainers do not do this, to be blunt they need the money and therefore try to be an expert in everything. Sometimes this works out for them, sometimes it doesn't.

So without further ado in random bullet point format (easily tweetable).

  • Everyone in the team knows their exact role.
  • Everyone knows the exact goal of their team and their part in it.
  • Everyone needs to know the product. Yes that includes the cleaner and the receptionist working one hour a week.
  • Clear metrics on what we are measuring. What is important to us.
  • Consequences for not meeting the metric.
  • Reward for meeting the chosen metric.
  • Regular coaching get togethers. Make the agenda clear, not moaning and gossip. But plans and solutions.
  • Every day, week, month think what did we do well, what could we do better/different. And then act on this.
  • The coaching team should complement each other. They don't have to be clones.
  • Make it clear to customers and clients -'this is what we do'.
  • Make it clear to customers - 'this is not what we do' but we may know someone else who does.
  • Don't try and bend the product to the customer.
  • But be flexible with your product, if the market and the science and the zeitgeist changes you may need to change. But make that change whole hearted, not piecemeal.
  • If the client is willing to work hard, or the customer is a promoter, go all out and give everything.
  • Sack the customer who doesn't want it. Sack the customer who annoys other customers.
  • The basics that every customer expects - clean, equipment works, greeting, acknowledgment from staff.
  • Clear pricing, clear proposition.
  • Don't be afraid of your price if the product is worth it.
  • USP, it could be weightlifting, or rehab, or beginners, or weightloss, or being cheap or group training or being luxury. Choose what it is and embrace it.
  • Let the USP inform every level of your product from marketing, social media presence, staff recruitment to layout of the building or the equipment you choose.
  • Amateurs come across as amateurs. If you are a professional this is how you make your living. It should be all consuming. For amateurs it is a hobby, professionals get paid.
  • None of your team should come across as amateurs. Again this applies to the cleaner, the receptionist and the back room staff.
  • If half your salary depended on retaining members and customers what would you do differently? (Self employed people already get this). Who and what would make the cut?
  • If you are new to the market you may need to discount to get your name out there.
  • If you are established and still discounting there is either something wrong with your business model or your pricing is wrong.
  • Don't phone it in.
  • If you've got nothing on the line what have you got to lose or gain? Managers of big organizations find it hard to grasp this.
  • Your coaches should be constantly learning and training. What does the team actually want to improve at? Organize that training for them
  • What does the team need to improve at, organize that training for them.
  • Everyone should be improving and engaging in deliberate practice. In-house training and external training should be built into the schedule and built into the budget, not an after thought.
  • Use scientific rigour to inform your coaching, but also realize that coaching is an art that requires creativity.
  • Be honest.
  • Be open. Other people can have really good ideas.
  • You don't need to be the expert in everything, but know someone who is.
  • It should be fun. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't also be serious, challenging  and sometimes stressful. Being good at something is hard. being the best is really hard.
  • Listen. If no one is saying anything, you are in trouble.
  • Passion only gets you so far, eventually you need a plan, skills, grit and dedication (cue Record Breakers theme tune from the 1980's with Roy Castle on his trumpet, outside of the UK this reference doesn't mean anything)
1980's flashback.

Of course, all this is easier said than done.

Well, that's all I've got right now. Let me know if you have anything else to add to the list.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Experiments in Hypertrophy: Part 2 - How many exercises per workout and per body part.

In the second part of this series, I expand on my own experiments in hypertrophy, see what other people do and have a look at the science.

See here for part one on training splits.

Once you've decided on your training split, and you know you have to a hit a muscle with at least 10 sets per week, possibly up to 20, and optimally train it at least twice a week, then how many exercises should you do?

Assuming your workout is 60 minutes or thereabouts (excluding any cardio but including at least a quick warm up and some core at the end) I found you can't really do more than 6 or 7 exercises in a hypertrophy workout. In reality sometimes 5 is enough depending on how intensely you are training and the training methods you are using.

So, for example, on a classic chest day, this would be 3 or 4 chest exercises and 2 tricep exercises.

On a total body training day, I found I could do 7 exercises at most, sometimes skipping triceps and only doing 6. Interestingly, In Brad Schoenfelds study where he compared total body training with body part split training this is exactly how many exercises participants did when they were doing the total body training. It is is obvious, one exercise per body part and using the classic bodybuilding delineation of body parts and you have 7 exercises (unless you are the type of person who does a calf, forearm and abductor exercise as well).

What does the science say?... Not much.

I can't find any research that shows how many exercises per body part is best. The advice is generally common sense, hit the muscle from multiple angles and do a variety of exercises.

But you may be thinking, if I have do 10 sets for an exercise, couldn't I just do 10 sets of 10 reps of one thing like a bench press in one workout and then be covered? You would basically be doing German Volume Training(GVT) which seems to get re-discovered every year.

After a while I think this type of training would get boring, draining and you are hitting the muscles from the same angle all the time.


At the other end of the spectrum you could be thinking, could I do 1 set of 10 different exercises. Here you face two problems, you don't really do an exercise enough to get good at it or know what is the best weight to use and you could end up doing a lot of sub par exercises, and secondly redundancy.

This is where you are essentially hitting the muscle with different exercises which basically do the same thing, you are not optimizing the muscle stimulation. For example, if you do barbell bench press, DB flat press and machine chest press, you are doing a very similar horizontal pressing move for all three exercises.

However, if you did incline DB press, flat DB press, pec flye and possibly a press up - you will be hitting the muscle from different angles and with different actions. You could do all these in one workout if you have a dedicated chest day or if you are hitting a muscle multiple times per week you could do 1 or 2 of these per workout. This way you will find you can lift more, for example, a pec flye after 2 other chest exercises will involve lifting less weight than if it is the only chest exercise you do.

Different body parts, different approach.

The number of exercises you do will depend on the body part. For example, for back you are looking for at least a vertical pull and a horizontal pull (row) to hit different muscle groups.

If you look at the way muscles fibres run (see the picture of the trapezius) and if you want to be fancy use the word 'pennation', you can see that some muscles are not going to be fully worked with one exercise.

Look at the different way the muscle fibres run on the trapezius, the  'pennation' if you want to get fancy. How many exercises do you need to train all of them?

The shoulders are another classic example, with 3 deltoid heads, and the rotator cuff muscles and the trapezius, you could do 4 or 5 exercises which don't have much crossover.

Whereas with biceps and triceps, quite a few people over do it, considering these muscles are also being worked with chest, back and shoulders. Even, when I did a dedicated arm workout I only managed to do 3 bicep and 3 tricep exercises.

How far do you want to go?

How many exercises you do is also dependant on how far you want to go. Glute/booty/ posterior training is very much in vogue at the moment. In the past you may have done a quad exercise, a hamstring exercise and possibly a calf one.

If you are doing 10 exercises for these muscles you are either in an LBT class or Brazilian.

But you could do a hamstring exercise for knee bend, a hamstring exercise for hip extension, glute exercise for hip extensions, adductor, abductor, quad multi joint, quad isolation knee extension only, calf gastrocnemius, calf soleus. And that's only one exercise per body part, before you know you can be doing 10 plus exercises and be in the gym 2 hours. Which begs the question of how intense you training is?

Nuts and Bolts: Strength hybrid, pure hypertrophy, circuits.

In my recent experimentation (and as I said in part 1, no it's not a real experiment) I have gone pure hypertrophy, eschewing the big compound lifts and low reps.

But if yo want to do a more strength hybrid split, powerbuiding approach or something like Wendlers 531, then the split would something like this:

Day 1:
Squat 5x5
RDL 4x8
Accessory work: Walking lunge etc

Day 2:
Bench press 5x5
Row 4x8
Accessory work: DB incline press, seated row etc

Day 3:
Deadlift 5x5
Bulgarian split squat 4x8
Accessory work: Leg curl etc

Day 4:
Military Press 5x5
Pull Up 3xmax
Accessory work: Lateral raise, rear delt etc

Generally as you go into the strength range you have to do less exercises because it takes so much time, as anyone who has ever done the Olympic lifts know. 10x2 with 2 mins rest and set up, and before you know it one exercise has taken 25-30mins. Add in some mobility work, warm up sets and you'll be lucky to get 2 exercises in a 60 minute workout. And it is very taxing.

Whereas, 3x10 with 30-60secs rest takes less than 5 minutes per exercise, hence you can do more at a lower percentage of 1RM and it will be less systemically fatiguing.

In circuit training you could easily do 10 exercises, but I would not call this hypertrophy training in the purest sense.

3 exercises will do it: What the science inadvertently shows.

In a study I really like the design of Schoenfeld et al (2014) compared 7 setx x 3 reps and 3 sets x 10 reps training schemes. A strength group and a hypertrophy group both training to failure. Both groups were experienced trainees.

A few things stand out from this research:

1) Both training schemes resulted in hypertrophy
2) They were both only doing 3 exercises per workout but still got results (increased muscle mass in the biceps). They either trained using a total body scheme, 1 push, 1 pull and 1 leg exercise per workout for 7x3 or for hypertrophy 3 exercises per body part; a day consisting of three chest exercises, another day three back exercises, and a day of three quad exercises. Note, no isolation exercises for the biceps.
3) The 7x3 group took over an hour to complete their routine whereas the 3x10 group took only 17 minutes
4) The strength group got more general fatigue and mental fatigue. Strength training day in day out is hard to maintain for weeks on end.

This echoes my own experience of strength training with no variation in volume or rep ranges. You begin to ache, start to get injured and breakdown. Strategic planning placement of higher rep work and deload weeks should stop this.

A 17 minute workout is highly achievable and means you could add in more volume or another body part such as biceps. Plus you could easily repeat this session more than once per week, thus hitting every body part twice and getting twice the volume of 18 sets per muscle.

There is also a certain amount of personal preference here and what you respond to. Personally, if I do 10x2, 7x3, compound exercises, I get stronger but my muscle mass does not increase. Eventually if I try to go heavy on things like barbell bench press and deadlift I break down.

If I want to increase muscle mass and generally not break down I have to keep in the higher rep ranges, towards 10-12 reps, and even some higher rep work. And I find isolation exercises work for me as well.

Where does that leave us?

A brief survey by me in the gym and online showed that 99% of people train using some kind of body part split. With most people doing a class Chest & Tri's, Back & Bi's routine. Most people were doing about 3 to 4 exercises per body part and 1 or 2 for muscles like biceps and triceps. Th exception being younger people, some of the younger guys doing 6 exercises for chest and one girl doing 11 exercises on leg day! Possibly younger people can get away with more volume, or they have to lower the intensity to complete these marathon routines and therefore don't get enough stimulus for growth.

Here are some example routines from my training diary. The actual exercises are not important at this stage (I’ll get to that in another post), at this stage I’m trying to give an idea of how many exercise per body part.

Chest & Triceps
Incline cable cross press
Incline press plate loaded
Cable flye high to low
Pec flye machine
Tricep tall kneeling rope press
Cable kick back

13 sets for chest, 4 exercises

2 exercises for triceps, 5 sets

Core: stir the pot

Back & Biceps

Incline bicep curl
Seated Cable row
Meadows stretcher
Diverging latpulldown
DB Pullover
Drag curl

Back 4 exercises, 13 sets,
Biceps 2 exercises 6 sets


Hack squat
Leg curl machine
1 leg mike boyle pistols
Nordic hamstring curl
Hanging leg raise

2 exercises 7 sets quads,
2 exercises 7 sets hamstrings

Chest & back & Triceps – would be repeated again in the week

Flat DB Press
Chest Supported Row
Cable Flye
McGill side pulldown
1 arm rope pushdown
1 arm cable kickback

2 exercises chest  6 sets
2 exercises back 6 sets
2 exercises triceps 4 sets

Push – Shoulders, Chest, Tricep

Flat DB Press
DB Arnie Press
Bottom to top cable crossover
Lateral raise
Pec Dec
Rear delt
Overhead tricep ext

3 chest exercises 9 sets
3 shoulders  9 sets
1 tricep 3 sets

Arms only day

DB skullcrusher
Incline DB curl offset grip
Drag curl
Kneeling bench supported tricep ext
Kneeling bench supported bicep curl
Rope over head tricep ext

3 exercises biceps, 3 triceps,
9 sets each

Total Body routine

DB Chest press
Seated Row
Barbell bicep curl
Lying leg curl
Goblet squat
Lateral raise

1 exercise per bodypart, 3-4 set each body part, 3 or 4 different total body routines per week = 12-16 sets.

Of course, these are just some random entries from my training diary and don't give you an actual routine to follow. It's not meant to be the ideal training programme in any sense, after all I was experimenting.

They don't show what rep ranges I used, they don't show what techniques I may have used such as rest pause, descending sets and so forth. Or how to fluctuate the volume, you might deliberately over reach for a couple of weeks on a body part and do multiple exercises, and get 18-20 sets and train 6 x week. And then you might back off for a week with some total body training session and train only 3 x week with only 1 or 2 exercises for a body part and 10 sets total, in the hope you would super compensate.

In summary.

The research is scant and says to hit muscles from multiple angles

Most people naturally gravitate towards 5-7 exercises per workout unless they are doing strength training or circuits.

3 to 4 exercises for big muscle groups and 2 to 3 for smaller muscle groups per workout is about the maximum you can do. Anymore than this and I find your intensity and focus would start to suffer. If you are doing 5 or 6 exercises per bodpart per workout there will probably be redundancy and replication.

The art is having enough exercises and variation for stimulus, but not so much that it is no longer optimal.

Next time.

In part 3 of this I will cover what rep ranges to use, how long to rest and those special training techniques like rest pause (extended sets) and descending sets.