Sets Per Body Part
Research supports the theory that more sets tends to be better for amassing mass. “Roughly 10-12 or 10-14 sets per body part per week seems to produce significantly greater hypertrophy than 3-6 or 6-8 sets,” Arent says.
For example, if you’re working chest, you can use a traditional body part split where you do chest one day, back another, and shoulders another so it’s spread across a week. But that’s not the only way. You can do an upper and lower body split over 4 days: Monday (upper), Tuesday (lower), Thursday (upper), Friday (lower). “On your two upper body days, between the two of them, you want to do enough sets for chest that equals 10 or more. So you might do 6 sets for chest each day that breaks down like this:
Monday: 3 sets of bench press and 3 sets of flyes
Thursday: 3 sets of incline press and 3 sets of pec dec or cable crossovers
There’s your 12 sets for the week. Arent adds: “It’s the weekly running total that seems to make a difference. Now, you could do all 12 in one day; but there’s nothing to suggest that’s better than hitting the same body part multiple times a week.” If you can rotate through these workouts with more frequency, that’s ideal. Here’s why:
When you train a muscle, there’s a breakdown process. You’re doing damage to it and that’s why it grows and adapts; it heals. “But if you allow that healing to go on and you wait and don’t re-target it again once the healing is at its peak, you get a return back toward baseline so you’re missing super compensation where the muscle has healed and grown and developed beyond what it was before,” Arent explains. If you do do your next body part-specific workout in that period of time, you’ll be stronger, which means you can lift more weight, do more volume, and get better.
Bottom line: You don’t want too many days between your body part workouts.
Another solid split alternative is a push-pull programs. “These traditional workouts provide a built-in recovery as you go from exercise to exercise, like bench to rows to shoulder press, because by the time you get to shoulder press, your anterior delts have had enough time to recover while you were going through the others.” Another great split is going chest and back, shoulders and arms, and legs so this is done over a four-day period:
Day 1: Workout 1 (Chest and Back)
Day 2: Workout 2 (Shoulders and Arms)
Day 3: Workout 3 (Legs)
Day 4: Workout 4 (Chest and Back)
As you cycle through two weeks, everything gets hit at least twice. **We’ve included an example upper-lower body split as well as a chest/black, arms/shoulders, and legs split on the last page for you to use for training.**