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How Many Exercises Do You Need to Maximise Muscle Growth?

Optimise your hypertrophy.

So, how many exercises do you need to maximise muscle growth? Jeremy Ethier explains.

How Many Exercises Do You Need to Maximise Muscle Growth?

“When it comes to how many exercises you should do per muscle group, generally there are 2 extremes. There are those who say all you need are the basics in a workout program; squats, bench, and deadlifts to build an impressive physique. Then, there are those who hit each muscle with every single exercise in the book during their exercise planning process. What approach is best to maximize growth?”

“How many exercises should you do per muscle group, really? Research suggests that incorporating a variety of exercises can lead to better overall hypertrophy. Let’s learn why – and, in the process, discover just how many exercises to do per muscle group.”

How Many Exercises Do You Need to Maximise Muscle Growth?

“The first reason is due to what’s known as regional hypertrophy. For example, certain biceps exercises will favour growth in the short head whereas other biceps exercises will favour growth in the long head. Although it’s currently not crystal clear as to what specific exercises will favour specific regions of a muscle, this phenomenon does support the idea of using multiple exercises in a workout program.”

“The second reason you should include a variety of exercises during your exercise planning process is that each of your muscles have different biomechanical actions. A good example is the hamstrings, which have two main functions; to flex the knee and extend the hip.”

chipper gymnastics workouts Pros and Cons of a Push Pull Legs Split How Many Exercises Do You Need to Maximise Muscle GrowthSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

“So, if you were to leave all your hamstrings to deadlifts, you’d be missing out on one of the major functions of that muscle. Adding in a knee flexion movement ensures that all parts of the muscle can be grown to the greatest extent. Another benefit of varying your exercises is that it helps minimize wear and tear. If you do all of your volume for a muscle group with just one or two exercises, you’re stressing the same joints and same stabilizer muscles to the same stress all the time, which can eventually cause irritation and overuse injuries.”

How Many Exercises Do You Need to Maximise Muscle Growth?

“When deciding on how many exercises to do per muscle group, some people will take what I’ve mentioned and over-apply it into their training routines by hammering each muscle group with 6 or 7 exercises every workout. Don’t. If you do that, once your muscles get used to what you’re currently doing, you’ll have no leftover exercises to introduce it to in order to potentially stimulate more growth.”

“So, just how many exercises should you do per muscle group? An effective option is to pick about 2-4 exercises for each of your muscle groups that work very well for you and cover a good variety of movement patterns. Then, simply distribute these throughout the week as needed and feel free to repeat some of those exercises on multiple days if needed. But limit the number of exercises you use per muscle in each workout to 3 or 4 at most.”

How Many Exercises Do You Need to Maximise Muscle Growth

“Here’s an example of how you could distribute 4 exercises per week for chest into 2 workouts per week:”

4 Exercises:

– Flat bench press

– Cable flyes

– Incline dumbbell press

– Banded push-ups

Push Day 1:

– Flat bench press

– Cable flyes

Push Day 2:

– Incline dumbbell press

– Banded push-ups

Then simply throw in however many sets you need for each exercise in order to meet your weekly volume targets.

Push Day 1:

– Flat bench press: 3 sets

– Cable flyes: 3 sets

Push Day 2:

– Incline dumbbell press: 3 sets

– Banded push-ups: 3 sets

Total Weekly Chest Sets: 12 Sets

“Here’s a step-by-step plan for how you could apply everything we covered on how many exercises you should do per muscle group:”

“Step 1: For each muscle group, pick about 2-4 exercises to perform per week. Use a good variety of exercises that not only work very well for you, but also cover different angles and muscle functions.”

“Step 2: After you pick your exercises, distribute them throughout the week. Avoid performing more than 3-4 exercises per muscle in one workout. Instead, split them up into multiple workouts.”

“Step 3: Allocate a number of sets for each exercise in order to hit your weekly volume targets for that muscle.”

Video – How Many Exercises Do You Need to Maximise Muscle Growth?

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