If you want to build a big chest then you need to know how many sets per week is best to get the job done. In this video, I’m going to show you how to get the answer to a very individual question by asking yourself 7 specific things. The fastest way to a bigger chest is knowing where to start and then making the changes up or down to your weekly set totals.
Science can be quite confusing when it comes to answering this dilemma. The general consensus is somewhere between 8 and 32 sets per week for a given muscle group (like the chest muscles) is what is required to create gains in muscle size and strength. This is not a very specific answer and is too broad to be helpful on its own.
So the question of “how many sets per week for a bigger chest” is maybe not the right question to be asked, at least not the only one.
Instead, you have to first go through these other considerations.
First, you must decide whether you are trying to do this naturally or enhanced. We all know that the number one advantage of PED’s is their ability to dramatically improve your muscle recovery time. This allows you to train harder for longer without exceeding your body’s ability to come back from the damage that was done in the workout you just did. While it will take more time and more adherence to all aspects of your training to do it naturally, I can tell you that it is certainly the most rewarding and safest to your long term health.
Second, you need to consider your level of training experience. The novice is best advised to start near the lower portion of that range and simply add additional sets as they assess their ability to recover from the workload.
The more seasoned lifter is going to usually require more sets to get an adequate stimulus for gains due to their body becoming accustomed to the stresses of training. That said, it the strength levels get considerably high or the techniques get strenuous enough, the amount of volume required may actually need to come down.
Third, you have to know your training goals. If it is strength, then the job of determining how many sets per week to build the strength on the bench press for instance is much easier actually. This is because the volume is dictated by your output, which is based on your goal of training for strength. If you can no longer complete sets of 3-6 of adequate intensity (80-85% of your 1RM) given sufficient rest between sets, then you do not need to do any more sets for that exercise or muscle group in that workout.
Fourth, when it comes to hypertrophy training, the measurement of this effort is a bit more subjective. Some will use tools like RPE or RIR however I feel many people do not have a good enough handle of what this actually translates to in a real world setting. They often underestimate their effort levels which can cause these numbers to be misleading. The bottom line is, the closer you train to max effort and failure the fewer sets per week you will need to stimulate growth. The further below that threshold you train, the more volume will be needed to create change in that muscle.
Fifth, your age and injury history matters here too. Many make the mistake of thinking that load is the element of training that makes you most susceptible to injury. It is the number of times that load is lifted that leads most often to the chronic inflammatory conditions most associated with training. Provided the warmup is sufficient, lower volumes (in both set and rep counts) over the course of the week will be better received by your body than higher ones.
Which relates to the sixth most important point and that is, are you recovered from your last workout. The number one goal is to be ready for your next workout. Every “next” workout. If your strength is lagging or your gains stop coming, you need to revisit your current volumes and make adjustments down to reignite them again.
Finally, the exercises you do matters as well. Big compound movements are going to be more taxing on your body than small single joint exercises. This has much to do with the loading that the exercise enables. Add in the presence or absence of intensity techniques and you will have to play with the amount of sets you are doing to accommodate for you fatigue.
There are some examples of how this would break down in terms of your chest workouts and the best way to build a bigger chest in the video.
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