How Much Is Too Much?

Q: How many exercises should I do per body part? – Victor Simien from Rockville, MD

A:  Good question.  A lot of people out there think more is better.  As we’ve previously discussed on this blog, more is not necessarily better.  When you are lifting weights with the intent of adding lean muscle mass, your goal should be to stimulate the muscle as much as possible before it becomes a detriment.  Obviously, there is a fine line that must be walked to achieve this. 

First off, keep in mind that no single workout will achieve the same results in different individuals.  Every body is different, and consequently, so must the workout routines be different.  This is a key problem that so many personal trainers don’t understand, but that’s a topic for another day.

Secondly, don’t think about exercises per body part.  Think about SETS per body part.  For the larger muscles in your body, i.e. back, legs, chest, aim to do 15-18 sets for each.  Vary these sets so you are making sure to hit all angles of the muscle.  This is vital to maximize your gains.  For the smaller muscles, i.e. biceps, triceps, delts, aim for 10-12 sets for each.  Be sure to include some concentration exercises for these smaller body parts and perform them in a very controlled manner to maximize stimulation.

Something to remember is that muscles don’t grow when you work out.  They fill with blood and you may notice “the pump” but don’t mistake this for growth.  Muscles will only grow well after the workout when they are given proper rest and nutrients.  Rest is just as important to adding lean muscle mass as the physical act of lifting weights. 

Lastly, keep in mind what I said previously.  If the guideline above isn’t producing the results you want, feel free to tinker with it.  Exercise is often nothing more than trial and error, and finding what works for you and your body type.


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