How Many Exercises Should You Do Per Workout?

How many exercises should you do per workout? The answer depends on your goals and the kind of workouts you’re doing, but it’s important to note that there are no magic numbers here—what works best for one person might not work best for someone else. But whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle, here are some general guidelines to help you figure out how many exercises to do in each workout.

General Guidelines

There are no set guidelines as to how many exercises you should do per workout because it depends on your fitness level and training experience. That said, there is a general range for both beginners and advanced athletes. For beginners, it’s recommended that you perform three to five sets of each exercise, with about 10-15 repetitions in each set.

With that much volume, you should be using weight loads between 50 percent and 60 percent of your one-rep max—that’s roughly a weight that’s heavy enough to make you fail at eight reps or less. Advanced lifters typically aim for higher reps per set (at least 15-20) but only four to six sets per exercise.

For cardio exercises, beginners can get by with 30-45 minutes of low to moderate intensity activity three times per week. Advanced individuals usually incorporate interval training and perform higher intensity workouts for around 20-40 minutes four to five times per week.

Multi-Joint Movements

The most popular workout for hitting multiple muscle groups at once is one that uses multi-joint movements like squats, deadlifts, and presses. But there’s a downside: Although these exercises work your upper and lower body at once (saving you time), they require more energy to complete than isolated moves. That means that—unless you want to spend two hours in the gym every day—you should limit your use of them.

So instead of focusing on these, use isolation exercises (like bicep curls or triceps extensions) to work your arms. And pick multi-joint moves that require a lighter weight (like lunges and squats) for your legs. That way, you can keep your total workout time under 60 minutes and avoid overworking yourself. The last thing you want is to injure yourself before you’ve even gotten in shape!

Single Joint Movements

Not all exercises are created equal. Some, like crunches and push-ups, work several muscles groups at once (called multi-joint movements). Others only move one muscle at a time (called single-joint movements). While both are essential to a healthy, strong body, you’ll want to emphasize single-joint movements when you’re just getting started with working out. That way you can target each muscle group individually as well as work on your form.

With single-joint movements, you can target each muscle group individually and work on your form. But once you’ve mastered the basics of how to use exercise equipment and how to execute an exercise properly, it’s time to move on to multi-joint movements. Here are some exercises that involve more than one muscle group.

Split Body Parts Over Several Days

The number of exercises and sets per body part is a topic that has confused many lifters for decades. The truth of the matter is, there’s no real one size fits all answer. The amount of sets and exercises you do per body part depends on several factors including your training experience, recovery ability, diet and exercise frequency to name a few.

That said, here are some general guidelines I like to follow… A good place to start is four workouts per week. This gives you two upper-body days, two lower-body days and an off day from lifting each week.

Remember, if you are a beginner it’s probably best to start with fewer exercises per body part and progress from there. That said, let’s get into what exactly you should be doing per workout based on your training experience… If you are an experienced lifter who is trying to build more muscle and lift heavier weights, performing more exercises may be beneficial for you. More exercises equal more volume which has been linked to increased muscle growth.

Switching Things Up

When it comes to exercise, more is better—but how much better is best for you? The general rule of thumb for weight loss is that you should aim to burn about 3,500 calories per week. In order to do that you need to work out approximately four times a week.

Therefore, you’ll want to incorporate a wide variety of different exercises and activities into your routine in order to keep your body from plateauing in its fat-burning potential.

In order to do that, you’ll want to switch up your exercises, but not too much. Changing too many things at once can throw off your body and make it harder for you to actually see results from your workout. For example, let’s say that you normally do a full-body strength routine one day, cardio on another day and yoga on the third day.

Varied Reps Per Set

In some situations, your goal is to lift as much weight as possible. For these workouts, you want to stick with fewer reps per set, lifting heavier weights. Here’s an example: Day 1 – Squat: 4 sets of 3 reps; Deadlift: 4 sets of 5 reps. Total volume = 12 lifts @ 100 kg (220 lbs.). Week 2 – Squat: 5 sets of 2 reps; Deadlift: 3 sets of 6 reps.

Alternately, if you’re training to get strong or add mass, then you want to hit a variety of rep ranges per set. This will allow you to use heavier weights in your workouts and help you reach your strength goals quicker. Here’s an example: Day 1 – Squat: 4 sets of 5 reps; Bench Press: 3 sets of 6 reps; Deadlift: 4 sets of 2 reps.

Conclusion

​There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how many exercises you should do per workout, but there are some factors that will influence your answer. ​If you’re looking to just maintain your current fitness level, or you don’t have much experience working out and aren’t sure if you like it, a couple of sets of five exercises for three days a week is likely all you need.

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“A fit body, a calm mind, a house full of love. These things cannot be bought – they must be earned.”

– Naval Ravikant

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