Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

What Is The Best Number Of Sets For Muscle Size?

April 16, 2024

In our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics we are often working with patients to restore and/or improve their muscle strength.  Strength is a measurement of force production from a muscle based primarily on the ability to coordinate the nervous system and a given muscle, as well as, a muscle’s size.  Strength can occur with gains in muscle size, but many times muscle improve their force capacity without any noticeable improvement in size or hypertrophy.  For patients looking to improve muscle size a recent study highlights the importance of training volume for muscle hypertrophy.

Schoenfeld and colleagues published their findings on exercise prescription and muscle hypertrophy in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (2019).  Authors conducted a randomized, controlled trial to measure the improvements in strength and muscle size between different training volume programs.  They studied 34, weight training experienced (> 1 year), men and randomly assigned them to one of three groups.

  • Low volume – one set per exercise per training session
  • Moderate volume – three sets per exercise per training session
  • High volume – five sets per exercise per training session

Each participant trained multi joint exercises including squat, leg extension, leg press, bench press, military press, lat pulldown, and row for 8 weeks.  Authors found all groups improved strength through the study, but the greatest changes in muscle size were noted among the group performing 5 sets of each exercise.

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