How Many Exercises Per Workout – What You Need to Know
Most people are aware of the great benefits of exercising and how it could optimize their health and lower the risk of disease.
In general, we can divide exercising into two major categories:
- Strength training
- Cardiovascular training
When you start your fitness journey, you are bound to get confused about the logistics of working out. For instance, how many times should you work out per week? How many exercises per workout? How many repetitions and sets should you complete?
Depending on where you look, you will undoubtedly find conflicting points of view.
In this article, we will address all these questions and more, according to credible, unbiased scientific research.
What is the short answer?
Unfortunately, there is no short answer to these questions. There are several factors in play, including your fitness level, health condition, and ultimate goals.
According to one study, including more sets in your workout per week leads to muscle hypertrophy. Generally speaking, you can aim for 1 to 3 sets per exercise to gain muscle mass.
If you are after strength, however, you should focus on full-body workouts rather than isolating specific muscle groups.
As you can see, the answer to each question can be very divisive and takes into consideration several factors.
How many exercises per workout
Before we answer this question, let us first get our terminology straight.
Workout routine – it refers to a complete training plan. For instance, if you go to the gym for 45 minutes, that is a workout routine.
Exercise – it refers to one specific movement that engages one or more muscle groups. For instance, bicep curls are one exercise.
Repetition – it refers to the number of times you perform a certain exercise. For instance, doing bicep curls 12 times translate into a repetition of 12.
Set – if we continue with our example, one set consists of 12 repetitions of bicep curls. Each set has a specific number of repetitions.
How many times should you work out per week
According to experts, the ideal number of exercising is five days a week. Being moderately active boosts your general well-being and fitness status.
While 5 days per week may sound intimidating for a lot of people, just remember that you can be active for as little as 30 minutes, and it would still be considered a great workout.
As a general advice, you should not start with this number of workouts per week when you are a beginner. After all, you need to take your fitness level, experience, and available time into consideration.
If you can start with 45 minutes of training, 3 times a week, that would be perfect.
It is important to switch things around and avoid sticking to the same workout routine since it will tire your muscles and be very boring.
For instance, divide your workout routine into several parts:
- Day 1 – cardio workout (e.g., jogging, swimming, cycling)
- Day 2 – rest
- Day 3 – strength training (e.g., lifting weight in the gym)
- Day 4 – rest
- Day 5 – diverse workouts (e.g., High-Intensity Interval Training -HIIT-, CrossFit)
How many exercises per workout?
To avoid burnout and optimize the efficiency of your workout, aim for 3-4 exercises per workout routine.
Depending on your approach, choosing the type of exercises to perform will differ. For instance, if you focus on muscle groups rather than full-body workout, you will probably choose 3-4 exercises that target the same muscle group.
For instance, if it chest-day, you might perform:
- Barbell bench press
- Flat bench dumbbell press
- Low-incline barbell bench press
- Machine decline press
With that said, we recommend that you stick to compound exercises in the beginning as they target several muscle groups. A good ratio to start with is 80/20 of compound to isolation exercises.
As for the number of repetitions, it all depends on your physical fitness and how much weight you are lifting (more on that later).
Following these tips will undoubtedly lead to great benefits, regardless of your fitness goals.
Now that we got the basics out of the way, let us see why 3-4 exercises per workout is ideal:
Including too many exercises per workout can be counterproductive since it distracts you from what truly matters.
Here are some common adverse effects of focusing on several exercises per workout:
Performing more than 4 exercises is likely to distract you from giving it your best with each movement. You can think of it as having an extremely busy schedule with a lot of things to do; the more tasks you need to do, the lower the quality of each performance.
Long workout session
Most people get bored if the workout routine lasts for too long. Adding more exercises may contribute to burnout.
Following the tips listed in this article should leave you with no energy after 4 exercises. Adding more exercises makes your performance mediocre at best.
How to maximize your routine
Regardless of your physical routine and the number of exercises you aim for, there are a few steps that everyone should follow.
Generally, your resting periods depend on the weight you are lifting. The heavier the weight, the more rest you should take between sets.
As a general rule of thumb, your resting period ranges between 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the intensity of your exercise and the weight you are lifting.
Choosing the number of repetitions and the weight you are lifting should not be exclusively based on guidelines.
For instance, if you doing bicep curls and feel nothing when you reach the 12th repetition, this means you need to either increase the number of repetitions or add more weight.
Recovery is not exclusive to spacing your workouts to rest. It also includes components, such as nutrition and sleep.
Ensure that you are eating a balanced diet composed of whole fresh foods and enough protein. You also need to sleep 7–8 hours a night to help your body recovers and stimulates your hormones to do their job.
Gathering the necessary knowledge about the optimal way to stimulate your muscles is a crucial process that everyone needs to do. It allows you to reap the most benefits out of each workout routine.
We hope that this article managed to address some commonly asked questions in the field of fitness. If you still have any other questions, please do not hesitate to share them with us in the comment section below.
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