How Many Sets? Low, Medium, and High Volume Set Structures

by Dane Fletcher - Date: 2008-06-25 - Word Count: 416 Share This!


When it comes down to defining the ideal number of sets to include in a workout, there are three set structures commonly employed by bodybuilders. The first is "low volume", and requires the trainer to achieve maximum intensity in a very small number of sets. The second is "medium volume" and allows the trainer more sets per workout, but results in diminished intensity, as the trainer usually isn't capable of maintaining the same level of intensity for as long. The third set structure, "high volume", involves limited intensity, many sets, and a great deal of time spent in the gym. All three set structures have their place in bodybuilding training.

Low Volume - 6 to 10 sets

Sometimes the time isn't available to train for very long. Sometimes the goal is to add pounds to a personal best on a particular compound movement. Sometimes the goal is to shock the body or give tired joints a rest. In times like these, spending an incredibly brief, yet incredibly intense, amount of time in the gym can best serve these goals. Typically, compound movements work best, in the range of 2 exercises of 3-4 sets, or 3 exercises of 2-3 sets.

Medium Volume - 10 to 16 sets

Most trainers in the gym find this set scheme to be the most useful, productive, and practical. Complete four exercises, for 3-4 sets each, and get out of the gym. It allows the trainers to utilize two heavy compound movements and two isolation movements, if desired, to ensure the muscle is adequately trained. It also doesn't create too much of a strain upon the central nervous system.

High Volume - 20 or more sets

Typically, only advanced trainers should attempt high volume training. It creates an enormous strain upon the central nervous system (CNS) and puts the joints and muscles in a precariously dangerous environment for becoming injured. The human body simply wasn't designed to move heavy weights for 2 hours per day, six days per week. High volume training requires a great deal of food, rest, and supplementation in order to be used consistently. It is only recommended for intermediate trainers to break through a plateau, and even then, for only a brief time period.

All three set structures are useful at one time or another, based upon the goals of the trainer, resources available, steroid use, and experience. Knowledge and awareness of all three types allow the bodybuilder the flexibility to change routines when conditions call for it, or just to keep things fresh!

Related Tags: health, wellness, workout, high volume, bodybuildingtodaycom, low volume, medium volume

Dane Fletcher is the world's most prolific bodybuilding and fitness expert and is currently the executive editor for If you are looking for more bodybuilding tips or information on weight training, or supplementation, please visit, the bodybuilding and fitness authority site with hundreds of articles available FREE to help you meet your goals.

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