How much strength training is enough? The optimal training volume for strength and size.
By Coach Hunter Bennett
Are you interested in increasing strength and muscle size through weight training?
If so, you may be wondering how much strength training is enough. After all, overtraining can lead to fatigue, soreness, and even injury.
In this article, we’ll explore the optimal volume of strength training for strength development and muscle growth.
So, if you want to make sure your exercise routine is as effective as possible, keep reading!
How much strength training is enough?
Strength training is an essential part of any fitness routine.
But the amount of strength training you need to do can be a tricky question. You don’t want to overdo it and risk injury, but on the other hand, not doing enough won’t get you results.
Broadly speaking, most people should aim for 2-4 days per week of strength training, using a split that allows all major muscle groups to be trained at least twice per week. This will help build up muscle mass and strength while minimizing fatigue due to excessive exercise.
This also allows you to incorporate rest days into your schedule so that your body has time to recover between workouts, ensuring you will perform optimally each session.
However, there is a bit more nuance to this topic that needs to be discussed.
The optimal volume for strength
When it comes to strength development, the optimal volume should be considered on a per exercise basis.
Research has shown that somewhere between 5 and 12 sets per exercise per week is sufficient to maximize the development of strength.
For example, if your goal is to improve strength in the squat, bench press, and deadlift, you might aim to perform something like the following:
- 6 sets of deadlifts per week
- 9 sets of squats per week
- 12 sets of bench press per week
Obviously this could differ on an individual basis, but is what I would consider a pretty good starting point.
The optimal volume for muscle growth
Conversely, if you are looking to optimize training volume fore muscle growth, then you need to consider volume on a per muscle group basis.
With this in mind, research has shown that somewhere between 10 and 20 sets per muscle group per week is sufficient to maximize muscle growth.
For example, you might aim to perform something like the following:
- 12 sets of quads per week
- 12 sets of hamstrings per week
- 15 sets of chest per week
- 15 sets of back per week
- 17 sets of glutes per week
It is important to note that how you distribute this per exercise is up to you.
We have discussed the importance of exercise variation for muscle growth in a previous article, which is worth checking out if you want more information on the topic.
How many sets should I perform per session?
The final piece of the puzzle comes down the training volume of a single session.
Although you could technically perform all of your sets sets within a single session by using a body part training split, this is unlikely to be the best way to approach training.
There is some evidence indicating that the maximum number of sets per movement or muscle group that maximize adaptation is around 8.
And when you think it about it, it makes sense.
If you were looking at performing 15 sets of chest per week, and performed them all within a single session, you would accrue a significant amount of fatigue. This would negatively impact your performance during the latter part of the session.
Conversely, if you split it up over two sessions (i.e., 8 sets one session and 7 sets the next) the quality of those sets is likely to be much higher. This means lifting more load, doing more reps, and ultimately stimulating more adaptation.
How much strength training is enough? Final thoughts.
Strength training has a lot of benefits, but it is important to know how much volume is optimal for achieving your goals.
In this article I have provided a great starting point for most people with respect to the optimal training volume for strength and size. However, this will differ slightly on an individual basis.
So, your best bet is to start somewhere in the middle and adjust as needed.
And if you are not sure where to start, make sure to check out our article “How to create a workout plan” for a thorough explanation on the topic.