How many sets for Strength and Hypertrophy?

How Much Volume? Part 1.


  • Set volume for Hypertrophy

  • Set volume for Strength

  • How much volume is too much?

  • Key Takeaways

  • Practical Recommendations.

In this issue, we will be looking at volume for strength and hypertrophy, specifically how many sets you should be doing weekly and per training session. The question of “How much volume, How many sets?” is one of the most common questions people have when trying to grow muscle.

To answer this, the best approach is to look at the scientific evidence and see where the trend lies. I say trend as there are always conflicting studies and new literature is always coming out. Still, we do our best to come up with solid evidence based recommendations based on the majority trend of the scientific literature.

Note: Warm up sets don’t count as working sets ⬇️


A systematic review and meta analysis by (Schoenfeld et al., 2016) looked at 15 separate studies on total weekly set volume of less than 5, 5-9 and 10+ per muscle group. The review outcome was that each addition set was associated with an increase in muscle size. The authors note a graded dose response between volume and muscle size increase.

  • Graded: meaning the gains increased as the volume increases until it reaches a point of diminishing returns or maximal response and plateaus, in other words the marginal benefit of each additional set gets smaller over time smaller.

  • For example; if you double your training volume from 3 sets per muscle group per week to 6 sets per muscle group per week, your rate of muscle growth may double. However, if you double your training volume from 15 sets per week to 30 sets per week, you probably won’t double your rate of muscle growth, maybe it would only increase by 20-30%.

A 6 month long study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning by (Radaelli et al., 2015) had 48 untrained men, perform 1, 3 or 5 sets per exercise with 2 exercises for the biceps and 3 for the triceps in a 3x per week full-body training program. For the biceps the set volumes per week were 6, 18 and 30; for the triceps they were 9, 27 and 45. All sets were performed to failure. They measured Bicep thickness, Tricep thickness and 5RM strength of the Bench Press, Leg Press, Shoulder Press and Lat Pulldown. The results for all measures showed dose-response relationship all the way up to the very high volume group, where “more is better” in terms of 5RM strength and Hypertrophy. The authors note the high volume group seen significantly greater growth in tricep and bicep thickness.

A study by (Schoenfeld, Contreras, et al., 2019) took 34 resistance trained men and split them into 3 groups (1,3 and 5 sets per exercise per session). This was performed 3 times per week for 8 weeks, this equates to total weekly number of sets per muscle group of 6 and 9 sets for the 1-set group, 18 and 27 sets for the 3-set group and 30 and 45 sets for the 5-set group in the upper and lower limbs, respectively. The results? All groups increased muscle size however there was a dose response relationship, with subjects showing greater gains with each increase in sets per training session / per week.


A meta analysis by (Ralston et al., 2017) reviewed 9 studies, and looked at a comparison on low weekly set volume (less than 5 sets) vs moderate (5-10 sets) vs high (over 10 sets). Their findings were that high weekly set volume outperformed both moderate and low, while moderate outperformed low.

Forest chart of the results for the meta analysis are below ⬇️


We can see more is better from the literature above, but everyone has their volume limit ceiling they won’t be able to recover from. The dose response relationship can’t last indefinitely.

A Study by (Haun et al., 2018) primarily looked at the effects of graded whey protein dosing throughout a 6 week high volume study. The study however increased weekly volume week by week, starting at 10 sets per muscle group per week and ending on week 6 at 32 sets per muscle per week. The results showed that there were still positive gains made as the subjects went over 20 sets per muscle per week from weeks 3-6, however they were “largely dampened”. Suggesting that roughly 20 sets per exercise per week may approach a maximal adaptable volume.

.A systematic review by (Baz-Valle et al., 2022) included 6 studies comparing 12-20 sets per week vs 20+ sets per week. All studies included must have lasted more than 6 weeks, participants in those studies must have had at least 1 year resistance training experience and the studies must have been published in peer reviewed journals. The review concluded that quad growth was slightly better in the 20+ category, bicep growth was the same between the two groups but it shows that tricep growth responded better to higher volumes. Based on the authors findings they recommend that 12-20 sets per muscle per week would be their optimum standard recommendation for hypertrophy.

  • Similar findings to the second study cited above, that tricep growth was significantly greater in the high volume group.

  • It is also worth noting that in this review, a set of compound lifts that hit a certain muscle was counted towards it’s weekly volume, for example bench for triceps and lat pulldown for biceps.

Below, the Forest Plot chart from the systematic review ⬇️

A = Quad Hypertrophy / B = Bicep Hypertrophy / C = Tricep Hypertrophy

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  • The study with the longest time frame of 6 months reported favour of higher training volumes.

  • There is a clear sign throughout the studies of a dose response relationship between volume and muscle size.

  • This dose response relationship stated by 2 systematic reviews show this response to be graded, implying diminishing returns when volume hits a certain point. Meaning the returns of each added set will be smaller.

  • The literature trend seems to agree that 12-20 sets per muscle group per week to be optimal for the general population for hypertrophy

  • One meta analysis found over 10 sets for strength to be superior.

  • All of the studies split the volume per muscle over multiple training sessions and not in a classic “bro” body part per day split.


Doing more volume up until a certain point can yield significantly more muscle gains before the point of diminishing returns. There is no one size fits all, but the trend clearly shows 12-20 weekly sets to be optimal.

If you are tight for time, you can now see you don’t need to hit 35 sets per muscle per week, and you will still get really good results. As shown above doing more than 20 sets per week may help you grow more, but its a cost trade off between time and results, when the results may only be marginally better.

My suggestion would be to use the above as a guide, start within the 12-20 sets per muscle per week, see how you respond and recover, then add volume slowly over several weeks to find your own volume limit.

I have stated in a previous article to think of your maximal volume limit as a cup, and the sets per week as water. You can only fill the cup so much before it starts to overflow. If you have a certain body part you wish to grow more than the rest, it may be advisable to reduce volume in other areas to allow for more fatigue tolerance so you can increase the total weekly sets on your priority muscle.


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Been Here myself 🤦‍♂️

Until next week, Happy Lifting!


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