How many exercises per muscle group

How many exercises to do per muscle group in a workout

Amon Fearon - February 09, 2023

From weight management to increased muscle mass to better balance, there are numerous reasons to exercise and work out. Those of us who are into fitness routines or looking to start one can still, even with experience, feel lost in the different types of exercise and how many times that exercise should be repeated for the best and most efficient results.

The internet is not shy of advice for best practices when working out – there is an overabundance of information on how to keep yourself fit, toned or flexible. This onslaught of knowledge can become daunting and contradictory when you’re pulling on your gym clothes and getting ready to feel the burn. The key at the beginning is to know what your current fitness level is and then take it from there.

Wondering what fitness level you may be at? As a rough guide, a beginner to fitness is someone who has not consistently trained for over a year, if at all. If you feel you have regular exercise, movement and overall, generally good health, then it may be best to put yourself to the test and see what level you sit at first before getting ahead. You can also get an idea of your current aerobic fitness level by checking you’re resting heart rate. Counting your heart beats per minute at rest is not only a good indication of where to begin your aerobic fitness training but a great way to track your progress too. As your condition improves, your resting heart rate will become lower. Once you have put yourself at the correct level in the beginning, you can move forward and get started.

This blog will go through.

  • How many exercises per workout session
  • How many sets per exercise
  • How many exercises per muscle group:
  • -        Chest
  • -        Back
  • -        Arms and Shoulders
  • -        Legs and Buttocks
  • -        Abs
  • How many exercises based on fitness level:
  • -        Beginner
  • -        Intermediate
  • -        Advanced


How many exercises per workout session

The exercise is the movement you make to work a targeted part of the body or health. Deciding on how many exercises are necessary per workout session depends on what movement patterns your workout will consist of. The six-movement patterns include core, push, pull, bend, lunge, and squat and will work for different muscle groups, some simultaneously with one another. Once decided, you will be able to create a structured plan and agenda to your work out.

You may read or hear the terms ‘reps’ and ‘sets’ often when referring to exercise and work outs. Reps refers to repetitions and accounts for the number of times you do an exercise.

A set is a designated number of repetitions you do within the work out before you rest. For example, if you were advised to exercise 3 sets of 10 reps of squats, you would be expected to squat consecutively 10 times before rest, then continue with another 10 squats, rest, then the third set of 10 reps of squats.


How many sets per exercise

How many sets per exercise really will be dependent on several personal variables. Not only the level of fitness that someone is at, but the level of fitness they are aiming for as well as general health, capability, and the reason for exercise – be it weight loss, muscle gain, flexibility etc.

As a generalised indication, we would aim to complete approximately 5 to 8 different exercises per workout. The familiar and likely most popular structure to this during training would be 2-3 sets of exercise consisting of 8-12 repetitions per set.


How many exercises per muscle group

The commonly accepted goal per major muscle group is for each to be exercised at least twice a week. On the other hand, this is also dependent on what results you are aiming to achieve – muscle gain or weight loss for example. Increasing your average sets of exercise per muscle group each week, from 2 sets to 4 sets, for example, is naturally going to increase muscle growth. However, it is important to recognise limitations. Not starting at the correct level of fitness training that is acceptable for you can be harmful and unsafe so be sure to realistically calculate your capability before you train. Moving up your fitness level means great progress but can be detrimental if you surpass your limitations. More than 10 sets per muscle group, especially if you have not developed or prepared for this, can negatively affect recovery, performance, and results. Be mindful.

Be sure to be using the correct exercises to target each muscle group and combine some of the major muscle groups to manage efficient training – such as chest and biceps. It is generally accepted that to get the best from your work out you need to allow 5-7 days for recovery after training one of the muscle groups.

Let’s investigate the main muscle groups briefly and what exercises can be done for them.


Exercises for your chest can easily be coupled with another muscle group, such as shoulders, for optimum and efficient training. Be mindful that the fibres of the chest muscle or Pectoralis major are not aligned in the same direction, and this will affect how you train it. Exercises include flat dumbbell bench press, close grip bench press, dips, and reverse-grip bench press.


Your back is made up of four large muscle groups including, Erector spinae, Latissimus dorsi, Trapezius and Rhomboids. Some are overlooked more than others if they are not ‘mirror worthy’ but training all areas is important for health and the definition of the physique. The best for training all areas include horizontal and vertical pulling. Pull-ups, seated cable row, chin-ups, seal row and lat pull down are all great exercises for the back muscles.

Arms and Shoulders

The arms and shoulders can be grouped together to train but can also be considered separate muscle groups. The shoulder muscles include the lateral deltoid, anterior deltoid and posterior deltoid and work to stabilize nearby muscle groups including the pectoral muscles and biceps. The arm muscles include forearms, biceps, and triceps. Dumbbell rows, barbell rows and dumbbell side delt raises are all fantastic ways to work these muscle groups.

Legs and Glutes

Again, these muscle groups can be considered separate or together. Each is made up of several major muscle groups however the calves despite being part of the legs will require a different type of training and can also be accepted as a separate muscle group. Training exercises for legs and buttocks include leg press, dumbbell lunge and barbell front squat.


The ab section (abdominal) is often referred to as the ‘core’ which is essentially the area of muscles around the midsection. The muscles here include the transverse abdominis and the obliques. These muscles support the spine and despite the attention that is often given to this area when working out, they also receive a lot of indirect attention from overall training.

How many exercises based on fitness level.

Once you are comfortable understanding your fitness level, you can get started with a plan to help you meet your fitness goals. The number of exercises is important to ensure you are getting the optimum efficiency and results from your training and avoiding injury.



As previously mentioned, you are likely to be considered a beginner to training if you have not trained consistently for more than one year. It is important to assess your overall health before starting an exercise regime to ensure your well-being and safety. Within each workout, 4 to 6 movement patterns with one exercise per pattern would be a sufficient basis for a workout plan for a beginner.


If you have been training consistently for up to four years, the likelihood is you can be considered intermediate level. The intensity of the training will determine more accurately the number of exercises in a workout for you. When assessing your training plan, you want to look to achieve 1 to 3 patterns within an exercise and do 1 to 3 movement patterns per training session.


If you are beyond four years of consistent training, then you can be considered advanced. Your workout therefore can consist of one pattern, and depending on the volume and intensity of training, this can include 1 to 6 exercises.


Final word

Investing in research before starting your training plan is the best way to make the most of it. Understand your fitness level and monitor this as you continue to train, this not only helps with the efficiency and results of your workouts but also keeps you safe.