How Many Sets to Build Muscle? It Depends on Your Goal!
How many sets should I perform to build muscle mass? This is one of the more common questions that I hear, and it’s one of the harder questions to answer. Without knowing where you’re at – beginner, intermediate, advanced – with your weight lifting, and what your ultimate goals are, it’s not a question I can provide a generic answer to. Instead, we’ll look at different ways to build muscle mass and you can choose what is best for you.
There are basically two trains of thought when it comes to bodybuilding and weight lifting. The first is building for muscle mass. The second is to build lean muscle. Are you looking to bulk up, or get lean, cut muscle mass?
Answering that question will go a long way in determining what is best for you. The chances are though, that you’ll land somewhere right in the middle.
Lifting for Bulk
When you think lifting for bulk, think about Arnold. Think about bodybuilders that possess large quantities of muscle mass. If this is you, continue reading! If not, skip ahead!
Bulking up, and adding enormous mass, is all about lifting heavy objects. Heavier weights mean less reps. So, how many sets should you do to bulk? Depending on the exercise, you should aim to complete three to four sets. Each set should contain 4 to 7 reps.
Recap of Lifting to Bulk
Sets – 3 to 4
Reps – 4 to 7
Lifting to Build Lean Muscle Mass
When you lift to build lean muscle, you’re looking for a combination of weight lifting and cardio – the basic principle of crossfit. By combining weight lifting and cardio you effectively build lean muscle. The lifting builds muscle on a smaller scale than lifting for bulk does. And the cardio portion helps to burn fat leaving you looking cut and chiseled.
Recap of Lifting for Lean Muscle
Sets – 3 to 4
Reps – 8 to 12
Timing is Everything When it comes to Building Muscle
Timing is everything, as they say. And when it comes to building muscle, timing can be broken down into two different segments.
First, timing should be applied to your breaks between sets. Between each set – no matter if you’re lifting for bulk or for lean muscle – you should break for approximately 60 to 90 seconds. This gives your muscles just enough time to slightly regain their composure before you attack them again.
Secondly, timing refers to how much time you actually spend in the gym. You should aim to spend 5 or 6 days in the gym each week. Each session should be between 45 and 60 minutes.
The Difference Between Lean Muscle and Big Mass
In case you’re unsure which one of these is right for you, we will break down the differences. To do that, we must understand how the body builds muscle.
Weight lifting inherently causes stress to the body. Any time that body is forced to handle more weight than it is used to or capable of it because stressed and the muscles rip.
When muscles rip, they become sore from being broken down, eventually they are repaired. How long the muscles are broken down depends on your nutrition, supplementation and the rest that they receive.
Proper nutrition, supplementation and rest allow the muscles to recover faster. And during the recovery process, the muscles repair themselves. As the muscles repair themselves, they repair the rips that were obtained during your weight lifting session. As the body repairs the muscles they in turn grow bigger and stronger and become better equipped to handle more stress.
When the muscles are able to handle more stress, they are able to do more reps with the same weight, or lift heavier weights. This leads to progressive weight lifting and a continuous cycle of muscle building.
Building big mass differentiates from building lean muscle due to this cycle. The heavier weights used while lifting for big mass puts more strain on the body, causing them to tear more. Eventually, they are more repaired than muscles damaged during lean muscle building. Over time, lifting for big mass generates larger muscle growth and a bulkier look.
Summarizing It All
To wrap it up, we covered lifting for big mass, lifting for lean muscle, and the differences between the two. Only you can decide which one is right for you. However, athletes tend to aim for lean mass because it is highly functional when it comes to playing sports such as basketball or football. On the other hand, bodybuilders aim to build big mass.
No matter what your goal, aim for proper nutrition, supplementation and a proper workout plan. The workout plan for big mass gains and lean muscle gains will be strikingly similar with the only major difference being the amount of weight that’s being lifted.
To design a proper workout program, identify how many days you can commit to working out each week. Ideally, you will be able to commit 5 or 6 days to training. Then, formulate a plan to target your large muscle groups. Work each of these groups equally and consistently to develop an allover muscular look. You don’t want everyone asking you if you skipped leg day or even worse ending up on one of those memes online.
Once you know what you’re doing in the gym, look to supplementation to take kick your gains into high gear. The right supplement is solely dependent on your goal. However, all athletes and bodybuilders that are serious about muscle gains should be using a whey protein, a pre-workout, and a recovery supplement.
These three supplements are the foundation for all muscle growth. Other supplements can supplement more specific goals and development. But, your weight protein is going to be the consistent nutrition provider for carbs, proteins, and amino acids. Your pre-workout will ensure that you have a plethora of energy to blast through your workout. The recovery drink will promote quick recovery of the muscles and accelerate your muscle growth while reducing soreness and fatigue.