Based on current evidence, we know that there is a minimum effective volume from which we achieve gains at the level of muscle mass.
This minimum volume depends on several factors, but mainly, It depends on the muscle that we are considering and the level of training of each individual.
For example, a beginner will not need the same number of sets to grow his biceps as an advanced who wants his quads to grow.
How many series to do?
Keep in mind that the total series, they have to be the effective ones, that is, those that are worked close to failure (we do not count the warm-up ones), that is, leaving 3 or fewer repetitions in the chamber.
Each muscle and training level has its recommendations, but generally speaking, a person with an intermediate training level should not perform more than 10 sets per muscle group in each session, since this volume will probably be excessive and it is most likely that in this case, the training will become inefficient. In other words, we will not be taking advantage of these series and, in fact, we may compromise the recovery.
So, if we are performing more than 10 sets per muscle in a single session, it might be a good idea to increase the frequency to divide these sets and take advantage of them correctly, especially if these sets are carried out at the end of the training, when already we carry certain fatigue at the neural level as well as at the muscular level.
On the contrary, if we keep talking about training, perform less than 3 sets effective per muscle in each workout, it will not be the most effective if we seek to gain muscle mass, since in that case, it is possible that we will not reach the minimum effective volume within that training itself.
Anyway, these are only general recommendations, they should not be taken to the letter, and applied as if they were written in stone. You have to assess whether they should be used in your specific case, because it is quite likely that you will achieve better results by working most muscles with volumes of between 3 and 10 effective series each time you train them. But in the end, you have to be the one to determine if this is worth it based on your preferences when training.
If you want more specific recommendations for the weekly volume of each muscle group, you can take a look at this table, made by Mike Israetel.
The value in green is the maintenance volume that will allow you to preserve muscle mass. Yellow is the minimum effective volume, that is, the number of minimum series that will make you progress. Orange is the adaptive maximum volume, that is, the volume that will give you the maximum gains if you recover correctly. Red is the maximum recoverable volume, which we do not recommend not reaching because it will slow down your adaptations to training.
How many repetitions to do?
There is a false belief that doing between 1-5 repetitions is only if you want to improve strength, between 6-15 repetitions for hypertrophy and more than 15 for resistance.
This is a myth since any type of rep range will generate positive adaptations for muscle hypertrophy.. Although it is true that, although we move between 4 and 6 repetitions, we will increase muscle mass, we will only be more efficient moving more weight in that repetition range, so the most convenient thing is to move in low, medium and high repetition ranges in order to stimulate all types of fibers.
Performing series in a low repetition range will make it affect us more at the neural level and, doing series in a high repetition range will tire us more at the muscular level, so, to distribute both types of fatigue well, perform a frequency 2, that is, stimulate muscle mass twice a week, one day with high ranges and another with medium-low ranges, it would be a very good option.
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Images | iStock, Mike Israetel