This notion that more is better is a very pervasive thought in the bodybuilding world. The icon of bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger did upwards of 30 sets per body part. He would pyramid down five to six sets per exercise. I remember reading about the top bodybuilders doing double split routines.
They would work out in the morning, and then, come back for an afternoon session. They did this for six days a week. Holy guacamole Batman is that a lot of volume or what?
To their credit, most of the top bodybuilders in my time recommended beginners start with a simple, basic full body workout for no more three times a week. After a year or so, they would recommend that beginners split their work outs in half. After adding an extra exercise or two, these veterans recommended a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday sequence.
There begins this notion that more is better. For all I know, it could be. But I think not for most people. I think that for most people, as they work to balance nutrition, rest, and exercising, will find that volume training leads to eventually not training.
Once you have completely devastated your biceps with four sets of barbell curls, what would be the point of doing another 3 or 4 sets of concentration curls? If you took your biceps to complete and total failure on the barbell curls, would doing a series of light dumbbell curls help more?
Or, you do four sets of chin-ups, four sets of back breaking rows, four more sets of seated cable rows (because you could not get enough rowing, evidently); and then do your four sets of barbell curls to total and complete failure. How productive would those concentration curls be? Yet, I bet dollars to donuts, a good bunch of folks do.
Some bodybuilders will do squats, leg extensions, leg presses, and lunges in one session. That routine can translate into 30 plus sets, wow! Where does one get the energy to go on after five or seven torturous sets of full squats?
Being a just a skinny, fat schmuck; I tend to think you should train a muscle to failure in its movements. For example, I think chest muscles essentially push your arms out and bring your arms across your body.. You do a pressing movement like incline press and a bench fly movement to hit those two functions. That is two exercises done to failure by pyramiding down four sets. That would be a total eight sets.
You might want to throw in a couple of sets of dips which push out in a different direction completely, but still that is only 10 or 11 sets.
Depending on the body part, you are looking at no more than two or three exercises at about 10 to 12 sets total.
This line of thought would seem to be more reasonable to me. Once you have taken the bench press to total failure, I do not see the point of doing another 4 sets of incline presses to failure. I could see doing bench flyes to failure as flyes are a fundamentally different movement.
The same holds true for row movements. What fundamentally is different between a barbell row, a dumbbell row, a seated cable row, and t-bar row? Yet, I have seen some do four.
Doing more of the same is like beating a dead horse. You could, but why? I could see a competitor bodybuilder doing a variety of rows to bring out all the little muscles in his back in bold relief, but for us mortals; volume hurts more than it helps.
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