This post explains how to set up your own custom weight training/body building program. It will help you to devise your own program, or to simply understand the complete body building program for trans men that I present in another post. And it will also empower you to build your own more advanced workouts as you progress.
How Many Sets Should you do per Workout and per Week to Build Muscle?
Note that a set is a group of exercises, usually between 6 and 12 repetitions. Then you rest, and repeat to complete another set.
- Each set should be done with high effort, close to failure. But don’t go to failure with every single set.
- Warmup sets are not counted as sets.
It’s exciting to start body building, but don’t get carried away and do too many sets. That way, you risk injury, and you also are not likely to see sustained muscle growth. Tons of extra sets are what is called “Junk Volume.” They tire you out, and ultimately don’t do you any good.
The workout in our post on the complete body building program for trans men is based on scientific research into how many sets really work to build muscles. Also, I was a certified personal trainer for many years. And I have been a trans man who works out for many, many years.
Bottom Line: You should not do more than 5 to 7 sets per muscle group per workout. If you are a beginner, 5 is plenty. So for example if you work out your chest twice a week, aim to do only 5 sets of chest exercises in each workout, for a total of 10 sets per week for your chest.
How Many Sets Per Muscle Group Per week Should You Do?
You need to do roughly 10 to 20 sets per muscle group per week to build the size of your muscles.
If you are a fairly experienced body builder, the magic number would be around 16 sets per muscle group per week.
If you are a beginner, that number would be closer to 10 sets per muscle group per week.
But you should not do than 10 sets in one workout, because there is also a limit to how many sets per workout you can do, before it starts to do more harm than good.
That limit appears to be around 10 hard sets per muscle group per workout. That limit is for experienced lifters. As a beginner, your limit per muscle group per workout would be closer to 5 or 6.
Steps in Devising a Custom Body Building Workout
Step 1: Set Your Weekly Sets per Muscle Group
As a beginner, you would be wise to aim to do 10 sets per muscle group per week.
Step 2: Split that Number of Sets Up into at Least 2 Separate Sessions
Twice a week is considered an optimal number of times per week to train a muscle group (2 x per week). So that would mean that, for example, you are going to exercise your shoulder muscles twice a week.
To achieve 10 sets per week, you just need to do five hard sets for your shoulders during each of these two workouts. Do this twice a week, and you have started your journey towards building impressive, muscular, masculine shoulders.
Step 3: Decide How Heavy You Need to Lift
Basically, you want to pick a weight that you enables you to do between 8 and 12 repetitions. Once you can easily do 15 reps, it is time to increase the weight. Note that lifting needs to be hard, not easy. It is that demand on your body that builds the muscle.
Step 4: Decide How Many Times Per Week You Should Work Out
Your age and existing level of fitness will influence how often you can workout. If you are over 50, it is wise to allow for at least three days of rest.
The absolute maximum is six times, giving you one day of rest. But for beginners of all ages, that is likely to be too much. Our upcoming ideal workout includes four workouts, allowing for three days of rest.
Total Number of Sets per Workout
The total number of sets in a workout can be 15 to 25. So if you are working your upper body today, you could do 5 sets for chest, 5 for shoulders, 5 for triceps and 5 for biceps. For a total of 20 sets in that workout.
This number of sets is the number I have used in the beginner workout in this post: The Best Bodybuilding Workout for Trans Men – Our Complete Guide.
Making Progress with Body Building for Trans Men
As you get fitter and get used to working out, you can slowly increase the number of sets you do per week (though never exceeding 20 sets per body part per week).
But don’t ever go above 10 sets per muscle group per workout, otherwise you risk undermining your achievements.
Of course, there are exceptions. I have read a lot about how Arnold trained, and there is no way he was heeding any of these limitations. However, if you are in that kind of class, you are definitely not reading this post! If you read Arnold’s story, you will find that when he was Mr. Olympia for 7 years, his entire life was working out, eating, and sleeping. Most of us don’t have the luxury to devote our lives to those three activities.
But Wait – There’s More!
This is the third in a series of posts about weight training and body building for trans guys/FTMs. This is the complete series:
- Why Weight Training is Important for Trans Guys/FTMs
- Tips for Success with Body Building for FTMs/Trans Men
- How to Set Up Your Own Body Building Program (This post)
- How to Set Up Your Own Private Body Building Center in Your Home
- The Best Body Building Workout for Trans Men – Our Complete Guide