Maximum Number of Sets Per Workout
Q: "Greetings. I finally got your excellent book today all the way here in Japan. It was well worth the price! It seems really geared to the more experienced lifter. After reading your book, I think I need to start from scratch. I liked your training splits (A was my favorite) and exercise selection. But, I have no idea how many sets and reps to use; especially someone who is starting as a false beginner.
"Great job! Looking forward to your next book."
My Answer: Well first, thanks very much for purchasing my book! Glad you liked it. To answer your question, if you've chosen split A, then determining the number of sets will be simple:
Do no more than 20-24 total sets per workout.
For the full body workouts, do 3 sets per bodypart. So if you've chosen 8 body parts (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings, and calves), at 3 sets each, that will total 24 sets. 24 sets will keep you under an hour and away from the overtraining zone.
For the upper and lower body workouts, do anywhere from 4-8 sets for each body part. Here's how it would look for the upper body workout:
Chest- 5 sets
Back- 5 sets
Deltoids- 4 sets
Biceps- 5 sets
Triceps- 5 sets
For the lower body workout:
Quads- 8 sets
Hamstrings- 8 sets
Calves- 8 sets
The above are just examples, but how you distribute the sets amongst the body parts and what body parts you choose to include is up to you.
Now as far reps, that's also up to you. After many years of training, many lifters instinctively know what reps works for each of their bodyparts. If you are a "faux beginner," then I would suggest starting out at 10-12 reps and then work your way down to 6-8 reps week by week. You'll note where each bodypart responds best as far as rep range.
Q: "I have read your article on Bodybuilding.com and was wondering whether you are able to advise me further. My name is Darren, originally from Malaysia (Chinese). I am currently working in London and have been going to the gym for almost 4 weeks now. However, I am definitely an ectomorph. I have been working out a lot and even have a personal trainer, but I am unable to achieve my personal goal of getting stronger and having six pack abs. Would you able to advise me further what do I need to do?"
My Answer: Darren, I don't know anything about your diet or your training, so I can't advise you on what to do. I will tell you this, though: 4 weeks is not enough time to get you six pack abs if you're not pushing yourself. You should, however, be getting stronger.
Having a trainer doesn't mean anything, because most trainers don't know jack. Bottom line if you're not getting stronger from week to week after one month, then you should fire your trainer.