It's now well established that the number of hard sets correlates well with hypertrophy. Are there any studies that investigate how a given number of sets should be distributed among different exercises?

For example, let's assume that for one person 10 hard chest sets are optimal. Would 10 sets of bench press work equally well as 5 sets of bench press and 5 sets of incline bench press, or 3 sets of bench press, 3 sets of incline bench press and 4 sets of flys?

  • 1
    Where is it established that hard sets correlate well with hypertrophy?
    – Dark Hippo
    Jan 22, 2020 at 15:50
  • @DarkHippo ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30063555
    – jak
    Jan 22, 2020 at 16:21
  • Ignore those studies please. People focus on studies too much. The same people that don't understand anything in them. It is virtually impossible to answer you question via a study. If you don't know why, well, you have to read and write a lot of papers to get that. Resistance training has a long history of working and people building muscle/getting stronger. It's about experience, not scientific studies. Trust the people that have trained other people, not what people that don't understand what they are talking about, that means people that quote studies and draw conclusions about reps
    – Raditz_35
    Jan 25, 2020 at 11:39
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    @Raditz_35 so unscientific broscience > science? Alright mate.
    – jak
    Jan 25, 2020 at 13:05
  • @jak absolutely not what I'm saying, but your comment makes it obvious that you don't know what science is. Stay away from it of you want to optimize training. Science is not a thing you can sprinkle on your workout. It's a slow moving beast in it's infancy that slowly takes away some myths in a very controlled fashion under very specific conditions. Your black and white approach, x > y, one variations vs another for you specifically, drawing conclusions from studies about it, that's true pseudo science
    – Raditz_35
    Jan 25, 2020 at 13:12

1 Answer 1


If you desire a thorough review of strength training and analyze how many variables affect the results, I would direct you towards Supertraining by Yuri V Verkhoshansky & Mel C Siff. One of the bible of training... but not an easy read.

Regarding your specific question, as many times in training, it depends. On you and your objectives.

If objective is hypertrophy, it does not really matter. What matters in the end is time under tension and number of fibers that have been damaged. So "the more the better" as long as you can recover properly and you do not overtrain. Otherwhise, here comes a stop to your progression or worse an injury.

If objective is strength, then you need to go for quality of the repetition i.e. taking as much recovery as needed and splitting the reps as needed to reach highest quality. Strength is gained not only by increasing the muscle size but also by increasing neural output, capacity to recruit more fibers. And working these components have to be done at higher intensity (more weight) and exhausts your system severely. Hence the need for proper recovery and split of sets.

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