How Many Exercises per Workout: Beginner’s Guide

This is a drawing of a guy at the gym

How many exercises per workout

Muscle Growth / Weight Loss

During your workout you want to, in general, do 1-3 sets of exercises and put in at least 30 minutes of sweat-inducing working out during that time. In a week you want to work out 5-6 days with one rest day to repair your body.

Here is How Many Exercises per Workout: Beginner’s Guide.

In this blog, I am going to help you understand how many exercises per workout you need to do. With a mixture of sets, reps and complexity of exercises (compound vs isolated) it can be very confusing when starting off!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never touched a dumbbell or if you’re a seasoned veteran in the gym; exercise selection and volume are crucial to achieving your goals of weight loss, muscle gain or general overall fitness health. Incorporating strength training into your exercise routine is a no-brainer, from increased muscle mass and stronger bones to better balance and weight management. 

Sure, it’s easy to say, “I need to do some strength training,” but it can all be a bit overwhelming and sometimes confusing when it actually comes time to try to implement it into our daily lives. Knowing how often you should go to them gym is a good place to start.

Having a plan when you step onto the gym floor will give you a surge of unparalleled confidence and clarity that will help boost your productivity. Let’s be honest; nobody wants to be that person wandering around, with poor gym etiquette not knowing what to do next. Secondly, no one wants to get to the gym at the busiest time of the day, not being able to use any equipment. Read our in-depth guide on the best times to work out for your long-term success.

Exercise also improves mental health by reducing depression, anxiety, and negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function! It’s also been found to relieve symptoms such as low-self esteem and social withdrawal.  

In this article, I will lay out a foolproof system to help you on your journey to make a significant impact, not only on your fitness but also on your mental health and longevity. Maybe you’re just starting out. You may have some questions, but you’re too afraid to ask for fear of sounding ignorant. 

How many exercises should I do per day

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, this should add up to 3-5 exercises per day. If you want to lose weight, maintain weight loss or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more.

Short on long chunks of time? 

Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk during the day, try a few five-minute walks instead. Try 10 minutes of walking after eating a meal. This can have a very positive impact on digestion and insulin sensitivity. Any activity is better than none at all. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.

Sitting is the new smoking.

Reducing sitting time is important, too. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems. Sitting too much can negatively impact your health and longevity, even if you get the recommended amount of daily physical activity. And some research has found that people who’ve lost weight may be more likely to keep off the lost weight by sitting less during the day.

How many exercises is too much

Exercising everyday without any days off the week is too much.

That depends on factors like your age, health, and choice of workouts. But in general, adults should get around five hours a week of moderate exercise or two and a half hours of more intense activity. Or some combination of the two. 

That’s according to the CDC. But research shows that going way above and beyond that doesn’t increase the health benefits. 

One unsurprising study found that light to moderate runners had a lower risk of death than people who didn’t exercise. But, in a surprising turn, some people who ran at a faster pace for more than three times a week had a similar risk of dying as the non-runners. 

So running too much and too intensely seems to undo some of the health benefits gained from regular running.

What are reps and sets

Reps are the number of times you complete a single exercise before taking a rest or a break. For example, when doing a biceps curl, you lift the weight up and bring it back down. That would equal one rep. Completing several reps of a specific exercise in a row is called a set.

For example, a weight training workout plan including triceps dips might include instructions to do 3 sets of 12
reps with a 30-second rest in between sets.

How many reps and sets

  • Lower rep ranges of 5 and under are best for strength gains.
  • Moderate rep ranges of 6 to 12 are best for a combination of both strength and muscle size
  • High rep ranges of 13 to 20 are most beneficial for muscular endurance.

Unfortunately, for those of you who want the quick fix… you’re out of luck. It does vary depending on several factors, including your current fitness level and personal goals. If it’s the size you’re after, the research indicates that the more weekly sets you perform, the more muscle hypertrophy or growth you’ll see. This is also determined by caloric intake. 

But what about if you’re interested in gaining strength? 

Or muscular endurance?

The minimal effective dosing seems to be a range of 1 to 3 sets of an exercise based on your
goals, and even just one exercise per muscle can give you the results you’re searching for.
However, the longer you’ve been training, the more your volume will need to increase to see
further improvement. This is where the term “newbie gains” comes from. The ability for a new
trainee to see progress, no matter what they do in the gym. 

It doesn’t last forever!

To gain strength, it’s best to stick with a few foundational exercises and concentrate your reps and sets there. If size is your goal, you’ll want to vary your exercises more, spreading your reps and sets between them.

It’s also important to think about your workouts in sets versus reps.

When thinking about your weekly training volume, the more reps you complete, the fewer sets you’ll need to do. This likely means a lower weight load. On the flip side, the fewer reps you complete, ideally at a heavier weight, the more sets you’ll need to do.

How many exercises should you do on leg day

Not only does working out legs help to balance out your physique, it helps strengthen your lower body which leads to fewer lower back tweaks, and a more bulletproof body in general!  

As a beginner looking to increase general fitness and strength and following the theme of keeping things simple — choose 3–5 exercises per leg workout. Then complete 3 sets of 8–12 reps of each exercise, ensuring that you’re working your muscles to fatigue but not to failure one very set. 

My favourite way to hit legs uses a “pre-exhaust “formula. I like to target the muscle with an isolation exercise first and then use a compound movement to take that muscle to failure and, in turn, increase the stress needed to adapt and grow. For example, I’ll use a leg extension machine to directly target my quadriceps. Then move immediately to a squat that recruits multiple muscle groups to complete the movement correctly. Because I’ve already hit my quads directly with the leg extensions, it will be more likely that the quads will fatigue first during my sets of squats.  

How many chest exercises per workout

Chest is one of the most enjoyable muscle groups to train. Yet, it seems to be a muscle group that many people struggle with developing at the same time. This then often leads them to throw all the chest exercises possible in the gym at it in hopes that it’ll grow. But, the truth is, this usually does more harm than good.  

In many gyms, Monday is known as “international chest day.”  If that’s how you’ve formulated your workout split. Get there early to save your spot on the bench!  

What if someone is using the incline bench press when you get there, and you only have a short amount of time for your training session before you need to be back at the office or be on time to pick up the kids from school?

Don’t worry; you can still get in a great chest workout without a bench press. 

Chest Workout

I’ll typically pick 3 exercises for my chest, these are what I suggest you start with on your chest workout journey as you grow your upper body.

Dumbbell Flyes

I love using free weights for this exercise as it provides the ability to use a full range of motion, which is critical for maintaining healthy shoulders. If you shorten your range of motion, you may lose the mobility of that complex joint and create a higher chance of injury. By isolating your chest with a fly, it utilizes the “pre-exhaust “formula I spoke of earlier when training legs. The chest will be more likely to fatigue first when doing any pressing movements.  

Dumbbell Chest Presses

Depending on what feels comfortable, these can be done on a flat bench or an angled bench. Using dumbbells instead of a barbell ensures a more extensive range of motion and more mobile shoulders, which is vital for a healthy upper body.

Dumbbell Pullovers

This is a great exercise to build a strong chest. It also targets the lat muscles in the stretch position, which increases thoracic spine mobility and helps keep shoulders healthy and pain-free. 

How many bicep/tricep exercises per workout

I will quite often pair these two muscles together. Being that they are antagonist muscles on the opposite sides of your upper arm, sets for each can be trained back to back with little to no rest needed.

This is a highly efficient and effective way to train. I will pick two exercises for each, and keep the volume slightly lower as biceps and triceps get recruited into movements for chest and back, thereby not needing the extra work. I will choose two exercises for each muscle group and superset one of each.  

The concept of a superset is to perform 2 exercises back to back. Biceps and triceps exercises will pair well together to superset, reducing your overall workout time. 

How many ab exercises per workout

When imagining abs, we imagine the men’s health cover model with six-pack abs, but there’s so much more to abs than what meets the eye. Your core is a complex system of muscles, extending far beyond your abs or the so-called “six pack”.  

Major muscles included are the pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae and diaphragm.

A strong core is crucial to speed, injury prevention, and overall fitness levels. A weak core will poke holes in anyone’s goal to get stronger or build muscle. 

Ab Workout

The “McGill big 3” is a routine I use before every workout to prime the core, ensure stability at the spine, and mitigate any movement that could create pain. 
Incorporation of these exercises into your daily routine will help increase endurance, and bulletproof your back.

modified curl-up

To do the modified curl-up you will want to start off laying on the floor with one knee bent and the other straight. Next, place your hands under your lower back. The working sequence starts with taking in a deep breath, tucking your chin slightly, and exhaling as you tighten your entire core. Crunch your abs to bring the bottom of your ribs toward your pelvis.

Do this for 3-5 controlled breaths. Relax and then repeat for 3-5 reps.

side bridge

To start the side bridge you need to find a piece of floor that you can comfortably press your elbow and forearm into. Lay down on your side and then prop yourself up on your one elbow/forearm, allowing your pelvis to create a ‘bridge.’

Hold this position until you feel the ‘bridge’ starting to collapse. Then drop down, roll over onto your other side and do the same move.

bird dog

When starting the bird dog exercise you will want to get on all fours, preferably on a yoga mat. Keeping a strong position with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders, raise your right hand and left leg at the same time. Do not let the rest of your body rotate and these two limbs raise to level with the floor.

To finish off, tuck your chin into your chest and hold for 5-10 seconds. Alternate sides for 5-8 reps.

How many compound exercises should I do per workout

A compound exercise is any movement where you’re using more than one muscle group at a
time. You should pick at least 1 compound exercise per muscle group as a bare minimum. They normally closer resemble movements you might come across in daily life. One compound movement is the Dip, but before trying make sure you know how to do a dip properly!

Consider the squat: This straightforward motion engages your core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calf muscles and hip flexors. It is also a very functional movement that is commonly utilized. 

Compound exercises should form the base of your strength routine. 

Muscles worked in isolation can definitely be helpful, but in comparison to compound exercises, they’re the “icing on the cake.” Or because I promote a healthy diet, I’ll say the “seasoning on the steak” instead.  

How many exercises per workout Conclusion

These are only guidelines when it comes to formulating a workout plan. Depending on body type, current fitness level, and possibly previous injury, each individual will need a tailored approach. Designing your own program is within your capacity. Keep in mind that if you’ve never done it before, you’ll make some errors along the way, but know that this happens to even the most experienced coaches. 

Don’t let your lack of experience stop you from trying. The only way to get better at programming is to give it a shot. To help you avoid common mistakes, use these guidelines:

  • Create consistency by keeping a regular weekly training schedule. Let us help you get motivated daily.
  • Include one full rest day and two active recovery days in your program each week. Things like a long forest walks, cold plunge/sauna use, and/foam rolling can be great tools for active recovery days.
  • Use variety in your workouts to build multiple physical qualities, helping you avoid injury, reinforce strengths, and build weaknesses.
  • Add challenge over time, adding volume, load, or speed gradually and sensibly to drive continued progress.
  • Keep a record of your training, including objective and subjective measures, to better inform your future programming decisions.

When you begin programming, be cautious. The curse of the novice is to try for too much gain
too quickly, training too often, layering on too much challenge, and forgetting prudence in favour of excitement. 

Getting in shape doesn’t happen overnight, understanding the amount of exercises needed in a workout is needed for day to day success. But now you need to read our blog on how long does it take to get in shape, so you can understand the long term goals of this day to day blog.

And to prevent a quick and painful end to your programming career, remember: 

You have your whole life to train, and the most important thing you can do on any given day is preserved your ability to train tomorrow. If you keep this mindset, you’ll inevitably make progress.

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