Effect of resistance training set volume on upper body muscle hypertrophy: are more sets really better than less?

Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2018 Sep;38(5):727-732. doi: 10.1111/cpf.12476. Epub 2017 Oct 11.


Background: Resistance training (RT) for upper body muscle hypertrophy (UBMH) typically entails high volumes of sets per muscle group per training session. The majority of RT regimens does not discriminate between upper and lower body muscle groups, while these groups may respond differently to RT set volumes in terms of maximum skeletal muscle mass gain. Recent studies have examined the effect of different set volumes on the extent of UBMH to formulate optimal RT regimens and to make RT programmes more time-efficient.

Objective: To analyse the effect of the number of RT sets on the extent of UBMH on the basis of recent literature.

Results and conclusion: The analysis suggests that, statistically, high set volumes (≥3) are not significantly better than low set volumes (<3) in regard to UBMH in untrained subjects. For trained subjects, the literature is lacking in well-designed studies comparing low and high training volumes, as well as analysing upper and lower body muscles separately. Therefore, it is not possible to conclude that high volume of sets offers better results than low volume of sets for UBMH, and vice versa.

Keywords: cross-sectional area; muscle mass; muscular hypertrophy; strength training; training volume; weight training.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / therapy*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome