When it comes to designing a workout routine, many fitness goers believe that more is always better. The common perception is that performing a higher number of exercises per workout will lead to faster gains and improved overall fitness. However, in recent years, a growing body of evidence suggests that focusing on a smaller number of exercises, quality over quantity, can actually create better and more effective results.
Before we get into that, let’s break down the meaning of exercises per muscle group, sets, and reps. When you’re programming for yourself, you want to try to train each muscle group separately to see better progress. If you’re new to strength training, training full body 2-3 times a week is just enough. For the more advanced, like bodybuilders or powerlifters, you’ll want to train solely on a specific muscle group (like legs) twice a week so you will want to program two days of only legs. For those new to weight training, in most cases you’ll want to focus on full body strength movements 2-3 times a week, generally 4-6 exercises per workout. Reps are the repetition of a specific exercise and sets are the amount of times you will complete the reps before resting. If you see a workout that has you do 3 sets of 12 reps, that means that you will do 12 reps 3 times, resting between each set/after every 12 reps.
Below are key examples as to why less is better than more when it comes to programming and why it is important to prioritize quality over quantity in your workout routine.
Enhanced Focus and Intensity:
One of the key advantages of having a limited number of exercises in a workout is the ability to maintain a higher level of focus and intensity throughout each movement. By concentrating on a smaller selection of exercises, you can direct your energy and attention to perfecting your form, engaging the target muscles more effectively, and avoiding potential injuries. This focused approach makes sure that every rep counts, leading to better results in terms of strength gains and muscle development.
Progressive overload is a fundamental principle in strength training, which involves gradually increasing the stress/weight placed on the body to promote adaptation and growth. By limiting the number of exercises in your workout routine, you can easily track and manage the progressive overload process. With fewer movements to focus on, it becomes easier to manipulate variables such as weights, reps, sets, and rest periods, allowing for more controlled and targeted progression.
Reduced Risk of Overtraining:
Excessive exercise volume, specifically if you don’t give yourself enough time for recovery, can lead to overtraining syndrome. Overtraining can negatively impact your physical and mental well-being, make you take a stepback in your progress, and increase the risk of injury. By having a smaller group of exercises in each workout, you can make sure that you’re getting enough time to rest and energy to recover and repair damaged tissues. This will promote healthier training sessions, reduce the risk of overuse injuries, and allow for consistent progress over the long term.
Maintaining a consistent workout routine is crucial for achieving sustainable results and developing a healthy lifestyle. By focusing on a moderate number of exercises, you can create a more manageable and sustainable routine that aligns with your goals and lifestyle. This approach helps to prevent burnout, enhances stability and consistency to the training plan, and ultimately supports long-term success.
By embracing quality over quantity, you can increase focus and intensity, optimize progressive overload, efficiently manage your time, reduce the risk of overtraining, and establish a sustainable fitness routine. Remember, it's not about the number of exercises you perform; it's about how effectively you engage with each movement to maximize your gains and achieve your fitness goals.
About the author: Veronica is a well versed trainer who specializes in muscular endurance, strength, and hypertrophy training. Originally from Miami, FL, Veronica trained at Equinox as a Tier3+ trainer. Veronica loves seeing clients realize how rewarding and fun weightlifting can be. She is also a big advocate of teaching clients about the importance of proper recovery and will make sure you're getting proper rest, sleep, and nutrition to hit your goals. Schedule a consultation with Veronica.